Thursday 5 June 2014

Realistically accepting the consequences of a NON-eugenic future


To reiterate; I am against eugenics, and I am against mainstream anti-eugenics.

What I favour is realism. The reality of human dysgenics - the generation upon generation decline of desirable traits, due to an accumulation of genetic damage - is real; and seems to be a much larger problem than most advocates of eugenics allow.

Indeed, dysgenics is such a big problem, that its solution by deliberate human planning and artificial selection is almost impossible to contemplate - so harsh would be the requisite regime.

However, 'Nature' has no scruples on these matters.


Intelligence - when measured by an objective correlate such as simple reaction time - is a useful measure of dysgenics because 'general intelligence' or 'g' is an overall measure of biological fitness (this idea from Geoffrey Miller). 

Dygenics comes from at least three sources, the third being the most significant:

1. Differential fertility - the less intelligent individuals being more fertile than the more intelligent - the most intelligent actually having negative-fertility - averaging less than two offspring per couple.

2. Demographic change with mass migration of population - the less intelligent groups and nations being more fertile than the most intelligent - and migrating to occupy the territory of the more intelligent.

3. Accumulation of deleterious genetic mutations. New mutations - nearly all of them damaging - probably occur at a rate of more than more per generation, and (since intelligence is a fitness measure) probably are higher than this among the less intelligent - which is indeed a major reason why they are less intelligent.


Due to the massive decline in child mortality rates since the industrial revolution, and the massive international transfers of wealth, technology and medicine from the most to least developed nations the majority of babies that are born nowadays (and for the past several generations) will live to sexual maturity - survival of newborns is near 100 percent in developed countries, but even in the places with the worst child mortality rates, the child mortality rate is still low enough to allow massive rates of population growth.


How important is the decline in child mortality rates? Incredibly important.

On the one hand, the reduction in child mortality must be one of the greatest of all contributions to human happiness - since the death of even one child is a terrible and devastating thing - one of the very hardest to bear; and because the causes of child death include many things horrible in themselves such as starvation, disease, accidents and violence - the decline of which also represent an increase in happiness.

It is hard to exaggerate how historically-unprecedented is this modern world, where most children are expected to survive to maturity - and how profound are the biological consequences of this situation.

It seems that the human is an animal which has evolved in a situation where almost all children who are born will die without reproducing - mostly during childhood; and where the next generation is produced by only a small minority of the present generation.

(Michael A Woodley is working on assembling this argument and documenting it in detail.)


When we consider Man through most of history, we should be thinking of a species which is:

1. Highly likely to generate and accumulate fitness-reducing mutations, and

2. Has dealt with this problem by reproducing only from a small minority of the fittest individuals - the majority of historical humans will have averaged zero surviving offspring.


This is termed mutation-selection balance

and it makes a big difference to the human condition where, quantitatively, this balance lies.


In a nutshell, in humans very high rates of child mortality have historically functioned to filter-out damaging mutations which otherwise will accumulate rapidly, generation upon generation, to damage fitness - and this accumulation of mutational damage can be measured in substantially slowing simple reaction times - and (it would be predicted) in other objective measures of fitness.   


Except for WD Hamilton, eugenicists have tended to neglect this problem of mutation accumulation - presumably because they assumed that it was a small problem.

The assumption of eugenicists seemed to be that if the bottom few percent of the population (maybe habitual criminals or the significantly handicapped or whatever) were prevented from (or at least discouraged from) breeding, then this would be sufficient to maintain the quality of the human genome.

A few percent is one thing; but what if it was three-quarters of the population, or four fifths, or five sixths of the human population who had to be prevented from reproducing?

Because that sort of proportion - a large majority of people prevented from having children (almost certainly including you and me) - seems most likely from the biological perspective of preventing mutation accumulation.


In other words, it seems probable that throughout most of human history, natural selection maintained human genetic quality and prevented rapid dysgenic collapse mostly by very high (near total) child mortality rates - and by, in effect, only allowing a small minority of humans to raise almost all the children.

When this stopped, mutation accumulation started: and on theoretical grounds mutation accumulations is likely to lead to very rapid decline in average (and peak) human fitness, with very significantly deleterious effects on all aspects of human functioning.     


