Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Reality of Wikipedia

I've just about given up with trying to get Gabriel to stick to any subject, so this post will be about one of his favorite distractions. Wikipedia is to Gabriel as shiny objects are to ferrets.

Since I won't shy away from melting Gabriel's brain by saying what I actually think about Wikipedia (though his functional illiteracy will prevent him from comprehending what I say), I'll say it quite simply: Standard research principles still apply.

Wikipedia deserves no special consideration, despite Gabe's protests to the contrary. Wikipedia articles should be approached in the same manner you would approach any piece of information. It's that simple. Wiki pages aren't magically correct or incorrect on their own. They're only as good as the sources they cite, the logic they employ, and so forth. The internet may get more people together from wider areas and speed up their exchange of ideas, but doing something faster doesn't and shouldn't change the underlying process. It doesn't matter if you're talking about a prestigious library or bathroom graffiti. Science remains science. The principles you learned in your writing classes are still relevant, despite the essentially trivial addition of how to cite websites to your style books.

Gabriel, it seems, believes otherwise: Wikipedia is Automatically Wrong, no matter how much good evidence an article cites. If someone were to conduct a scientific study on the sky on a clear, sunny day, taking snapshots with accurate digital cameras and objectively measuring the hue from the resulting image files, all that scientific rigor is for naught if someone posts an article about the study on Wikipedia: If Wikipedia cites that study and summarizes the results by saying the sky is blue, it magically transforms all those collected image data so that the sky is chartreuse or magenta. In short, Gabe is telling us to screw epistemology, Wikipedia has ushered in a newage (rhymes with sewage) of contra-revelation: Instead of having allegedly infallible fairy tale books to inform us of the world (revelation), he believes we now have the Automatically Wrong Wikipedia to tell us how the world isn't.

I say otherwise: Wikipedia is just another reference source. Like all reference sources, it has its own biases, its own flaws, and so forth. It's only unique in that it's continuously updated, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. The presence or absence of Wikipedia has no impact on the core of epistemology. It does not overturn logic. It does not invalidate the scientific method. It does not magically transmute the data scientists so rigorously collect.

I simply fail to see why Gabriel is so pathologically obsessed with something that changes so little about the world.


Buford said...

Just for you, Bronze, I've got some evidence to cite: The daytime sky may be blue, but the night time is 'skyvory'


Buford said...

btw- Gabe

NASA has travelled more than you have...

Buford said...

Sorry I didn't do all of this in one post...

My citation in comment 1 was from NASA.

In comment 2 I am establishing authority, in Gabe's mind, by pointing out that since NASA has spent more time travelling in and living in outer space than he has, they are clearly a better resource than he is on the topic.

I hope the rest of you know that I'm just playing his game...

Bronze Dog said...

Alternate hypothesis about Gabe's position on Wikipedia: The fact that I haven't traveled all that much infected Wikipedia, which then sent magical tachyon waves rippling backwards in time, thus ripping the test tubes and plane tickets out of all the geneticists' hands, erasing the Human Genome Project from history. Because of my hotlink, those geneticists never traveled around the world, collected their genetic samples, or conducted a statistical analysis of the results.

You know, just like on a bad episode of Star Trek: Voyager! Because, as Gabe keeps implying with his stereotype citations, television is more real than reality.

Anonymous said...

Buford, normally I wouldnt respond to such a limited pathetic mind, but I try educating you.

Flying into SPACE does not make yuo very well travelled on PLANET EARTH, does it you moron?

You do on the other hand GET MORE EXPERIENCE about SPACE. If you go and Land on the moon, YOU ALSO have more experience and knowledge about the moon then I.

Ig YOU would travel, say to another town as you probably never been anywhere, you would know more about that town then your father who never did anything with his life living in the basement. Get the point? OR ARE YOU AN IDIOT that want to waste my time?

I see, Now I get it, You are MORONS that do not get the point, you give bullshit answers and act like pathetic morons because you cant defend your position. I point out that the earth is spherical, you say NO ITS NOT TRUE there is BUMPS in earths surface so therefore not a SPHERE and misses the point.

