OH NO RICHARD DAWKINS NO!


Chuck Asay

His reputation would be so much better if he never ever discovered Twitter. Which is to say, he’s done it again.

It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.

That word “work” sure is doing a lot of work in there. If only we could ignore ideology, politics, and morality, as well as philosophy, sociology, the limitations of our own knowledge, and empathy, why, then of course eugenics would “work”! All we have to do is set aside our humanity and reduce existence to selective breeding, and we could produce radical biological change in human populations in just a few generations. Of course, we’ll have no idea of any unintended genetic consequences (there will be many, just as there have been with cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses), and we’ll have to live with the kind of ideology that promotes eugenics, which has its own set of consequences, and we’ll be producing generations of people that can only live with a fascist ideology, but hey, it’s just selection, we know that will “work”.

Is he even aware that dismissing the trivial issues of politics and morality actually is an ideological decision? It always surprises me when smart people decry “ideology” in general, as if they’re oblivious to the fact that their perspective is totally shaped by their own ideology. You have an ideology, I have objective knowledge of the facts. How dare you annoy me with your ideology in the midst of my logical defense of the objective utility of eugenics?

I also have to ask…has anyone ever made the argument that eugenics can’t produce biological change? I don’t think so. I think everyone is aware that eugenic policies can make sweeping demographic changes. Just ask the Jews of Poland, 90% of whom were exterminated. Ask the Hutus of Burundi — over 100,000 people murdered was an effective culling. It “worked” if we judge such things solely in terms of accomplishing a shift in the population. No one questions that it “worked”, we just recognize that when eugenics is working as intended it is a horror.

His last line is backwards. Ideologies often ignore facts, like the simple fact that every nation that has tried to implement eugenics, such as the United States and Nazi Germany, has ended up causing immeasurable misery, suffering, and death with no desirable outcome as a reward, and just ends up digging themselves into a pit of contempt and hatred that can only be escaped with blood and destruction. I guess if you redefine “work” to mean that, Richard Dawkins made a true statement.

Comments

  1. consciousness razor says

    A retired Oxford professor and public intellectual doesn’t understand the meaning of “work.” Not too shocking.
    Or I don’t know, maybe he’s not retired …. I’m not sure how you’d be able to tell.

  2. says

    I mean come on. We want dairy cows to yield more milk, we want dogs who are good at herding sheep, we want pigs that taste good .. . What kind of humans do we want? You have to answer that question before you can know what “works.” Does Dawkins maybe see a problem there?

  3. hemidactylus says

    Eugenics is not a topic to get bold and pithy about in a word constrained Twitter post. Dawkins has a hair trigger with these sort of posts. He needs to expand on “works”, maybe a via and expansive backpedal on his website.

    Dog breeding gave us short faced pugs with breathing issues and toy breeds with patellar subluxation. So selective breeding in humans, if implemented, could have unintended consequences.

    Eugenics has many retrospective connotations of varying negativities. The Nazis transitioned from horrible enough negative eugenics of forced sterilization to genocidal mass murder. They also coupled eugenics with a horrifically dehumanizing pathogen metaphor. The US itself maintained sterilization statutes in state books decades beyond the Holocaust revelations. Buck v Bell was our touchstone.

    Your point connecting eugenics with fascism as ideology is contingent and somewhat misleading. It was largely technocratic progressives who promoted eugenics in the US. We could just call all baddies we disagree with fascists. If you want to conflate progressivism and fascism Jonah Goldberg may be happy to help you out there.

    Ideology goes back to Bacon’s four idols, earlier religious iconoclasm, and Nietzsche’s hammer smash. See David Hawkes’ wonderful book Ideology for a tedious dry presentation. In Marxism it was connected with negative connotations to false consciousness and notions of purity no less historically horrific than eugenics.

    You are strongly focused on brute facts, but I recall previous emphases on socifacts of Durkheim and Searle. There is a strand of thought that so-called brute facts filter through socifacts. I don’t quite cotton to that myself.

    There are forms of eugenics. Negative views led to sterilization. Positive views were based on encouraging the perceived ubermenchen to breed through subsidies. In the era of genetic manipulation there is the more benign and empathetic hope of reducing or eliminating bad alleles without passing judgement on people. Charitably Dawkins could be pursuing this angle if not just banally pointing out the brute fact that humans are susceptible to genetic tweaking as is any other animal.

    The more problematic emphasis is wanting to enhance humans by tweaking the genome as some transhumanists seem to promote. This gets into Brave New World territory of technocratic dystopia and also in another framing the connections to economic inequality where the rich can augment the head start they already have.

  4. profpedant says

    Presumably the dispassionate intelligences that consider eugenics to be just plain good sense would be wanting to breed humans for ‘our most human qualities’ – a vague phrase that probably centers on intelligence and personality. But intelligence and personality achieve their fullest flower when a person is valued for their own sake and not treated as breeding stock that is to do as it is told. So the most efficient use of eugenics to ‘improve humanity’ would be to not be using eugenics at all….

    (Pre-implant genetic testing for inherited diseases – or other traits – will, obviously, be used by people to produce healthy children…and probably a bit more selection beyond that, here and there. As long as the selection decisions remain a matter of individual choice the only long-term effect that I anticipate is a slightly lower incidence of inherited diseases. Although there might be some interesting effects if our reproductive technologies become sophisticated enough to select which genes from which parent appear in the off-spring… Still, given the interactions of genes, and of genes and the environment, I don’t think that would amount to much more than selecting for ‘not stupid’, ‘not ugly’, ‘not nasty’ and in what ways the child superficially resembles which parent.)

  5. says

    Yeah, “work” is the keyword here. Dawkins doesn’t define it, so he can have deniability when his fascist fans understand exactly what he means, just like we do.
    Selective breeding in dogs and cows does not seem to “work” that well for the animals in question either.

  6. says

    Since eugenics by definition includes an ideological component, the tweet is complete nonsense at its core. While we can use selective breeding to change particular properties, determining which properties are “good” is ideological.

  7. Forrest Phelps says

    So tired of explaining that Dawkins neither speaks for all atheists, nor is he endowed with an exceptional intellect. Quite the reverse, actually.

  8. raven says

    It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses.

    .1. That isn’t eugenics. It is artificial selection or selective breeding.
    We don’t selectively breed animals or plants for their benefit. We do it for…our benefit.

    .2. There is no consensus of what “improved” or “good” means for humans.
    That is mostly going to be value judgments, or opinions based on ideological, political, religious, or moral grounds.

    .3. Richard Dawkins is violating a simple rule. Again.
    It is better to keep quiet than speak up and show that you are an idiot.

  9. Meeker Morgan says

    Didn’t you know, Old Boy? It’s entirely different when English gentlemen do it. Not a bit like when the Huns do it, or even the bloody Yanks.

    OK to post links here?
    https://i.imgur.com/Y6CK0rM.jpg

    A picture of three enlightened chaps who check their privilege every day.
    ==> Still there, thanks be to God.

  10. raven says

    It is true that we could breed humans for any trait that has a genetic basis, artificial selection or selective breeding.
    That is a trivial statement.

    It is also true that there are many reasons why we shouldn’t do that.
    It is also true that there are many reasons why we don’t do that as well.

    All this was well known many decades ago, at least since the mid-20th century.
    So what is Richard Dawkins’s point here?
    AFAICT, it is that an old guy is seeking attention by saying shocking things on Twitter.
    It looks like what the current president of the USA, Trump, does nearly every day.
    Neither one impresses me at all.

  11. davidc1 says

    I think he is bored out of his mind since he retired ,maybe she should take up Beetle collecting like wot Darwin did

  12. brightmoon says

    I always thought that self selected eugenics wasn’t a horrible idea. But self selected is the important term here. I wouldn’t want to pass on some horrible genetically based trait to my descendants either. Government based eugenics programs have always failed because of ignorant or abusive “racial” prejudice .

  13. raven says

    @10. Thank you, raven. We do it for…our benefit. Uh-huh: Who we?

    Humans in general or subgroups of humans for their own purposes.

    Selective breeding of animals and plants is the basis of our agricultural systems that feed 7.8 billion people.

  14. Meeker Morgan says

    The way I see it, it isn’t really “eugenics” as understood by those who invented and implemented it, unless there is some central authority determining fitness.

    Choosing a healthy mate is more akin to natural selection, even though not entirely predicated on genetics.

  15. Meeker Morgan says

    Selective breeding of animals and plants is the basis of our agricultural systems that feed 7.8 billion people.

    I myself ate a cloned mutant as part of today’s breakfast.

    An orange cloned mutant.

  16. lotharloo says

    What’s the context of the tweet? I really hate cheap shots like this, because you cannot just a statement like this without the context. For example he could be responding to a creationist of some kind.

  17. chris61 says

    @lotharloo
    Dawkins point (which he clarified in his following two tweets) was that eugenics does work. Rather than lie about the facts and say it doesn’t, we should fight it on moral grounds. Because denying the facts just derails the conversation and provides ammunition to the opposition.

  18. Porivil Sorrens says

    @19
    It’s a standalone tweet chain, not a response or a quote-tweet. Further, the only post before that is a news article about the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and one talking about how he had a respectful talk of a reverend. There doesn’t seem to be any specific person he’s responding to.

  19. says

    Lotharloo, clicking on the Tweet would show you that it’s not a reply to anything. Tell me why you couldn’t do that yourself?

    Meeker Morgan

    Choosing a healthy mate is more akin to natural selection, even though not entirely predicated on genetics.

