No discussion of Genetic Engineering in the context of Future Human Evolution would be complete without covering the Eugenics movement. Eugenics is the science of improving human heredity characteristics. Raising the bar on our collective gene pool by encouraging the propagation of desirable genes (positive Eugenics) while discouraging an increase in undesirable genes (negative Eugenics). In other words, selective breeding.
The movement began in the 19th century, founded by Sir Francis Galton. While he focused primarily on positive Eugenics, the 20th century saw the more aggressive promotion and application of negative Eugenics (such as sterilization of the unfit), eventually resulting in the movement being tied to Hitler and the Nazi party. This marked the eventual demise of Eugenics as a popular or even socially acceptable movement.
However, because the goals of Eugenics are for the betterment of the human race, individuals and organizations can still be found that support both forms of Eugenic tactics.
While we agree with the general goals of furthering human evolution, the devil, of course, is in the details. The questions we ask are the same regardless of the human advancement method proposed to be used:
• Who determines what is “good” and what is “bad”? Aside from the obvious goals of eliminating hereditary disease (the “bad”), what else can be safely manipulated? Intelligence is often cited as the primary determinate of desirable genes (the “good”).
• Do we know enough about “intelligence” at this point to realistically determine what types of intelligence should be encouraged and will be needed for the long-term benefit of the human race?
• Are present day IQ tests sufficient for identifying the specific qualities needed for ensuring the spread of the human race across the galaxy and beyond? We would like to hear your thoughts on the subject.
• Assuming that general agreement can be achieved on the definition of one or more desirable/undesirable traits, what are the appropriate tactics for encouraging and discouraging the promulgation of the genes that promote them?
• Are negative tactics (the discouragement of breeding) actually necessary?
We believe that it may be well worth a long, hard look at the longer-term options of human evolution before pronouncing short-term solutions. True genetic engineering, direct manipulation of DNA, may very soon render the discussion on selective breeding obsolete. for additional coverage on this subject, as well as a further discussion of the ethics and social implications.