It booils down to one ismple point, you are jealous about me seeing the world and you know you will never travel and see anything. You watch tv and see these various actors in Australia or Europe or Africa, and you Dream. Well, get over it and get a job then, And then you can travel if you got some money. Very easy. If you are so Jealous Bronze, why dont you just say so, "I got no money cant travel I feel jealousy when you mention it", Fine, no big deal. But why pretend my knowledge does not exist and ask me to HELP you, educate you and make you more knowledable about the world.

This is pathetic, I mean, responses like that are insulting, its like your users are some of the most pathetic moronic loons that are around, I would be ashamed, do you not want intellectual people like me here? Do you not want debate?

No, that is scary and the jealousy makes you want me to go as well. Fine.

Bronze Dog said...

Gabe, how exactly does my alleged jealousy magically transform genetic data?

Does my jealousy send magical tachyons backwards in time that rips the genetic data out of other peoples' hands? How does my emotional state alter the nature of the universe?

This isn't about you or me! Get it through your thick skull, and stop changing the subject whenever your drug-addled mamby-pamby subjectivist epistemology is questioned.

Facts do not change just because I get in a mood. It doesn't matter how much Oprah and her crystal wavers say they do.

But you want the world to believe that I'm some sort of absolute center of the universe, that just because I get a little miffed, that suddenly grass turns plaid an the sky turns polka-dotted.

Valhar2000 said...

I've said it before, Gabe: your erotomania is profoundly disturbing.

In case this thought is crossing your mind: yes, I realize I am not takcling your comments at all in saying what I said. I have failed to do so because your comments are nto worth tackling.

But, seriously, dude, try to be less creepy in your stalking: it's freaking me out.

Bronze Dog said...

Gabriel: Too stupid to understand a Futurama joke, from the people who brought you The Simpsons.

Bronze Dog said...

Bronze Dog: The best basis we have for making conclusions about the universe is rigorously collected scientific data.

Gabriel: Lazy subjective experience is superior to objective, hard working science! Bronze Dog's emotions magically transform the universe because Oprah and Deepak Chopra said so! I don't care if I'm right, so long as Bronze Dog agrees to change the subject to stroking my ego, because we all know that being smug about your income is more important than being accurate!

Bronze Dog said...

Which is the bigger bullshit argument:

1. My argument: "An arguer's emotions are irrelevant to the scientific data. Objective data is objective data is objective data!"

2. Gabriel's stoner argument: "Dude, like, the universe changes whenever some guy, like, on the internet named Bronze Dog gets into a certain jealous mood, cuz, dude, we're all like in an ever-changing dream of his! You know, like, life could be a videogame, and he's the one holding the controller! Oh, man, I've got a major case of the munchies!"

Bronze Dog said...

Anyway, catering to Gabriel's other desperate subject change: Jealousy:

Why would I be jealous of a postmodernist who changes his mind about everything on an hourly basis?

Why would I be jealous of some guy who believes laziness is superior to hard work?

Why would I be jealous of someone who believes the universe is a product of time traveling brain waves?

Why would I be jealous of someone who lacks basic reading comprehension?

You might be able to argue I'm jealous of your income and frequent flier miles, but that's a tiny, tiny part of the whole package. And the rest of it is clearly rotten.

I think Gabe's jealous of us for believing in an objective, stable universe where hard, careful work in collecting data is valued more than his intentional sloth.

That's why his ego won't let him acknowledge things like the Human Genome Project: If it's harder working than getting a few plane tickets, it doesn't exist.

Genetics? A Capitalist conspiracy because Stalin said so. And irrelevant to race because Gabriel and his magical race-o-vision say so.

Statistical analysis? A Zionist conspiracy to put the burden of proof on poor unicorn believers like him and off of those who don't immediately believe what some guy on the internet tells them.

Buford said...

My fault may be that I didn't make it simple enough for you.

1. Bronze Dog used an example of hypothetical studies that measure the sky's color and conclude it's blue.

2. I pointed to a cited scientific source that has measured the average color of the universe (night sky) and concluded that it is beige.

3. I knew you would dispute the authority of myself and the source, so I pointed out that NASA has more expertise than you do IN SPACE, which is where the sky-color issue takes place. I was specifically referring to travel in the area I was talking about. Your trip to Peru does nothing to make you an expert on the color of the universe.