    1 A lot of detrimental health problems will not show in the young partner, let alone their family baggage.
    2 Disabled and chronically ill folks are partners, lovers and parents, just like anybody else.

  20. lotharloo says

    @Giliell:
    I’m not on twitter and I can’t figure out how the hell it works to get the context of the tweets.

    Okay, as a standalone tweet, it really weird and random though. I take back the criticism of the context though.

  21. monad says

    @chris61: The problem with eugenics has always been the eu, what the hell it’s actually supposed to mean for one population to be genetically “better” than another. That premise is where it normally is incoherent racism or classism to begin with, let alone something that might “work”. But yes, if someone wanted to breed humans to be fat and docile for production of Soylent Green the way we have for cows, I’m sure they could.

    I guess an important clarification? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  22. JoeBuddha says

    Comes across as an “old man yells at clouds” moment. This is why I eschew all social media. I got tired of embarassing myself.

  23. says

    #20: BUT NO ONE IS DENYING THAT FACT! I have never once heard an argument against eugenics that starts “because selection can’t modify the gene pool…”

  24. says

    Chris61
    Since Dawkins didn’t bother to do so, define what “work” means?
    Not just “modifying the gene pool”, but how exactly?

  25. says

    This whole thing sounds like nonsense. If you want to breed good high jumpers, you could probably do that, but all the actually important human qualities seem to be not easily connected with genetics. There isn’t an “asshole” gene that can be bred out of the population. It’s almost as if the brain is complicated or something. Who knew?

    Well, a professor of biology might be expected to, but I guess not.

  26. chris61 says

    @26 pzmyers

    BUT NO ONE IS DENYING THAT FACT!

    So why are so many people going on about how Dawkins is supporting eugenics, rather than just agreeing that yes, of course that’s true.

    @27 Galilee

    Since Dawkins didn’t bother to do so, define what “work” means?
    Not just “modifying the gene pool”, but how exactly?

    “Work” means that if society decided it wanted to modify the human gene pool, it could be accomplished by selective breeding. As humans have done for years by selectively breeding plants and animals.

  27. nomdeplume says

    @20 thanks for the context. It was what I guessed – there is no suggestion in the tweet quoted here that he approves of eugenics or wants to breed a super race of white Oxford professors.

  28. says

    I think I have an analogy for why this is a very bad idea. Hear me out. Human’s modifying and directing their own evolution is like allowing a neural net A.I. to self evolve without direction. It just turns into a mess.

    Remember that A.I. that they “trained” using twitter threads? Within a day or two it evolved into a horrible white supremacist.

  29. says

    Oh this fucker again. The one that likes to poke at sensitive things because he got criticism. From “Dear Muslima” in forward Dawkins and and Harris and others have been doubling down.

    Dawkins has to periodically make a show out of publicly addressing things things others feel strongly about. He did it with ranking suffering. “Dear Muslima” was about shaming people who were concerned with sexual abuse and harassment in the same community he was in. Dawkins mocked people concerned about sexual abuse and harassment because it’s worse “over there”. Muslima is an objectified Muslim woman Dawkins is using as a political tool.

    It’s similar bullshit to “if you don’t like it why don’t you move?”. The proper response is “NO”.

  30. sarah00 says

    People seem to not know the context of this tweet so I figured I’d try and explain because it is, if anything, even worse that Dawkins speaking up on behalf of eugenics.

    It’s about British politics. Boris Johnson has a Chief Special Advisor called Dominic Cummings. Cummings is widely considered to be the power behind the throne. He wrote a blogpost (because who needs official documents in this age of social media) talking about how he wanted to hire “data scientists, project managers, policy experts, assorted weirdos”. One of those weirdos was recently hired: Andrew Sabisky, a man who “compared women’s sport to paralympics” and also said,
    “Eugenics are about selecting ‘for’ good things. Intelligence is largely inherited and correlates with better outcomes: physical health, income, lower mental illness.”

    This caught people’s attention because it’s not the first time eugenics has been mentioned in relation to the Conservative government. Adam Perkins, who wrote a book that suggested that “welfare dependency can be bred out’” helped design Conservative welfare reform policies with Ian Duncan Smith & Esther Mcvey.

    Combine that with the fact that UCL (the home of the eugenics movement) had been having secret eugenics conferences until a couple of years ago and you have some very concerning attitudes at the heart of government and academia right now.

  31. hemidactylus says

    Arguably human temperament has a strong genetic component. Reading Susan Cain’s Quiet I encountered Kagan’s work identifying high and low reactive kids and Dobbs’ strange differentiation between people who are dandelions who can deal with most environments or orchids who can be a range between highly damaged or superachievers depending on upbringing. Allegedly there are identifiable alleles connected to highly sensitive orchids.

    An evil scientist could set out to breed a human population to maximize extraversion. Most people are ambiverts. Taking online versions of the silly parlor game MBTI I come out slightly I or E each time, probably based on question framing and unreliable self-report. But it would be hard to find pure introverts and extraverts and from what I’ve read even Jung didn’t believe in pure types and maybe thought either rare extreme unhealthy. If I recall Adam Ruins correctly Jung wasn’t big on MBTI typology parlor games.

    But for the sake of argument maybe an evil scientist could succeed in breeding introversion out to fulfill the Dale Carnegie/Tony Robbins ideal of gregarious salespeople. Why would this be “good” as in EUgenic? Can you imagine a highly gregarious chattering dystopia where nobody could get a word in edge wise.

    Maybe there is some population oriented reason for temperament based personality diversity (“it takes all kinds”), and breeding subtypes out despite our quirks is a bad idea. Or people (called hyperadaptionists) struggle with the idea that selection doesn’t winnow all maladaption and forcefit the notion of orchids. Or psychological conditions are either overdiagnosed or a result of the EP mismatch hypothesis.

    And if certain alleles can be tied to potential for psychological outcomes of depression or anxiety (which I tend toward), would it be a good idea to edit them out? What if, as in the contentious orchid hypothesis, these alleles are also responsible for enhanced outcome in certain environments? Messing with the genome could have bad outcomes despite intent. My anxiety keeps me from taking too much risk. No parachute jumps for me thank you very much. Do we want to breed a population of reward oriented risk takers? What would become of the stock market?

  32. nomdeplume says

    @34 thanks sarah, I wasn’t aware of that appalling development – “welfare dependency can be bred out” takes us back to the Victorian period. But I don’t read the Dawkins quotes as “speaking up in behalf of eugenics”, just the opposite.

  33. DanDare says

    Twitter. Context free and content diminished.
    Yes, if you found some authoritarian way to force selective breeding on humans then you would have some success in altering human traits toward your goal in the same way as selective breeding animals.
    However eugenics goes beyond that bit of horror by adding goals that are insane and filled with deluded bigotry. Such a program cannot achieve its goal even with total control of the population. This is especially problematic if the humans running the project across many generations are part of the mix.
    My reply has exceeded the character count of twitter.

  34. says

    Whenever anyone points to the success of eugenics or selective breeding in for instance dogs. I suggest they look at say Chows or German Shepards from 50 years ago and compare them with those at dog shows now. The ones around now are not nearly as healthy or as functional as those from half a century ago.
    So if we can’t get that right……………..

  35. KG says

    As hemidactylus says @3, some of the most ardent proponents of eugenics pre-WWII were “progressives”. But the left seems to have learned its lesson; :it’s on the right that such notions just keep cropping up:

    Oxbridge-educated Andrew Sabisky is working as a No 10 adviser, having been appointed after chief aide Dominic Cummings put out a job description for “misfits and weirdos” to join him in trying to shake up government.

    The 27-year-old, who is contracted on specific projects and is not a permanent staffer, wrote on Cummings’ website in 2014 than in order to get around unplanned pregnancies in the UK, there should be the legal enforcement of long-term contraception.

    “One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies, creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception and the onset of puberty,” he wrote. “Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue.”

    In another post circulated on Twitter, Sabisky claimed black Americans had a lower average IQ than white people and were more likely to have an “intellectual disability”. He also tweeted: “I am always straight up in saying that women’s sport is more comparable to the Paralympics than it is to men’s.”

  36. billyjoe says

    Where Richard Dawkins went wrong:

    1) Using twitter for a topic that requires a blog post.
    That, of course, does not excuse people from misinterpreting what he said.
    2) Not providing context.
    He was clearly not responding to someone’s tweet and therefore he should have provided context and a link to what he was responding if, indeed, he was responding to anything rather than randomly tweeting
    3) Irrelevancy.
    He is not responding to a point of view that seems to have many or, indeed, any adherents.

    Where responders to Richard Dawkins tweet went wrong:

    1) Misinterpreting his tweet as supporting eugenics.
    Richard Dawkins is no more a supporter of eugenics than the author of this blog.
    2) Misinterpreting the meaning of his use of the word “work”.
    It is pretty clear what he means and it is uncharitable to imply anything else (see below).
    3) Dissing his tweet simply because he is Richard Dawkins.
    Just because Richard Dawkins is an old white aristocratic British male does not make him wrong.

    The main argument seems to be about the meaning of “work”:

    Richard Dawkins simply means that eugenics would “work” with humans in the same way that artificial breeding “works” with non-human animals – because eugenics is just artificial breeding applied to humans. If a trait is heritable then it can be subjected to artificial selection. For example “intelligence” is 50% heritable, therefore your could artificially select for it. And “could” does not mean “should”. Nowhere does Richard Dawkins suggest this “should” be done. As I said, Richard Dawkins is as much against the actual practice of eugenics as the author of this blog and he has been explicit about this elsewhere. Even his tweet strongly hints at this: “It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds”. So there really is no excuse for implying the opposite.

