An exchange on Eugenics:
Simple idea, but it needs to be said. Give all kids a birth control implant and don’t turn it off until they are 20 and can prove they aren’t likely to binge-drink while pregnant or flunk basic parenting skills.
“what’s the result of this (current) laissez-faire attitude? Catastrophic suffering. Millions of children born disadvantaged, crippled in childhood, destroyed in adolescence. Procreation cannot be classified as a self-indulgent privilege—it needs to be viewed as a life-and-death responsibility.
…In the USA, 4.82 children die per day of abuse and neglect”
Objection: No institution can be trusted with this power.
Reply: The same argument could be made about any restrictive power given to any agency. People DO end up on no-fly lists for political reasons. Drug use screws you out of vast numbers of jobs. People convicted of felonies (even bullshit ones) lose a lot of rights and are almost unemployable afterwards. Atheists are prevented from holding public office with 99% effectiveness (if you’re open about it). All these things suck. But deciding that the correct amount of regulation is Zero is also a choice. I think that saying “There should never be anything that can disqualify you from having a child no matter how stupid or evil it is, no matter how much it will hurt the child and possibly harm society” is overreacting way too much in the other direction.
Objection: This idea would never see the light of day, but some jacked-up, terrible “compromise” version could, in theory. And that version is probably pretty awful. Like no-fly lists.
Reply: Every program we have is a jacked-up “compromise” version, from our tax code down to who can vote. If only completely perfect programs could be implemented, we would have no government at all. This seems like a case of letting Perfection be the enemy of doing Good.
Objection: Who are you to say what’s best for everyone?
Reply: The standards proposed are very basic – can the parents stop binge drinking and using drugs for a period of time? Do they have enough sense to lie on a basic test to CLAIM that they think punching children is a bad idea, even if they don’t personally think that? And I’m not sure about your objection that some people think they know what’s better for others. Isn’t every single law in existence a claim that the lawmaker(s) know what is better for everyone than those who’d prefer not to obey that law?
Objection: WHAT?? Let’s euthanize anyone who doesn’t meet our idea of perfection – their lives are not/will not perfect, so why bother let them live at all? (note: not a strawman, I actually received this objection)
Reply: This is not a claim that everyone needs to meet the perfect ideals of the Aryan Superman, these are very basic safeguards which are better for everyone involved, *especially* the very children who would have been born into that environment. There is a huge and absolutely unsupported jump to get to “Kill all the non-Aryans” from “It’s better for children to NOT have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.”
More to the point – this is a conceptual confusion. No one is saying you should be killed, or you don’t have a right to exist. They’re saying that it would be better if you didn’t have as many medical problems, and if you weren’t abused. To prevent a birth is not to kill someone who already exists. It is to ensure that when a person comes into existence, they will be better off. The claim isn’t that the kid with down’s syndrome should be killed, it’s that the kid would be better off if she didn’t have down’s syndrome. The latter is the goal of such a program, not the former.
Objection: This is eugenics. [when asked to define eugenics] – Preventing the birth of those of lesser value (arbitrary definitions of “lesser value” would still qualify, IMO), and encouraging the birth of those of greater value. Yes, it’s a slippery slope argument that preventing deformed or abused babies leads to eugenics, but I think the slope is actually slippery in this case. Truly not to be inflammatory, but it’s the same phenomenon as Karl Marx. The society described in The Communist Manifesto sounds awesome, but trying to reach that goal fails, and the failure scenario is awful.
Reply: I’m gonna take a risk and say something that may sound bad on the surface, but I hope everyone reading this knows me well enough to not think I’m an evil monster for contemplating the following ideas rather than instinctively/immediately jumping on the safest-answer bandwagon.
Given that definition (preventing births of lesser value, encouraging births of greater value), I fail to see what, conceptually, is bad about eugenics. If I could have been born 10% healthier, or 10% smarter, or 10% sexier (aw yeah!), I totally would have prefered that. Likewise, I’m glad I *wasn’t* born with 10% more emotional disturbances (I’ve got problems enough as it is!). And I’m not just being selfish here… I have a hard time seeing it as anything but a positive if the *entire population* was 10% healthier/smarter/etc.
I can see how the execution could fuck everything up. If the “greater value” ends up optimizing for 10% less skin melanin, or if it turns out that 10% more intelligence also results in 12% more susceptibility to crazy utopian ideas that destroy all of society, or something. But that’s a failure of execution, rather than the concept itself being bad.
I think our current do-nothing program is far worse, with the numbers given in the article as support. If you disagree, I think it would be more productive to implement on a small scale in limited areas and observe results, rather than claim a priori correctness. Similar but far-smaller steps have already been shown to be very effective.
If you disagree on basic principles and don’t think we should ever try to improve humanity at all… shit, I don’t even know what to do with that. Get thee behind me?
Counter-reply: To your point about the teen pregnancy article, the critical bit there is that it’s voluntary. We should be doing more of that. We should be educating and publicizing the availability of those types of programs. Leaping from there to forced (but reversible) sterilization is a pretty big leap.
Reply: It’s a leap we should take. Those who most need those programs won’t get them. All procreation should be opt-in only. I’m ok with the decision to create a new sapient life form requiring as much paperwork & bureaucracy as buying a house.
Objection: This program would in effect say that I should not exist, because I would not exist if those policies were in place when I was born.
Reply: This program can’t hurt you, you’re already here and we think you rock. All it would do is make future people better and happier.
Post-script: I won’t be defining/defending “life-diminishing illness” or “weirdness”, as I don’t agree with everything in that article. I think the basic concept is solid. I’m not going to defend the parts I think are wrong-headed.