4. I knew you wouldn't get the humor, but didn't point it out earlier.

5. I have never said anything about my travels, since I have rarely addressed you before. It is typical of you to assume that I have never been anywhere. It is also typical that you are wrong. I am not going to ague about who has travelled more extensively for the same reason that I'm not going to discuss the relative merits of travel to one place versus another. It is irrelevant to this discussion about the color of the sky.

6. The point is not 'that you have travelled' or 'what you learned from your travels' it is your insistence that what you "learned" from your travels is more valid than anyone else's opinion on any topic whatsoever.

7. Your position on travel (and knowledge) is clear. Anyone who has travelled less than you is not worthy to have an opinion. Anyone who has travelled as much as you, hasn't been to the right places and is not worthy to have an opinion. Anyone who has travelled more than you has never stayed long enough in any one place to learn as much as you have learned. You have achieved the perfect balance of how many places to visit, which places to visit, how long to stay and what to notice while you're there. Your opinions, stated (usually) without any evidence, are correct in every way and not to be challenged or questioned by anyone in any way.

Nice try in sidetracking the thread, which is about Wikipedia. Care to address the core topic?

Talk about limited intellect!

Bronze Dog said...

According to Gabriel's epistemology, a blind man with a lot of frequent flier miles is superior to a digital camera manufactured on location in terms of color determination.

You know, like how Gabe claims his non-existent, magical, race-o-vision is superior to the work of hundreds of geneticists from all over the world. He's superior because he's lazier.

Chakat Firepaw said...

BD, you forgot another thing not to be jealous about:

Why should we be jealous of someone who can't even tell us if he thinks Italians are white?

That said:

Gabe, just who do you mean when you say white?

Bronze Dog said...

I think I've summarized Gabriel's worldview quite well. To condense if further:

"The lazy, subjective, biased, unquestioned, unexamined experience of one man is superior to the rigorously double-checked, quantified, objective data gathered by hundreds of hard working scientists."

Why bother with science as the collective hard work of thousands when one lazy, self-styled genius can hand unquestionable proclamations from on high? You know, like they do in the movies.

Gabriel may not watch as much television as we do, but at least we think to question it. Gabriel just believes everything it tells him. I wonder if he has personal experience at being a sofa-dwelling stay-at-home spouse who does nothing but watch Oprah.

djfav said...

Hello. My name is Gabriel and I am a condescending evangelist of anecdotal epistemology. I am writing to you from a motel room in a third world country full of good for nothing brown people. I also like puppies.

Bronze Dog said...

You know, Gabe's axiom that Laziness is Superior to Hard Work makes a lot of sense when you put it into the earlier subject change on home makers:

He earnestly believes that a lazy bum of a "manager" who gets paid six figures to make paperclip sculptures in his private office is capital-S Superior to the unpaid homemaker who cooks, cleans, balances the checkbooks, takes care of the kids, and does volunteer work out of kindness and love.

Because we all know that income tax forms are more real than chemical energy expended doing useful work.

MWchase said...

djfav, that post is amazing next to your picture. Everyone else, scroll down to read it in the "Leave a Comment" page!

That said, I'm going to (*gasp*) agree with the others that I can't see anything to be jealous about when I read your posts. Half the time, I can't understand you, you remind me acutely of myself when I was younger and stupider, and every day, in every way, you make me happier to have my education, knowledge and job-that-I-kind-of-hate-but-not-always.

Bronze Dog said...

And just to note, I've been going to college to get a job where I actually have to exercise my brain. Knowing what I know about Gabe, I can safely say he doesn't have one of those. Heck, I'm left to wonder if he even has a high school diploma.

That's also why I read science blogs: I've been able to overturn previous opinions of mine by reading about new evidence. When I first got into skepticism I spent a little time on the JREF forums asking for better information on global warming because, as a child, like a child, I originally believed in it because the mainstream media said so. I felt it was time to find out more about the science and evidence.

Now I believe it because a mass consensus of hard working scientists who are obligated to rigorously double check each others work say so.

And I don't bother listening to postmodernists like Gabriel who believe that laziness is superior to diligence or that one-off examples are superior to the big picture.