  37. says

    Yeah, genes, whatever. Inherited effects of trauma are on the table. Epigenetic inheritance of behavior phenomena are on the table. Anyone referring to genes should make sure they understand that inheritance is bigger than genes and that they can get specific about the gene in question.

    “Gilles de la Tourette syndrome is associated with hypermethylation of the dopamine D2 receptor gene”
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022395616306367

  38. chris61 says

    @34 sarah00

    People seem to not know the context of this tweet so I figured I’d try and explain because it is, if anything, even worse that Dawkins speaking up on behalf of eugenics.

    Dawkins wrote “I deplore the idea of a genetic policy. I simply said deploring it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work.”

    How do you get from that to deciding Dawkins was speaking up on behalf of eugenics?

    @38 Ronald Couch

    Whenever anyone points to the success of eugenics or selective breeding in for instance dogs. I suggest they look at say Chows or German Shepards from 50 years ago and compare them with those at dog shows now. The ones around now are not nearly as healthy or as functional as those from half a century ago.

    Much of dog breeding is about breeding for a certain ‘look’, not health or functionality. In that sense dog breeding has been quite successful. And in general I think the healthier dog breeds are breeds that have been bred for functionality (like border collies).

  39. KG says

    So why are so many people going on about how Dawkins is supporting eugenics, rather than just agreeing that yes, of course that’s true. – chris61@29

    I would have thought that was obvious. If you actually want to support something that is widely agreed to be morally repugnant, a good way to start is by attacking a straw-person version of the opposition to that thing, while affirming that of course you don’t support it. I’m not saying that is Dawkins’ motivation, but – given that opposition to eugenics is not based on the claim that it wouldn’t “work” (in the narrowest sense – it has rightly been pointed out both here and on the thread that the term “work”, undefined by Dawkins, needs a lot of unpacking because breeding for trait A will always get you increases in traits X, Y and Z as well), what exactly was the point of the tweet?

  40. Redd Wayne says

    In the meantime, Hemant Mehta just wrote that Dawkins “put his foot in his mouth” while Stefan Molyneux called him out, stating he’s wrong.

    What reality is this again?

  41. KG says

    For example “intelligence” is 50% heritable – billyjoe@40

    This piece of nonsense shows that you simply don’t know what you are talking about. It’s like saying: “temperature is 50 degrees”. Heritability is the proportion of variance accounted for by genetic differences in some specified population, just as temperature has to be the temperature of some specified object or place.

  42. chris61 says

    @43 KG

    I would have thought that was obvious. If you actually want to support something that is widely agreed to be morally repugnant, a good way to start is by attacking a straw-person version of the opposition to that thing, while affirming that of course you don’t support it. … given that opposition to eugenics is not based on the claim that it wouldn’t “work” (in the narrowest sense – it has rightly been pointed out both here and on the thread that the term “work”, undefined by Dawkins, needs a lot of unpacking because breeding for trait A will always get you increases in traits X, Y and Z as well), what exactly was the point of the tweet?

    Or you actually ARE opposed to something but are concerned that people are using the wrong arguments to oppose it. Because the argument is based on the claim that it wouldn’t work (in the broadest sense of the term). Sure breeding for trait A might get you increases in traits X, Y and Z as well but there are ways around that nowadays since by using genome sequencing and CRISPR technology one can select for particular genetic alleles, rather than relying on selection for more nebulous traits. But there are still reasons not to do it.

    @45 KG
    Surely you aren’t suggesting that intelligence (for however you want to define it) doesn’t have some degree of heritability? As long as a trait has some degree of heritability one could select for it. I had this discussion, or one very much like it, years ago. My point was would you really want to select for a super-intelligent group of people who might be seriously pissed off because that selection came with the sort of health problems associated with selective breeding of dogs.

  43. raven says

    @sarah 34

    Intelligence is largely inherited and correlates with better outcomes: physical health, income, lower mental illness.”

    Is that all true?

    Bad News for the Highly Intelligent – Scientific Americanwww.scientificamerican.com › article › bad-news-for-the-highly-intell…
    Dec 5, 2017 – Superior IQs are associated with mental and physical disorders, research suggests … People who do well on standardized tests of intelligence—IQ … The differences were smaller, but still statistically significant and practically …

    Why Are Intelligent People More Prone to Mental Illness …www.originsrecovery.com › why-are-intelligent-people-more-prone-t…Feb 15, 2019 –
    For example, studies have found that higher IQ is associated with more drug use and earlier drug use. Studies have also found that higher IQ is associated with more mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

    One large study led by Ruth Karpinski of Pitzer College surveyed more than 3700 members of Mensa, …

    A few seconds with Google found recent studies suggesting intelligence is correlated with more mental illness.

    I could believe intelligence is correlated with income and better health.
    But these aren’t independent variables.
    People with more money can buy better health care and tend to live longer.
    It is amount of money that correlates with better health.

  44. says

    I read one sf story where we were trying to figure out why an intelligent species died out on another planet.
    They had tied breeding to being genetically desirable with unexpected consequences to viability of their young.

  45. says

    Work” means that if society decided it wanted to modify the human gene pool, it could be accomplished by selective breeding.

    Now, forgetting for a moment that “Selective breeding” and “eugenics” are not synonymous, this does nothing to define “work”.
    Modify the gene pool how? How could society, which you pose as some removed and unchanging institution decide what genes to select for?
    Any society that selectively bred for some trait or another would be fundamentally different from society now, as it would be based entirely around forcing people to breed according to somebody’s mighty plan.
    Now, if you add super evil space aliens who usurp earth and declare us life stock, yes it would “work”.

  46. hemidactylus says

    @40- billyjoe
    Are you the one who followed up to a known PZ basher on WEIT on a recent thread there where you highlighted my “irrelevancy” about pugs as if that was all I said here? Also I happen to have some experience with patellar subluxation in my toy rat terrier. Is that also irrelevant to Dawkins’ “It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses.” in your estimation? If so how?

    BTW I happened to also be a wee bit critical of PZ’s OP…a behavioral quirk similar to one that got me banned on WEIT (a bastion of free speech). Enjoy your time there.

  47. chris61 says

    @Giliell

    Modify the gene pool how? How could society, which you pose as some removed and unchanging institution decide what genes to select for?
    Any society that selectively bred for some trait or another would be fundamentally different from society now, as it would be based entirely around forcing people to breed according to somebody’s mighty plan.

    Well yes, Giliell. That is precisely the point. Scientifically it would work. Morally, ethically, whatever is another matter entirely. But that, I think, was Dawkins point. There are reasons not to do it but to say it wouldn’t “work” in the sense that it just isn’t possible, isn’t true. You don’t have to force people to breed, you can prevent people from breeding (as has been done in the past). Or you can coerce people into breeding (or not breeding) using carrots and sticks of your choice.

  48. says

    You don’t have to force people to breed, you can prevent people from breeding (as has been done in the past).

    Sure you can. And sure it has been done. Yet unless you prevent large groups of people based on superficial characteristics (like, what, skin colour?) which would then disappear, you still have not given an example of how to change the “gene pool”. Selecting against superficial phenotypes is easy. Selecting for such phenotypes is harder (as humans have a tendency to be very hard to control when they want to fuck each other). Selecting for specific genes or any kind of more serious traits like “intelligence” (an ill defined concept as anybody who ever worked in the field knows)? Good luck.

  49. raven says

    Conservative government. Adam Perkins, who wrote a book that suggested that “welfare dependency can be bred out’”

    Oh really??? How??

    One of the reasons eugenics has a bad reputation is because all attempts to breed “good” genetic traits into human populations have been huge failures.

    .1. We all know what the Nazis did during World War II.
    6 million untermenshen, mostly Jews, Roma, and Slavs were gassed to death.
    This didn’t noticeably improve any sort of gene pool.
    In fact, the people who ran the program diminished their inclusive fitness by being hung as war criminals.

    .2.

    Wiipedia: Repository for Germinal Choice

    Founder Robert Klark Graham
    Defunct 1999
    Headquarters Escondido, California, United States
    The Repository for Germinal Choice (originally named the Hermann J. Muller Repository for Germinal Choice, after Nobel laureate Hermann Joseph Muller) was a sperm bank that operated in Escondido, California from 1980 to 1999. The repository is commonly believed to have accepted only donations from recipients of the Nobel Prize….(only one of them had a Nobel prize, and William Shockley was an ugly nutcase that few would call good breeding stock. )

    There was an attempt in the late 20th century with a sperm bank that supposedly recruited highly intelligent people.
    It didn’t go anywhere, was eventually shut down, and the results have never been seriously researched.
    It was more or less a failure.

    As soon as one starts drawing up plans to selectively breed humans, it becomes obvious that it isn’t all that easy.
    So far, without using physical force and killing lots of people, they have gone nowhere.
    And using physical force and mass murder didn’t work either.

  50. Carl Muckenhoupt says

    Seems to me that there’s two claims getting frequently muddled here, both by Dawkins and those responding to him:
    1. Selective breeding or culling of humans could have effects on the prevalence of heritable traits.
    2. Eugenics could work.
    These are not the same thing at all! They bear the same relation as, say, “In any group of people, there exists someone who would be the best at making decisions for that group” and “Dictatorship could work”. Eugenics isn’t just selective breeding, it’s a system of public policy. And it can be a failure as public policy even if the theory it’s based on is sound. History is rife with things like that.