Hmm... Off-topic speculation: I wonder if Gabe's the sort who might harbor tendencies towards being a 9/11 twoofer. Crank magnetism is a very strong force, and Gabe has shown signs of sympathy for other major crank conspiracy theories if I remember correctly.

Tom Foss said...

Look, guys, I'm serious here: Turing Machine. Gabe's cycled all the way back to Card #2 at this point.

Akusai said...

He's like a Mobius Strip of stupid.

Dark Jaguar said...

So, I occasionally join in just to point out something to you Gabe, but you seem to ignore everything I've said. PLEASE actually acknowledge our arguments. You can't "win" unless you first dissect each and every argument we've made for the past 5 months. Well, it's easier than that. We've been repeating ourselves, because you have.

BD, I usually don't turn away someone, but at this point he's looped around so many times, with no hint at all of acknowledging that we've argued ANYTHING and no attempt at all from him to do anything but argue his own points (which we DO address, repeatedly and at great depth). At what point do we basically have to give up on this guy?

Dark Jaguar said...

Okay Gabe, I do have something else to say. This goes way back to when you were saying Dawkin's latest book seems to support your ideas about race.

You also noted he seemd to "sympathize" with lamarkism. I doubted this not because Dawkins is my idol, but because previous books spent entire chapters explaining how lamarkism not only has no evidence in support of it, but couldn't possibly explain the diversity and adaptiveness of life in the first place.

I just got Greatest Show on Earth this Christmas as a gift. I was in the middle of Unweaving the Rainbow so I hadn't started reading it until now, but I am. I first want to ask you for some page numbers where you got this impression from. Barring that, at least mention which chapter or give me some general gist of what he was discussing.

At any rate, even if you can't give that to me, I'll eventually be through this entire book and I'll see for myself if you've got anything to stand on. So far, I've finished chapter 1. He mentioned lamarkism near the end, but it didn't appear to be in any sort of sympathetic terms. This chapter was setting the stage for what he considered evidence for a theory, that is, the basic epistomology. Near the end he was talking about how while a theory may not be accepted as true when first proposed, even mocked, if it has validity it may yet eventually be accepted to the point where it would be ridiculous to even guess that maybe it just might be overturned, such as the idea that the sun is bigger than the earth.

He mentioned that there is a difference between the basic premise of common decent and the mechanism. That is, he mentioned that even having established common decent, it could be natural selection that governed the process, or some other hypothesis such as lamarkism. There are others besides those two as well, such as pure genetic drift, but he makes it clear that of those, only natural selection has the ability to present novel solutions to problems, to actually progress in an "upward" direction of refined functionality. Again, it's just chapter 1, but no sympathising as of yet.

Just give me some sort of page number if you want to say it's the case later in the book. Don't do something stupid like say "just keep reading and you'll see". Aside from being annoying and pretentions, it helps no one, least of all your point, to delay your argument this long.

Heck look who I'm asking, you won't even make it clear WHAT your hypothesis about race specifically is.

Dark Jaguar said...

This message is probably a promise that I'll never see a whit of response to my previous one, but I have to say it anyway. Don't misunderstand my use of the word "upward".

There is no universal meaning of "upward direction" of evolution. That's why lamarkism doesn't even have a basic mechamism. The "use/disuse" idea lacks any means for the "used" bodypart to "know" what better function even is. An increase in size is fine for muscles (explained in modern biology as simply a balance between nutrients and needed strength, an evolved feature of muscles to be sure, but the feature itself is not evolution in action but simply a product of it) however it is not very good for, say, eyes. What does it mean to even "use" an eye? More light magically focuses it better, or grows a moving lense? There's no meaning to "better" in lamarkism. Natural selection however DOES define what "better" or "upward" means, and it's simply "more succesful at reproducing itself". This isn't a morally better situation, it's not an absolute good, and plenty of creatures throughout time have evolved into dead-ends due to the short sighted nature of the process. There is no point in arguing that evolution is "the best" at anything other than making better copiers. Novel solutions to engineering problems show up, but it's only because some copying programs are, to quote dawkins, a program that circuitously says "make a copy of me by first making AN ELEPHANT".

Bronze Dog said...

Since Gabe's clueless about evolution (by believing all of the comic books he's read and failing to comprehend scientists who write above his grade level), here's a quote I once read that summarized it pretty well:

"A chicken is an egg's way of making more eggs."

Or to put Dawkins another way: A chicken is a gene's way of making more genes.

Bronze Dog said...

Back on the topic of Wiki's:

We believe that Wikipedia is just another reference source.

Gabriel believes that TV Tropes Wiki is holy writ. That's why he relies on television stereotypes to make unwarranted conclusions.

MWchase said...

Doesn't the Hollywood Atheist entry point out that the portrayals don't really coincide with reality in any meaningful sense?

I mean, if he were a diehard TVTropes-ian, he'd have started speculating about the arc-words-esque nature of "What exactly do you mean by white?" by now.

"It's like... somebody... is trying to communicate... something. Nah. The writers probably just threw that in randomly." ... Actually, that would seem to accord pretty well with the behavior that we've seen so far.

Bronze Dog said...

Shh! Don't ruin the joke!

Of course, to dumb it down for Gabriel: I'm saying that you think life in America works like it does on television.

Quite frankly, I imagine if we brought in a complete stranger who was just a little media savvy, he'd conclude Gabriel watches too much television.

Of course, I'd make the distinction that Gabriel believes too much television, even if he doesn't watch much of it. At least in my TV-heavy days, I knew it was fantasy, and that "reality" television was not to be blindly trusted.

Dark Jaguar said...

The guy does seem like the sort of person who watches TV, sees someone do something stupid, realize it's a cliche, and then go on about how "THIS is what's wrong with America today", even though he's got no reason to believe that something he saw on TV reflects some deep seeded problem in society.

I wonder, after watching Sienfeld does he complain about the epidemic of nerds trying to save Frogger high scores?

Touro73 said...

Just reading the comments is so much fun. :)

Dark Jaguar said...

Read a little into chapter 2. So far, already some insight that goes against Gabe's claim that this is a book in support of his ideas on race. Namely, he talks about platonic idealism, and how it's possible such a philosophy is what kept people from coming up with the concept of evolution for so long. He makes it very clear that concepts like "rabbit" are just handy labels, and there is not "pure essence of what it is to be rabbit" hanging in conceptual space tieing together all that we call rabbits. In fact, you can make an unbroken chain of lineage tying together rabbits and leopards, and in every single step along the way, you would be hard pressed to draw the line where "rabbit" stops and a new species "should start".

If that's the way it is with species, how do you draw such a hard and fast line with something as base as "race"? We're back to one of our simple questions. Define race.

DwellerinDarkness said...

Dark Jaguar, one thing you're probably doing wrong: you're not reading it while travelling. Try reading it on the subway or the bus at least. That's the only way to real enlightenment.

Bronze Dog said...

DJ: Namely, he talks about platonic idealism, and how it's possible such a philosophy is what kept people from coming up with the concept of evolution for so long. He makes it very clear that concepts like "rabbit" are just handy labels, and there is not "pure essence of what it is to be rabbit" hanging in conceptual space tieing together all that we call rabbits.

It's good to know that Dawkins came up with a similar train of thought to mine.

King of Ferrets said...

*looks at the start of the post*

Hey, what's that supposed to me- Ooo, shiny!

Dark Jaguar said...

Actually Dawkins himself credits the idea to Ernst Mayr.

MWchase said...

I remember pointing stuff out like this in the past, and having my contemporaries go "Yeah? What's your point?" The proper conclusion to take from this, clearly, is that young children are boring.

Bronze Dog said...

I was mostly thinking of Dawkins and the general concept behind the "Selfish Gene" mostly because he was the one who got that lightglobe lit up in my head.

I didn't have any reason to think he made up the chicken quote, but it does touch on the same sort of idea.

Dark Jaguar said...


Alright I'm reading further into chapter 2. He's used what I think is possibly the best "bridge metaphor" he could have opened up with, domestic breeding. Along with the familiar are more "surprising" results of breeding like cabbages and so on that someone doubting evolution may not be aware of. Really I think this is a great book to teach those who are looking for evidence can find so far. The lamentable part is that the cover has "From the Best Selling author of The God Delusion" on it. It's not that there's anything wrong with that book, but seeing that right on the cover is not really going to do much for getting passers by to open it up. Dawkins himself is pretty upset that every interview he gets in about this book ends up being an interview about his atheism. I think "Author of The Selfish Gene" would have been a better choice, but that's all just politics.