    Dawkins says that his words have been misinterpreted, that his point wasn’t to defend eugenics but to suggest that arguing against it on factual instead of moral or ideological grounds is a dead end. But even there, he’s simply wrong. The success of selective breeding of cows, dogs, etc. doesn’t show that “eugenics could work”, because they’re not the product of eugenics. We’re not ignoring facts by insisting on this distinction.

  51. unclefrogy says

    I do not really see how you could day “it works” other then in some theoretical sense .
    we simply do not know enough about any particular trait to asses all of its genetic components. Most of the traits that are advocated to be included in any eugenics programs goals are ill-defined and ill-understood and are completely culturally defined which last time i looked has a nebulous connection with genetics.
    it is all bullshit speculation suited for science fiction novels or just a crap rationalization (excuse) for racism.
    uncle frogy

  52. raven says

    I read one sf story where we were trying to figure out why an intelligent species died out on another planet.
    They had tied breeding to being genetically desirable with unexpected consequences to viability of their young.

    I remember that one.
    It took me a long time with Google to dredge the title and author up.
    It was a good book, one of Brunner’s better ones.

    Total Eclipse
    by John Brunner 1984
    3.44 · Rating details · 364 ratings · 34 reviews
    In 2020, an international space team, exploring Sigma Draconis, 19 light years from earth, discovers the remains of a highly advanced society that has left behind its most spectacular artifact; the largest telescope imaginable, carved & polished from a natural moon crater. Successive space crews determine that the native culture evolved & disappeared mysteriously after a mere 3000 years of existence. It’s now 2028. Another mission reaches the planet with just one goal–to discover why the civilization disappeared–& with just one hope–that this knowledge will prevent the same thing from happening on earth.

    Exhibiting that rare sense of sf mystery that distinguished Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, John Brunner weaves a haunting tale of how 30 people attack the nearly insuperable task of unriddling the mysteries of a long-buried culture. Was it a fatal virus, an internecine war, a religion of lunatic brutality or a deleterious mutation that destroyed an entire civilization? All remains hypothesis until Ian Macauley unravels the riddle. But does it provide a solution to human problems & will the answer reach earth in time? (less)

  53. monad says

    @46 chris61:

    Surely you aren’t suggesting that intelligence (for however you want to define it) doesn’t have some degree of heritability? As long as a trait has some degree of heritability one could select for it.

    And there’s the problem, intelligence isn’t a trait, or even a group of traits. No doubt there is something genetic in H. sapiens different from other mammals. But experience and learning are not heritable, and they make up for a tremendous amount of what we call intelligence, to the point where things like IQ basically just track culture and economics. If you can find out some type of “intelligence” clearly independent of these things, you’ve achieved something very new, and I bet it would be extremely tough to correlate it with anything that actually matters.

  54. says

    @chris61 and billyjoe:

    chris61 responded to PZ’s statement:

    NO ONE IS DENYING THAT FACT! I have never once heard an argument against eugenics that starts “because selection can’t modify the gene pool…”

    with this statement:

    So why are so many people going on about how Dawkins is supporting eugenics, rather than just agreeing that yes, of course that’s true.

    Let’s start out by saying that I’m not sure how many people are saying that about Dawkins, but I don’t think it’s happening here. What people are saying is that Dawkins’ statement is WRONG.

    But wait! You protest. PZ admitted “selection can modify the gene pool”. But that’s not what Dawkins said. He said eugenics “works”. We can agree that selection can modify the gene pool, even of the mighty Homo sapiens, while disagreeing that eugenics “works”.

    billyjoe adds:

    Richard Dawkins simply means that eugenics would “work” with humans in the same way that artificial breeding “works” with non-human animals – because eugenics is just artificial breeding applied to humans. If a trait is heritable then it can be subjected to artificial selection. For example “intelligence” is 50% heritable, therefore your could artificially select for it. And “could” does not mean “should”. Nowhere does Richard Dawkins suggest this “should” be done.

    You are making the same mistake as chris61. Take the bolded part of your comment: for eugenics to “work” in the same way then it must be possible to control the breeding of humans in the same way it is possible to control the breeding of non-human animals.

    Would that actually work? Or would humans find ways to evade your restrictions? If you implemented the truly draconian restrictions necessary to truly “control” breeding, don’t you think you might have an eensy, teensy problem with underground resistance, sabotage, riot, insurrection, and eventually war?

    How many people with your desirable traits would have to be “put down” in order to keep control of breeding? What happens when anti-eugenic hackers corrupt your gene files and you no longer know who is scheduled to be bred to whom?

    Yes, you can say that slaughtering the non-cooperative is a moral abomination, but merely because it has moral import does not mean one can say it has only moral import. It has great practical import as well.

    On a practical level you cannot breed humans the way you would horses or dogs because you cannot control humans the way you would horses or dogs. Efforts to do so would fail. This is the same as saying that eugenics would simply not work.

    Dawkins is simply wrong in what he actually said. You can reinterpret it to mean something else about how human beings actually have genomes and human sex cells actually do combine in ways that add chromosomes from one individual to another. You can reinterpret it to mean that heritable traits are heritable even in human beings. You can reinterpret it to mean that yes, Virginia, selection can modify the gene pool of H. sapiens.

    But what you cannot do is say that eugenics would actually work.

  55. says

    I think you are very unfair to Mr. Dawkins. It is clearly possible to produce humans with a much better lean to fat ratio, and who mature to harvestable age much more quickly, exactly like farm animals. We are already moving in that direction in the United States (well, except for the lean to fat ratio.)

  56. hemidactylus says

    @59- Crip Dyke
    Another issue with eugenics besides the heavy handed totalitarian imposition on individual lives (and rights) would be the profligate waste of lives involved. One disanalogy between Darwinian selection and truly intelligent and benevolent design is the amount of wasted lives involved in the culling. I shudder to think what selective breeding has meant to so many rejected animal lives deemed substandard. Some authority determines human life not worth living in the negative eugenics frame or a Supreme Court judge says “three generations of imbeciles are enough”? With control of breeding comes power asymmetry and oppression. What becomes of my life if I don’t measure up per discriminating authority with state power?

    The positive eugenic sphere could be much less onerous but that still involves picking favorites. If I don’t (mis)measure up my procreation isn’t encouraged or subsidized. Subsidized procreation based on perceived trait value seems quite different from the needs basis of a safety net.

    But what you say also distances eugenics as heavy handed social policy from laissez faire callousness where there is limited government or anarchy and disregard for poverty in lack of a public funded social net. Not that that is a situation worthy of promoting, but the distinction needs to be made, if no more than intent versus outcome.

  57. dianne says

    I think you’re going about this all wrong. Trying to find reason and logic in a Dawkins tweet is futile. Just add “Mr. Bond” to the end of his tweet and move on. There is no there there.

  58. Saad says

    Dawkins means black and brown people can live in safety if they breed white people in a way which renders them incapable of colonialism, terrorism, etc.

  59. dianne says

    Sorry, should have made clear earlier that “add Mr Bond” is not original to me. Credit fir the idea goes to @nedhartley.

  60. billyjoe says

    BJ: For example “intelligence” is 50% heritable.

    KC: This piece of nonsense shows that you simply don’t know what you are talking about. Heritability is the proportion of variance accounted for by genetic differences in some specified population.

    https://www.coursehero.com/file/p4beuk/When-researchers-say-that-the-heritability-of-intelligence-is-50-they-mean-that/

    “Question149: When researchers say that the heritability of intelligence is 50%, they mean that:

    a) about half of a person’s intelligence is due to genetic factors.
    b) genetics and environment are equally important in determining intelligence.
    c) 50% of the variation in a population’s IQ scores is due to genetics.
    d) half of the population lies within the normal range for intelligence.

    Answer: c) 50% of the variation in a population’s IQ scores is due to genetics.”

    And you thought I didn’t know what I was talking about ;)

  61. billyjoe says

    Brony,

    “Inherited effects of trauma are on the table. Epigenetic inheritance of behavior phenomena are on the table”

    http://www.wiringthebrain.com/2018/05/grandmas-trauma-critical-appraisal-of.html

    “Can molecular memories of our ancestors’ experiences affect our own behaviour and physiology? That idea has certainly grabbed hold of the public imagination, under the banner of the seemingly ubiquitous buzzword “epigenetics”. Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance is the idea that a person’s experiences can somehow mark their genomes in ways that are passed on to their children and grandchildren. Those marks on the genome are then thought to influence gene expression and affect the behaviour and physiology of people who inherit them.

    The way this notion is referred to – both in popular pieces and in the scientific literature – you’d be forgiven for thinking it is an established fact in humans, based on mountains of consistent, compelling evidence. In fact, the opposite is true – it is based on the flimsiest of evidence from a very small number of studies with very small sample sizes and serious methodological flaws. [Note that there is, by contrast, very good evidence for this kind of mechanism in nematodes and plants and in specific circumstances involving transposable elements in mice].”

  62. billyjoe says

    Crip Dyke,

    You are simply equivocating about the meaning of “work”.
    Richard Dawkins means one thing by “work” and you criticise him based on a different meaning of the word “work”.
    That’s not really a good argument.

  63. Porivil Sorrens says

    @69
    Posting a paywalled excerpt from an undergraduate economics class that relies on modern day phrenology is a hilariously inept way to try and make a point, especially when capped with a smug appellation. Why, yes, I do indeed believe you do not know what you are talking about, if that is the caliber of source you’re operating off of.

  64. says

    @billyjoe 70
    I said “on the table” which concedes the fact that things are still being investigated.

    Otherwise if you’re not going to get explicit about that flimsy evidence I really don’t care about your quote.

  65. says

    @Crip Dyke

    “On a practical level you cannot breed humans the way you would horses or dogs because you cannot control humans the way you would horses or dogs. Efforts to do so would fail. This is the same as saying that eugenics would simply not work.”

    Based on what? The Nazis failed because more of the world’s forces were against them plus the combination of who knows how many factors that won WWII. But what if all the major world powers agreed to cooperate in whatever eugenic plan we’re discussing? There’s nothing inherent in sociology or anthropology or whatever that says the plucky rebels always have to win in the end against the oppressive government, especially as technology improves. Just look at North Korea or the Ughurs. Humanity doesn’t have plot armor to save whatever values you care about- place us in a developed enough system (ranging from brute physical helplessness to psychological manipulation) and we’re just as controllable as any other organism.

    Thus aren’t you exactly who Dawkins was addressing his tweet to in the first place?

  66. nomdeplume says

    Odd. 77 posts before this one. Almost all of them trashing Dawkins, based on a cherry-picked one tweet out of a series of three. None of them blasting Andrew Sabisky and Dominic Cummings, the former of who is actually wanting a eugenics program in Britain in 2020. Way to miss the target guys. I think Dawkins occasionally does express things clumsily without thinking of the way his words may be used. This is not one of those occasions. Apart from being called Richard Dawkins, what is it he said here that others are blasting him for? He is criticising Sabisky. He was suggesting that criticising Sabisky was best done on ethical and moral grounds. I mean, come on, there are thousands of more worthwhile targets in the world than Richard Dawkins who seems to me a fundamentally decent man at times trapped, as we all are, by unexamined biases based on upbringing, schooling, and adult social context.

  67. lawdyme says

    What nobody wants to admit is that Dawkins is correct in his not-so-subtle implications that eugenics would work for HIM. I once knew a man who would carry his baguettes underneath his arm in July as he sweated into the bread. He was a white man. Am I understood?

    LPGVRACB. It is an acronym for a common saying in France. It stands for “Le petite garcon vous ravera a chaque bouche”. The little boy will ravish you at every bite. Yeah but the boy is Dawkins, and the bite is eugenics.

    I hereby call for an end to the white race. May they sweat no longer into our baked goods. Imagine the look on Dawkins’ face when eugenics is turned against him. Am I clear?

    The baguette is an anology for the western world. If we get rid of all the whites and then get rid of all the blacks we believe only those who are brown or olive-skinned would remain. They will have no choice but to breed with one another until a gray race is formed. At which point they will be no more racial inequality. So you see Dawkins is correct. As a white man of French extraction oh, I would have no problem eliminating myself from the gene pool in the name of racial purity, in the service of the production of The Gray Race. But first of the movement must begin, lest my Sacrifice be rendered an idle and quickly forgotten suicide.

    DO YOU UNDERSTAND? Rather than taint your responses with emotion, I implore you to refine them with logic and sober reasoning. ADIEU.

  68. unclefrogy says

    @77
    theoretically that is all true and possible except for humans being involved and integral in all aspects of such a “world eugenics plan”
    has anybody ever tried to heard monkeys
    as far as WWII and the national socialists they would have failed sooner or later there was a destructive flaw at the root of the whole affair
    there needed to be some one in authority to make those decisions and there was never going to be a stable nor predictable way to maintain order nor succession
    uncle frogy

  69. says

    Hemidactylus, you bring up an important point : humans are very slow at reproducing, with enormous rates of bad outcomes even with 21st century medicine. In a dog you can discard 90% of a litter. Most dogs of a certain breed never reproduce. They are neutered and kept as pets, while breeders keep the “most promising” ones.
    Eugenics aren’t just by definition misogynistic, they are also pretty unfeasible.

    billyjoe

    You are simply equivocating about the meaning of “work”.
    Richard Dawkins means one thing by “work” and you criticise him based on a different meaning of the word “work”.

    Which is funny, because the first thing I mentioned was that Dawkins just leaves the meaning of “work” undefined. Tell me by which method you arrived at the correct meaning of “work” but CD didn’t.

  70. says

    @80
    Theoretical is all I (and I assume Dawkins) are going for. Could 1930s tech and socio/psych data do it? Maybe not. Could eventual tech and knowledge? Why not? Monkeys and humans are just deterministic meat machines, herding them or making us follow enough eugenic processes to change our descendants to be closer to whatever is desired is possible given enough power. You’re like the hero in some sci-fi plot- ‘It was designed by a human, so it must have a flaw we can exploit!”

  71. says

    @81 “Work” = “proportionally more humans are born and survive to age y that exhibit trait x which those in charge desire”

    How is that not obvious? That’s what we do in selective breeding.which Dawkins references. PZ and others bring up “immeasurable misery, suffering, and death” with those in charge “digging themselves into a pit of contempt and hatred” as if those would make the plan not work. The goal is eugenics, not happiness.

  72. unclefrogy says

    The goal is eugenics, not happiness.

    just who would it be to decide just what criteria would constitute the proper eugenic goal should be?
    how would that be managed for the length of time it would take to reach those goals, given the length of time generations of humans take?
    my guess is it would be much harder to herd monkeys then cats.
    the only way you could ever get that going in the whole world would make a totalitarian state look like a paradise.
    uncle frogy

  73. says

    I think there’s a legitimate point in asking exactly how this is supposed to be practically possible. Every human society in history has had rules about who gets to sleep with whom and every single society has had rules-breakers. People are clever and horny. You’re going to have compliance problems.

    For that reason, I’m not sure how eugenics could “work” without a rather totalitarian style of government. That produces an objection. Not an ethical one, but a practical one: If you have a totalitarian government, then the people in charge are above the law. People in charge always think that their genes are the best and who is going to tell the Dear Leader no?

    So, the compliance issues come right from the top. It’s not just a matter of getting the plebs to fuck the right way, it’s about the system being inherently compromised by the very structures needed to make it work in the first place. You can’t control the public without a strong central government, but once you have that, you can’t control the people who control it.

    It’s one of those problems that occur whenever you include human being in the equation. It doesn’t matter what system you think you’re designing. It’ll end up as whatever system the people running it want.

    So, I guess that brings us back to the question: What exactly does “work” mean? If it only works when humanity is already enlightened and wise, then isn’t that the same as saying it won’t work?

  74. says

    Me: “On a practical level you cannot breed humans the way you would horses or dogs because you cannot control humans the way you would horses or dogs. Efforts to do so would fail. This is the same as saying that eugenics would simply not work.”

    Mickey Mortimer: Based on what? …what if all the major world powers agreed to cooperate in whatever eugenic plan we’re discussing? …Humanity doesn’t have plot armor to save whatever values you care about- place us in a developed enough system (ranging from brute physical helplessness to psychological manipulation) and we’re just as controllable as any other organism.

    Based on the fact that it has never, ever worked. Not once.

    Eugenics does not have plot armor to save itself from all of reality.

    Also, “we’re just as controllable as any other organism” is obviously not true, based on the fact that we’ve managed to control the breeding of dogs, but we’ve not managed to control the breeding of humans. What you can say is that in theory a human population is controllable because in practice individual humans have been controlled. But dissent and subversion are (apparently) such significant forces that no government has ever been able to control its entire population. You have to empower some people to do the controlling, and humans being what they are, they’ll use their power to make exceptions, play favorites, indulge fantasies and more.

    Eugenics is not a lab experiment. It’s systematized control of human breeding in order to selectively increase the preponderance of certain boolean traits and the expression within each individual of scaling traits while reducing in preponderance or expression other traits.

    Dawkins defenders claim that people who think his statement is stupid are “equivocating” (lol, try looking up the word) in their uses and/or interpretation of the word “work”.

    What’s worse is misusing the word “eugenics”.

    Eugenics is a system of controlled breeding that fails if people fuck the wrong people, which has been happening since so long ago that the first great work of so-called “western” literature is based on a story in which 10,000 ships full of ~100 men each is needed to control the breeding of exactly TWO FUCKING PEOPLE.

    Has there ever been a society in which people didn’t fuck the wrong people? Ever?

    Who is plausibly recounting the conclusions of actual history and who is speculating without any reasonable basis here?

    Thus aren’t you exactly who Dawkins was addressing his tweet to in the first place?

    Wow. You are delusional.

    a) Dawkins doesn’t know I exist.
    b) He’s responding to a discussion that’s current in the UK, where I don’t live, and specifically to people criticizing a government minister of whom, at the time of Dawkins tweet, I had never heard
    c) He’s responding to people who were criticizing eugenics at a practical level, which I don’t believe I’ve ever done before today b/c as stupid as his statement is, and as impractical as I find eugenics to be, I am still more disturbed by the immorality than by the impracticality, as all non-sociopaths should be
    d) I haven’t commented on eugenics in quite some time, long before the current dustup began in the UK
    and, finally,
    e) Pacé Star Trek, it’s unlikely that Dawkins violated causality and/or ripped the fabric of the time-space continuum in order to issue his tweet in response to temporally subsequent criticisms of that same tweet.

    Dawkins’ criticism of the form of others’ criticism is itself ill-formed. Nothing you say will change that, and nothing I say now will make Dawkins’ tweet into something “addressing [me]”.

    But do feel free to prattle on about plot armor. It at least has the virtue of making it clear that when you say that eugenics “works” you mean exactly what anyone would mean by saying that Huxley’s government-by-soma “works”: it works in fiction.