In any case, he notes that in the past, people thought modern domestic breeds came not just from wolves, but from jackels, foxes, and coyotes. However modern genetic testing has made it clear that ALL modern breeds share a single common ancestor in wolves, and none of the other "natural" canine variants. Another point he gets at is that genes are not like blending paint, adding "red" and "blue" to get a "purple" offspring. If it was, all species would tend to blend into identical mixtures in only a few generations. Instead people keep their specific genetic traits, half inherited from each side. The analogy he uses is shuffling cards. Genes are discrete entities, not like mixing liquids.

Again and again, I read this point, and it goes completely agaisnt racist ideas of "watering down racial purity", as the analogy just plain fails to work when you realize just how genes function. There is no such thing as racial purity, and there never was. Every single individual is basically a mishmash of genes collected from shuffling from parent to offspring.

Once again, not a single thing I've read up until now supports your conclusion that Dawkins sympathises with a "racial" viewpoint. In fact I'm reading strong evidence AGAINST that concept.

Care to respond at all Gabe? Now you may respond that we're just assuming you're talking about genes, and all you are talking about is "race", but what do you think race IS if not caused by genes? Do you think people literally inherit "blood" from their parents? What mechanism imparts whatever you define as your race's inherited characteristics if it isn't race? If it's ENTIRELY "memetic", that is just culture, then you have no basis for claiming race matters at all, because in that case ANY member of any "race" you care to define would be equally capable of learning it (which happens to be our viewpoint by the way).

Also, you never once bothered to define what race is, and what makes any particular definition of "white" more or less arbitrary than any other.

And heck, I still have my big question, what race am I? If you can't tell, why not?

Valhar2000 said...

Again and again, I read this point, and it goes completely agaisnt racist ideas of "watering down racial purity", as the analogy just plain fails to work when you realize just how genes function.

Indeed. I sometimes try to point out to people that eugenics, as understood by Nazi pseuo-biologists and american proto-fascists in the 30s simply cannot work for this very reason. The eugenics movement of the early 20th century is rooted in racism and medieval pseudo-science, and is contradicted by modern biology (and even comtemporary bioogy of the time), which concludes quite clearly that the methods advocated by early eugenicists cannot possibly produce the outcomes intended by those same eugenicists.

DwellerinDarkness said...

On that note, I remember once reading a quote from Hitler that was highly critical of evolution - I've got a numbnut friend who's about ready to come to the side of reason on the evolution issue, but has become convinced that Hitler was an evolutionist, so no right-thinking person should be.

Dark Jaguar said...

While it's true that their understanding and their plans on eugenics were fatally flawed, that's not to say that it couldn't work if done in the same manner as breeding new strains of a horse. Of course the morality is appaling, but it would certainly be possible to breed humans for faster running, better swimming, greater lung capacity, and perhaps even better milk giving capacity.

This is actually where I am right now in chapter 2 (it's been slow going in my reading, just haven't put a lot of time into it). He's just finished explaining the nature of just how different breeds of dogs can get and the methods used, which includes breeds created by specifically cross-breeding two strains, and breeds taken from the occasional random mutation like short legs.

You could do the same for humans, there's nothing about us that rules it out, except obvious moral concerns. That said, it's certainly not the concept of "eugenics" which assumes that all germans (or whatever) are just inherantly better and continuosly breeding "just germans" would produce some sort of super german. "Germanness" isn't a quality you can breed for. It's got to be specific. So, saying "my parents are pure blooded because they were all from Germany" is meaningless. So what? It's isolated, sure, but that says nothing about what traits, if any, are intended to be "better" than average. Indeed, anyone in that "pure" line that had a gene that was deemed "harmful" is not going to be selected either for or against in that system. You still need to first establish THAT your "stock" is better, and then explain exactly which traits, aside from "born from a german" you are selecting for each generation.

Tom Foss said...