  75. says

    Billyjoe: when your answer to a question is to simply, literally parrot what someone else wrote on the internet, then no, you don’t know what you are talking about.

  76. says

    So, I guess that brings us back to the question: What exactly does “work” mean?

    More importantly, let’s not lose sight of what “eugenics” means.

    It doesn’t mean merely that 20 years from now there’s a different proportion of certain alleles in the human population than there is today. Evolution “works”. Genes “work”. Sex “works”.

    Eugenics doesn’t “work” unless you mean something completely different by the word eugenics than what has always been meant by that word since Galton coined it almost 140 years ago.

  77. chris61 says

    Eugenics is a system of controlled breeding that fails if people fuck the wrong people, which has been happening since so long ago that the first great work of so-called “western” literature is based on a story in which 10,000 ships full of ~100 men each is needed to control the breeding of exactly TWO FUCKING PEOPLE.

    Seriously? Would you call dog breeding a failure because mutts exist? You wouldn’t have to control the reproduction of every individual in a population to change allele frequencies over time.

  78. Dunc says

    Would you call dog breeding a failure because mutts exist?

    The purpose of eugenics has never been to create some new sub-population with certain characteristics, it’s always been to eliminate some “undesirable” characteristic or group from the population, so it’s not really a valid analogy, but if you’re determined to go with it, then yes, dog breeding has failed as a eugenic program because mutts exist.

  79. khms says

    Hmm. 88 posts and still nobody mentioned a small-scale human eugenics program that made it into lots of biology textbooks? Look at the old European royals. They had a habit of mostly marrying each other, breeding for whatever makes you royal, I expect. But that’s not what they’re famous for in biology textbooks … or should I say infamous?

    Yeah, be very careful that what you’re actually breeding for is what you intended to breed for. That is even a problem for normal horse-and-cow breeding, but it’s much worse when you’re breeding yourself.

  80. says

    Dunc has already mostly covered this, but to make it explicit:

    Dog breeding is not eugenics. Why not read up on what eugenics actually is, and then articulate why you believe human breeding can be controlled for a hundred years or more so as to entirely eliminate and/or entirely universalize one or more characteristics while scaling up or down some others?

    Also, WHY NOT ASK EUGENICISTS WHETHER OR NOT THE EXISTENCE OF HUMAN “MUTTS” IS AN ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME?

    Are you completely oblivious to how “mutt” has been used as a racist insult over the past centuries? Yes. Eugenics’ goals included eliminating “mutts”. That’s not about whether or not I consider eugenics a failure. (I consider it a failure of society that eugenics exists at all.) That’s what actual eugenicists consider a failure.

    Moreover, the entire history of the Nazi government was 12 years. There are hardly any governments on earth that have existed in a consistent form for long enough to engage in a 5-generation breeding program of human beings, and 5 generations almost certainly isn’t enough to produce the population wide changes at which eugenics aims.

    Why do people keep insisting that it is somehow obvious that a government actively working toward totalitarian control of human reproduction would achieve its goals?

  81. says

    Royals are also famous for breeding bastards. That’s related to my earlier point: Whoever is in charge will decide that they should procreate with whoever they like. So, eugenics only works if we assume that the right people will always be in charge. So, it doesn’t work.

  82. says

    Mickey Mortimer

    @81 “Work” = “proportionally more humans are born and survive to age y that exhibit trait x which those in charge desire”

    How is that not obvious?

    Now, since many people are asking, it’s not obvious. Second, it’s considered polite to address people by their names instead of numbers. Third, now you are introducing another ill defined term and think that answers it all, which is that of the trait. This is the crux when you talk about scientific concepts: you always have to define your terms clearly in advance because everyday language is not adequate. And while you may be forgiven, as I don’t know your background, Dawkins isn’t.
    Back to the point: what is a “trait” and how can you select for/against it? As I said, it’s easy to look at a few superficial phenotypes (better pick recessive allels, though). If we look at the people most linked to eugenics, the German Nazis, they did three things: One, they tried to exterminate large groups of people based on their ethnic heritage. There are no Jewish traits, Sinti or Roma traits, no Slavic traits that go beyond some tendencies in how people look. Each one of these groups has a large variability in traits. The Nazis simply ascribed “undesirable traits” to them without any basis whatsoever.
    Second, they forcibly sterilised and killed people they deemed unfit. Disabled people, mentally ill people. Yet those “traits” didn’t disappear.
    Thirdly, breeding Aryan children in Lebensborn. With the full support of a dictatorship behind them, they bred 8000 children in 10 years…
    So on all three axes, they thankfully failed.
    This is the problem when you talk about “traits” and you don’t define what you mean: you fall into the good old Nazi trap of linking some characteristics (like intelligence, physical fitness, being hard working, etc.) which we all know are hugely influenced by our circumstances to superficial phenotypes and/or proclaiming them to be “genetic”.

    Chris 61

    Seriously? Would you call dog breeding a failure because mutts exist? You wouldn’t have to control the reproduction of every individual in a population to change allele frequencies over time.

    While at the start of the discussion I said to disregard the difference between selective breeding and eugenics for a while, you cannot get away with it forever.
    If breeding dogs was eugenics then yes, mutts would make it a failure. What’s more, the hundreds of different breeds themselves would be a failure. Eugenics doesn’t say ” we breed a small subpupolation”. Yes, it would probably work if we selected the tallest 0.1% of all children born in 2000, locked them up, made sure they could only fuck each other, removed any babies below the 10% percentile for growth and gave them up for adoption, and in 100 years we’d have a group of much taller people (with all the associated health problems). It still wouldn’t do shit to human height.
    Eugenics say we do that on a society wide level. The current “proposal” in the UK is to use income as a criterion whether you are allowed to have kids or not. Because there are some money making allels or something.

  83. says

    To add to “dog breeding”: Street dogs everywhere pretty quickly revert back to a population of medium sized short haired doggos with a light brown coat and pointy ears, no matter how many “breeds” they were to start with.

  84. dianne says

    I’ve only skimmed the thread, so apologies if this has come up already, but has anyone examined Dawkins’ claim? Did eugenics “work” on dogs and cows? Eugenics is not selective breeding. The purpose of eugenics is not to create a subspecies with certain desired characteristics, but to make the entire population have said traits. Yes, there are dogs bred for certain traits, but for any given trait there are dogs that do not have it. As far as the speciation of dogs from wolves, that was probably not intentional. The friendly wolves started following humans around without humans doing much more than not discouraging it and eventually dogs appeared. Also, wolves still exist. So I think the claim that eugenics has worked is dubious.

  85. Porivil Sorrens says

    Wow, the Dawkins defenders have an embarrassingly poor grasp of what Eugenics actually means. Color me surprised. Like supports like.

  86. raven says

    People are confused as to what eugenics actually is and conflate it with other evolutionary forces.
    Definition.

    Dictionary.com eugenics

    …the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits …

    and
    The prefix (eu-) means good, well, pleasant or true. It is derived from the Greek eu meaning well and eus meaning good. In this case the eu prefix means good or well. So good genetics.
    It only applies to humans.

    It is not the same as selective breeding or artificial selection applied to animals and plants.
    We use those to change animals and plants for our human benefit, not their benefit.

    Eugenics uses those procedures though, applied to humans to “improve” a human gene pool.
    Among the many problems with eugenics, there is no consensus about what “improve” means and what traits should be selected for and what traits should be selected against.
    That is mostly going to be value judgments, or opinions based on ideological, political, religious, or moral grounds.

  87. petesh says

    raven @16: Sorry I didn’t bother to explain what I meant, I mostly just wanted to agree with you. Then I decided to add the comment that when anyone proposes or supports eugenic ideas, they are making an assumption that they know what is best; and in practice, that assumption is usually that whichever class or race or gender or nationality or other subgroup the eugenicist claims as their own … is best. (I was also riffing off the retort Tonto is claimed to have made to the Lone Ranger, when “we” were surrounded by “redskins”: Who we, white man?)

    Francis Galton certainly thought that the British aristocracy on his era was the ideal; he also made other distinctions, which led to his proposal to replace the inhabitants of East Africa with Chinese people, who were, he thought, innately more competent. I expressed my opinion of the British aristocracy by emigrating, but that’s another story.

    I think it’s safe to assume that Dawkins has some concept of modern genetics, so I would expect him to understand that eugenic breeding of humans is unlikely to result in the intended overall “improvement” (setting aside the definition of improvement) with any predictable effect; unless, I suppose, you carry it to its negative extreme and just cull the infirm. Unthinkable, he may retort. But it’s not. It happened. Negative eugenics is easier to implement and your mistakes have no standing to complain. (No, Carrie Buck was not an imbecile but no one would listen.) And I would be horrified but not entirely surprised if, under the ecological stresses that I expect to increase over the next few decades, it happens again.

    Oh, he didn’t mean that. Sorry, Dawkins, it’s implicit in what you did say.

  88. says

    I have to do a new and more nuanced post on what emotion really is and how it relates to experience.

    @lawdyme 79
    Logic and emotion aren’t independent and emotion doesn’t imply illogic. Emotion is a basic part of consciousness. Imploring people with respect to emotion amounts to prejudice. Wait until you see illogic and critisize that.

    Your point isn’t clear.

    The white race has never existed. It’s always been a racist political construct. The color doesn’t exist in the human species. Blackness was invented at the same time to keep people separate. Do what you are suggesting and the human race remains an abusive mess because race is just one thing we use for irrational dominance behavior.

  89. clevehicks says

    #RichardDawkins, you are capable of so much better than this. ‘Of course blowing up the world with nuclear weapons would work. Of course killing all minorities would work. Of course adopting an all meat diet would work.’ You could validly say all of these things, but why would u?

  90. logicalcat says

    Its because Dawkins tweet raises red flags. There are two kinds of pseudoscience pushers, and mind you I don’t think Dawkins is either of these. I just think hes an idiot who puts his foot in his mouth and is confused as to why people get upset.

    The first is the true believer. When the anti-vaxxer says “Vaccines cause autism! You know it I know it. Big Pharma lies to you!”. Then theres the “No really, I’m not” kind. The anti vaxxer who says ” No Im not an antivaxxer. Vaccines are good for people, for mankind. Now if youll excuse me Im now going to spend the rest of this talk rehashing various anti-vax talking points, but I’m not an anti-vaxxer!” Dawkins tweet looks like the second one. And like I said I dont think he actually is a eugenicist, just an idiot.

  91. Saad says

    It’s a Trump move. He’s saying exactly what his base will love to hear and what will “TRIGGER!!1 the SJWs”.

  92. logicalcat says

    Getting people mad at you is now seen as a sign of rationality as opposed to the thigns you say. Attitude over substance.

  93. says

    This is another one I need to write about eventually, but in my 101 where I point out that whiteness is just a political construct it shouldn’t imply complete disavowal and washing one’s hands of whiteness.
    If one was raised to identify with whiteness like me one still needs to watch out for what white people (the people still identifying with whiteness and speaking as if you are in a group with them) are saying. They’re doing politics based on group dominance and nothing that will solve anything except winning against “them”.

    One common response I’ve seen is immediate concern and what “they” will do with blackness and similar. It’s none of our business and constitutes the same sort of cultural policing as concern with loose pants and rap music. And that response demonstrates that it is about group conflict to anyone so concerned. Organization around blackness in the face of bigot organization around whiteness is rational.

    I’m satisfied that I’ll be spending the rest of my life watching what “white people” do with “whiteness”.

  94. says

    Dogs reach sexual maturity in two years. A single bitch can give birth to 30 puppies. You can sterilize 28 of those and keep only the most promising ones. In ten years you can do this for five generations.

    Human bodies and human societies are not like this.

  95. Owlmirror says

    What should be genetic screening against genetic diseases be called? Maybe antidysgenics?

    Would genetic editing be eugenics? (“I want my kids to never be at risk of scurvy, so I want their GULO changed to one that works”)

  96. KG says

    Answer: c) 50% of the variation in a population’s IQ scores is due to genetics.”

    And you thought I didn’t know what I was talking about ;) – billyjoe@69

    As you have just shown, since you clearly still don’t understand why your original statement @40 that

    “intelligence” is 50% heritable

    is nonsense, as the very answer you quote confirms. Notice the words “in a population” there? They mean that until you have specifed what population you are talking about, it literally makes no sense to ascribe a figure to the heritability of any trait.

    (I wanted to keep things simple @45, but of course there’s also the point that “intelligence” is not a trait for which heritaility can be measured for any population, since it is a natural language term lacking the kind of definition that would allow the attribution of numerical magnitudes to the intelligence of individuals. If you meant “IQ test performance”, you should have said so.)

  97. KG says

    chris61@46

    Or you actually ARE opposed to something but are concerned that people are using the wrong arguments to oppose it.

    For that to be plausible, there needs to be evidence that people are in fact using the wrong arguments to oppose it – unless you’re just saying that Dawkins has become stupid, and is responding to a non-existent threat.

    Surely you aren’t suggesting that intelligence (for however you want to define it) doesn’t have some degree of heritability?

    Ok, so you don’t understand the concept of heritability either (see #108).

  98. petesh says

    If you meant “IQ test performance”, you should have said so.
    Thank you, that’s a useful reminder.

  99. KG says

    77 posts before this one. Almost all of them trashing Dawkins, based on a cherry-picked one tweet out of a series of three. None of them blasting Andrew Sabisky and Dominic Cummings, the former of who is actually wanting a eugenics program in Britain in 2020. Way to miss the target guys. – nbomdeplume@77

    See my #39. If you’re going to base a rant on “no-one has mentioned X”, it’s a good idea to make sure no-one has in fact mentioned X. Here and here are a couple of follow-ups: Sabisky has now resigned, and further examination of his online history confirms that he’s not only a bigot, but a remarkably stupid one, whose eugenic fantasies are as obviously impractical as they are morally repulsive. What is most remarkable, and most alarming, is the failure of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to repudiate Sabisky. To their credit, a number of Tory MPs have done so.

  100. nomdeplume says

    @111 I thought it was clear from the context I meant “on this thread”. Good to know he has gone, not surprised to learn Boris hasn’t repudiated him.

  101. sarah00 says

    @112, you might want to take a look at comment 34 where I tried to give a summary of the background. Whether or not I succeeded I can’t say but you were not the first to mention Cummings or Sabisky. I was going to let it slide but as you’ve reiterated your view that you’re the only one recognising the context I feel it necessary to point it out.

  102. nomdeplume says

    @113 sarah, yes, I did acknowledge your contribution (@36) and thanked you for providing the context I was unaware of. I didn’t think even you were blasting Sabisky, hence my comment. I am delighted to see he has now resigned, though the appalling Cummings is still there, and Boris hasn’t acknowledged there was even a problem.

  103. Saad says

    chris61 takes the bigoted position on almost every issue. I commend her for not getting banned already.

  104. says

    Saad
    Well, but her gross incompetence also offers a lot of material you can use to explain matters to bystanders.
    Also a good litmus test : if you find yourself agreeing with her, what are you doing wrong?

  105. chris61 says

    Actually Giliell I expect we agree on at least one thing because I really miss Caine’s blog posts, especially her art and photography ones.

  106. rietpluim says

    It works for cows
    I wonder how cows feel about that.
    Would humans think that breasts four times their original size “work”?

  107. KG says

    I thought it was clear from the context I meant “on this thread”. – nomdeplume@111

    My #39 is on this thread – at #39, oddly enough. And as sarah00 points out @113, so is her #34, where both Cummings and Sabisky are featured, and a piece of the latter’s repulsive nonsense is quoted in comic sans. I therefore reiterate my advice: read before you rant.

  108. says

    @KG, remember this?

    77 posts before this one. Almost all of them trashing Dawkins, based on a cherry-picked one tweet out of a series of three. None of them blasting Andrew Sabisky and Dominic Cummings

    and, addressing sarah00:

    I did acknowledge your contribution (@36) and thanked you for providing the context I was unaware of. I didn’t think even you were blasting Sabisky, hence my comment. [emphasis mine – cd]

    I think that nomdeplume is asserting that the key difference is that people criticized Sabisky but did not trash or blast him despite, in nomdeplume’s assessment, Sabisky being more worthy of blasting than Dawkins – who did, in nomdeplume’s assessment, get trashed/blasted.

    In other words, this is a tone argument, and you’ll never win that argument because your rhetorical opponent will always insist that they have divined the secret, magic tone-y line of great importance.

    I don’t disagree that carefully choosing one’s tone can make a difference in the success of an argument in certain contexts, but making that argument is not what’s happening here. Probably best to give it up.

  109. jefrir says

    I think Dawkins occasionally does express things clumsily without thinking of the way his words may be used.

    I see this excuse used every time Dawkins spouts some reactionary garbage, and I don’t buy it. He’s an intelligent, competent communicator. He knows damn well what he’s implying, and what people will likely take from it. If he wanted to criticise Sabisky and Cummings, he could have done so directly. If he wanted to caution people about poor ways of arguing with them, he could have said so explicitly, and ideally pointed to examples of anyone actually doing the thing he’s supposedly criticising.
    I will give him the respect of assuming he said exactly what he meant to say, especially in the absence of him having issued any corrections.

  110. nomdeplume says

    @121 “ the key difference is that people criticized Sabisky”. No, Crip, they didn’t. Two posts provided the context of what Sabisky had said. Neither criticised. I wasn’t making a “tone” argument, but a content one. A whole thread of 100+ posts lashing Dutton, while the real targets were in 10 Downing Street seems to me a little disproportionate, that’s all. But that’s just me I guess.

  111. aspleen says

    It’s necessary to make a clarification about that trait that’s supposedly being selected for, say IQ, and what’s really being selected for, namely skin color. Murray by casually linking IQ to race was clearly guilty of racism, because there’s no reason to believe that intelligence is somehow tied to melanin. Yes, you can select for certain traits that are heritable and Dawkins is correct about that. It’s the misdirection about the trait being targeted (and the motive behind it) that’s racist.

  112. says

    @nomdeplume:

    Fair enough. I took your #112 to be an implicit acceptance of the idea that criticism had happened. I guess it wasn’t.

    A whole thread of 100+ posts lashing Dutton, while the real targets were in 10 Downing Street seems to me a little disproportionate, that’s all. But that’s just me I guess.

    By “Dutton” I’ll presume you mean “Dawkins”. Sure, that’s disproportionate in some abstract sense, but it’s not disproportionate for a thread that specifically invites commentary on Dawkins’ statements but not Sabisky’s. This is the internet, and there’s room for a lot of conversations and a lot of comments on a lot of blog posts. In this thread there’s one main topic. In some other thread there would be another topic.