The biggest problems with human eugenics are the timespans involved (at least 12-16 years per generation); sorting out the genetic, epigenetic, and environmental traits (if intelligence is largely nurture, for instance, you can't really breed for it); and getting your favorable traits augmented without running into problems of inbreeding and accumulating detrimental mutations. It's a far cry from Mendel's pea plants, or even dog or cow domestication. Not impossible in principle, but certainly difficult.

It'd be easier, I think, just to do things on the gene splicing level.

Valhar2000 said...

Well, I just claimed that the Eugenics movement of the 30's had it wrong, not that eugenics in humans is impossible. You wouldn't even have to model your approach on the dog-breeding exercise, either; with current technology, and technology that is likely to be developed in the near future, you could take the methods of the early eugenicists, modify them, and produce a eugenics program that would give results while requiring no creulty at all in its application.

If two prospective parents who have family histories of hereditary diseases get tested and are found to be carriers of the disease, instead of going the normal route, they could carry out in-vitro fertilization. Once that was done, all the fertilized eggs created could be genetically tested, and the eggs that were found to be sufferers or carriers of the disease could then be discarded, leaving only eggs that contain no trace of the bad allele to be implanted. Doing this, while expenxive, would not violate anybody's rights (unless the two parents were forced to participate, ut there is no need for that), and it would result in the complete disappearance of the geentic disorder from that branch of the family tree.

Obviously, not all disorders are this amenable to eugenics treatment, but I'd say eliminating certain types of diabetes, sickle-cell anemia and Haemophilia from the population would certainly be a disarable result.

The technology required to do this is not yet here, but we are close. This is the kind of gene-splicing eugenics that I favour.

Dunc said...

Well, we're already developing various gene therapies, but I'm not really sure that counts as eugenics, even in the case of germ-line treatments...

Sickle-cell is a tricky one, as having a single copy of the gene is quite beneficial if you live in an area prone to malaria. It's only when you end up with two copies (one from each parent) that it causes problems. If you were to totally eliminate the sickle-cell gene from the population, more people would end up dying of malaria. Pre-natal screening could potentially be very useful though.

Dark Jaguar said...

I must say that "eugenics" in such a form doesn't bother me at all. Gotta admit though, the moment this starts being offered, all sorts of people will start screaming "Gattaca" at you.

Here's an argument I hear every now and then. "If some children get superior genes or cybernetic implants, my natural children can't compete." First note the lack of confidence in the ability of people with "less" to make do. Otherwise, I have to say holding back progress for the sake of people who intentionally want to forgo giving their kids advantages due to personal hangups is downright selfish, and to me no different than saying glasses should not be "allowed" because parents who refuse to get them for their kids will have disadvantaged kids in comparison.

It's true that lots of genetic therapy in the future won't be able to just say "this is a universally good gene", it'll sometimes, perhaps often, have to take into account one's entire gene lineup before making a good call. After all a single "bit" like a 1 or 0 in a program is utterly meaningless without the context of it's surroundings.

As for sickle cell, I'm personally for the eradication of the mosquito so that the gene won't need to be kept around just to survive malaria.

Tom Foss said...

Obviously, not all disorders are this amenable to eugenics treatment, but I'd say eliminating certain types of diabetes, sickle-cell anemia and Haemophilia from the population would certainly be a disarable result.

I guess I was approaching eugenics more from the "augmenting/propagating positive traits" angle than the "eliminating deleterious traits" angle. The former case, depending on what results you want, seems like it'd be more complex and time-consuming. In the latter case, I think the line between "eugenics" and "medicine" ends up blurring quite a bit. While I'd certainly prefer gene therapies that didn't require selecting embryos for in vitro fertilization, I'm not opposed to it if it means preventing the short painful life of a kid with Tay-Sachs or something like that.

Dark Jaguar said...

Agreed, and in a sense if we have the means to genetically eliminate detected problems like autism or down syndrome right at conception, and the parents are fully aware of that and "opt out" of the treatment for whatever reason, I think there's a valid argument that they would be enacting an extreme form of cruelty on their child.

I know, "Stay out of my womb", but when the mother is opting to keep the child with full knowledge that the one born will end up with some crippling life expetancy/quality reducing disease, I'd say such a concern has to take a back seat.