    If, on the internet as a whole there was more criticism of Dawkins’ than Sabisky I’d think that was a better case for proportionality, but frankly I’m not worried about it. If I was, I’d spend time counting up the comments on this thread to show that it’s got to be less than 100 that criticize Dawkins since quite a few were spent on interactions between thread participants – such as arguments over the definition of “work” and “eugenics”.

    I criticize things I deem worthy of criticism. I didn’t even bother criticizing Dawkins since by the time I showed up in the thread he’d already been criticized. Instead I criticized specific comments in this thread that defended Dawkins. Am I somehow wrong to do that when I haven’t (yet) criticized Sabisky himself? Not by my moral system. Are there other people around the world even more worthy of criticism than Sabisky himself? Sure. Are the newspapers of the UK wrong to write about Sabisky when they could be writing about some other person who is more wrong, perhaps even some book author whose ideas were influential on Sabisky and is thus the “real” originator of this kerfuffle? I don’t think so.

    I’m not hostile to your argument that Sabisky is somehow “worse” (or at least more worthy of critical comments), it’s just that of all the reasons to criticize someone’s speech, “you could have picked a worthier target” is never going to make regular appearances on my list.

  113. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    So, what if the good trait we want to breed is not being an insufferable prick?

    Richard Dawkins, please report to the nearest vasectomy clinic.

  114. nomdeplume says

    @125 Fair enough Crip, we’ll leave it at that.

    PS Sorry about “Dutton” – he is another kettle of rotten fish altogether!

  115. hemidactylus says

    Crip Dyke, thanks for your (and Giliell’s too!) cogent and detailed contributions to this thread. I don’t think I had a full enough view of the ramifications of what it really means to implement a eugenics policy that “works” and the way people involved would have to be put into a highly regimented totalitarian milieu that would likely result in subversive pushback as people aren’t as amenable to being told how to fuck as dogs, horses, and other nonhumans. I probably don’t have you entirely right (lots to ponder) but given I had already had the technocratic administrative aspects of eugenics in mind your posts flipped a switch for me. Thanks again.

  116. nomdeplume says

    Yep, that’s the Dutton, astonishingly easy to imagine him in full SS uniform. I must have been reading about him just before I wrote.

  117. says

    Every reply here against Dawkins’ point willfully misunderstands that “in practice” could/would require a very different civilization than we have now or uselessly equivocates on on what a “good” genome would be, or who decides it, or are there negative side-effects, etc..

    So unclefroggy says “just who would it be to decide just what criteria would constitute the proper eugenic goal should be?
    how would that be managed for the length of time it would take to reach those goals, given the length of time generations of humans take?

    the only way you could ever get that going in the whole world would make a totalitarian state look like a paradise.”

    Doesn’t matter, we just need a goal to count. Doesn’t matter, introduce any amount of technology you think sufficient. And true, nobody here is claiming otherwise.

    Or Crip Dyke- “But dissent and subversion are (apparently) such significant forces that no government has ever been able to control its entire population. You have to empower some people to do the controlling, and humans being what they are, they’ll use their power to make exceptions, play favorites, indulge fantasies and more.”

    Then introduce technology. Could medieval royalty do it? No. Could Hitler? Better odds but no. Could we currently? Probably not. But give us another century or more, with a state that follows us and our social meetings at all times? Why not? Dawkins’ point is not that we have the technology to enforce it, but that if we could enforce it, we’d get those results.

    Similarly, Giliell (who I never meant to insult by using a comment number, so I’m sorry about that) brings up that traits are complex, which is true, but Dawkins’ quote is no doubt merely saying that if you had a good knowledge of what genes corresponded to which phenotypical traits in humans, you could select for those phenotypes given enough control. Though honestly, humans did that with minimal knowledge over millennia for domesticated animals and still managed decent results.

    And also to Giliell, no one ever claimed eugenic purity would last if you stopped enforcing it.

    Finally, to dianne, controlling the phenotype of a ‘subspecies’ is the same as controlling the entire phenotype if you kill off the other subspecies. Which probably has been done by humans before.

  118. says

    @Mickey Mortimer

    Then introduce technology. Could medieval royalty do it? No. Could Hitler? Better odds but no. Could we currently? Probably not. But give us another century or more, with a state that follows us and our social meetings at all times? Why not? Dawkins’ point is not that we have the technology to enforce it, but that if we could enforce it, we’d get those results.

    Dawkins said that eugenics “works”.

    Not that it might work in the future. Not that it’s never worked in the past and we have no idea if it would ever work at any time.

    He said it “works”. Present tense. Which even you agree isn’t true.

    Oh, but now you’re here to tell us that eugenics works in science fiction. Well, sure. A lot of things work in fiction. As it turns out, in science fiction I can even have the power to change your mind.

    Nevertheless, when Dawkins says that eugenics “works”, he is not correct.

    Also, too, let’s remind ourselves that Dawkins was criticizing arguments against Sabisky’s assertion that eugenics can eliminate the “permanent underclass” of impoverished citizens in the UK. This has always been the central goal of eugenics. While many more specific goals have occupied attention from time to time in eugenic circles, the overriding goal, the one that persisted across generations, is breeding a human population such that everyone is a productive worker and no one lives in poverty.

    This central aim of eugenics will never be accomplished through selective breeding. Poverty is largely determined by one’s economic system and very little of it is determined by one’s genome. Even then, it would be determined by the interactions of many, many genes.

    So when Sabisky says that we can use birth control and selective breeding to eliminate poverty, he is proposing a plan that does not work. As a result, quite a number of people in the UK stood up to say, “Not only is this plan morally horrendous, the plan does not work.” Most of the people offering that criticism were anti-poverty activists who wanted to use the moment to teach people about what actually lifts people out of poverty.

    Dawkins’ response was to tell the anti-poverty activists to shut up because nuh-uh, eugenics does too “work”.

    If you take a simplistic reading of Dawkins’ tweet, he was wrong. You’d have to twist him to be saying merely that genes are exchanged during human sexual reproduction and that, therefore, the genes of children depend on the genes of the parents even in humans. And sure that’s correct, but it’s not what he said.

    If you take a contextual reading of what Dawkins said, it doesn’t help. The context wasn’t “Do genes exist in human beings?” The context was, “Can we breed a Britain free of poverty through eugenics?”

    And Sabisky’s critics are correct: we can’t. Dawkins can take up arms against those critics if he likes, but it makes him seem even less competent than when we examined his tweet without any reference to context at all.

    Eugenics doesn’t “work”. Dawkins wasn’t saying something smart that was misunderstood. Science fiction doesn’t prove Dawkins to be secretly smarter than all of the commenters here.

    I honestly don’t know why you would even try to prove otherwise.

  119. Porivil Sorrens says

    What a hopelessly useless and tautological definition of “works”.

    Yes, sure, eugenics works in the fantasy world where everything necessary for it to work exists. So does magic or the force.

  120. says

    Mickey Mortimer

    but Dawkins’ quote is no doubt merely saying that if you had a good knowledge of what genes corresponded to which phenotypical traits in humans, you could select for those phenotypes given enough control.

    You are aware that you are engaging in some wild speculation here while taking the assumption that indeed you can select for such complex traits on the basis of yet to discovered genes for granted?
    First of all, geneticists say that this is pretty unlikely. We know how we can perfectly well influence many outcomes favourably without building a totalitarian nightmare : by establishing social programs.
    Second, as CD has said, you cannot just add your Sci Fi scenario to a claim about the present.

  121. KG says

    Is there anyone here other than nomdeplume (see their #123) who does not see both #34 and #39 as criticising Sabisky? In the case of #34, he’s quoted in comic sans; @39, I say:

    As hemidactylus says @3, some of the most ardent proponents of eugenics pre-WWII were “progressives”. But the left seems to have learned its lesson; :it’s on the right that such notions just keep cropping up:

    then go on to quote the Grauniad’s description of Sabisky’s views. How can either of these posts not be seen as criticising Sabisky? Does it not count unless one uses the words “I hereby criticise Sabisky”? Frankly, nomdeplume is simply being dishonest.

    Meanwhile, it turns out that Cummings is also a scientifically ignorant eugenicist.

  122. KG says

    More yet about Sabisky. I can’t quote in full because it’s from Private Eye, which still consists of ink on paper. But (p.11, “Spad Tidings”) Sabisky turns out to be a fan of The Bell Curve (you could have knocked me down with a meter-long metal truncheon). He also raves about a work I have not had the pleasure of reading, Tatu Vanhanen’s Ethnic Conflicts: Their Biological Roots in Ethnic Nepotism, but Vanhanen appears essentially to be claiming that ethnic conflicts are inevitable in ethnically mixed societies (it’s not hard to see where this is leading), and his references in a related article include one in which Vanhanen is co-author with notorious racist pseudo-scientist Richard Lynn. Moreover, Sabisky recommends that the book be bought from Lynn’s “Ulster Institute”, and another notorious racist pseudo-scientist, J.P. (Philip) Rushton, is also referenced.

    Incidentally, the same issue of Private Eye includes a profile of a new Tory MP, Jamie Wallis, who has a PhD on panspermia supervised by N.C. Wickramasinghe, and six articles in the Journal of Cosmology, of which it says:

    Wickramasinghe is the “executive editor” for astrobiology for the journal, described by US scientist PZ Myers [sic!] as “the ginned-up website of a small group of crank academics”.

    Knowing Private Eye, I would not be at all surprised to see one of more letters attacking this “PZ Myers” fellow in the next issue. And perhaps I should apologise to Wickramasinghe, who AFAIK is a relatively harmless crank, for mentioning him in the same comment as the poisonous racists Lynn, Rushton and Sabisky.

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