This is a horrible vision of human history - but it is likely to be what happened; yet for a human society to accomplish the same by deliberate implementation of 'rational planning' is beyond-horrible - it would necessarily be a profoundly monstrous society that implemented a policy which either forbade the mass majority of people from having children, or slaughtered them. 


Therefore, I think that rapid, generation upon generation, dysgenic decline is probably both inevitable and also insoluble by human agency - something we should acknowledge and work around as best we can - but not something that can be, or indeed should be, prevented.

In such circumstances, the 'reasonable' prescriptions of 'sensible' eugenicists are just a joke.And the quibbles of those who deny the scale of dysgenic change will simply be swept away by waves of catastrophes.


This is a tragic situation; and it is a consequence of a tragic historical situation - where a majority of humans probably experienced the death of all their children before adulthood.

We have been living in an unprecedented era of very low child mortality, and this cannot continue because its continuation will be made impossible by the decline in human capability caused by reducing fitness caused by mutation accumulation - itself caused by the era of very low child mortality.

My own response to this, once the truth began to sink in; is in fact religious: to value and be thankful for my good fortune day-by-day - and to recognize that the Christian perspective of past generations was much tougher and more realistic and also more joyful than our modern mainstream secular materialist Leftist ideology can sustain even despite our vastly greater peace, prosperity, comfort, convenience, and capability.


I recall that the medieval poets Chaucer, Langland and the author of Gawain were living through the Black Death, yet virtually never even mention this horrific plague which killed fully a half of English people in just a couple of decades (it took the population about 300 years to recover).

The vast and genial knowledge and humour of Chaucer; the intense spirituality and all-seeing eye of Langland; the nobility and morality of the Gawain poet - all these come from a context of wholesale death from a horrible and incomprehensible disease.

Clearly their faith enabled them to deal with extremely harsh circumstances with courage and without despair - to exemplify love and hope, and to accomplish works of the highest calibre.

That is what we will need.



J said...

Your logic is impeccable but for some reason, reality seems different. For example, most adults in history succeeded in reproducing itselves. In Western monogamous societies, about 70 % of the males reproduced and about 80% of the females. It is possible that in polyginous societies like the Chinese and African, some males reproduced older or never, but all females were forced to reproduce. And already the Greeks, the Romans, the Victorians have noticed that it is not the more successful that leave more offspring but the proletarians.

Individuals with faith and hope in their hearts should be more able to survive and deal with extremely harsh conditions, it makes sense and believers behave admirably, yet godless Communists and sophists perform equally well in wars, camps, epidemies and natural disasters. My world is full of paradoxes I cannot explain.

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - Are you talking about fertility, or about whether the children survive to sexual maturity and themselves reproduce?

Of course people had lots of babies in the past - my point is that (on average, for most people) these children (nearly-) all died without reproducing.

So although the people reproduced in considerable numbers, their *reproductive success* was (near-) zero.

Craig said...

Childhood mortality rates were higher in the past, but "*much* higher" and "nearly all" go considerably beyond anything I've heard. Do you have a convenient citation, other than the apparently-incomplete-at-present work of Michael Woodley?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Craig - Be patient, all will be revealed in due course. But the work of Gregory Clark in A Farewell to Alms provided a clear indicator that near total mortality of the peasants was the norm through the Middle Ages in England.

Bruce Charlton said...

A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark documents near total mortality of peasants through the Middle Ages in England.

Kenneth Lloyd Anderson said...

It seems to me that your solution of no eugenics will cause far more pain and suffering than eugenic measures. The suffering caused from falling civilization due to low IQ, crime, etc will cause even greater suffering. Eugenics can be seen as most humane. We don't have to be dictators about it, it can all be democratic, all voluntary, but we do need to stop making eugenics the big horror when it is the lack of eugenics that will cause the most horror. We have to at least begin our genetic improvement rather than give up and quit. How gloomy you are.

barbeque said...

Surely the great majority of early deaths were due to disease or accident and not to birth defects. But, you may get those conditions again, as there is a lot of alarm now, about the time of our easy control of infectious disease ending soon.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Barb - The mass of childhood deaths through history have been were due to the great triad of starvation, disease and violence - including accidents.

wrt birth defects, or rather genetically damaged phenotypes - the change is that what would have been fatal in childhood is now adaptive - in modernity people who have had reduced intelligence (due to non-lethal mutation accumulation) have enhanced fitness.

In a context where the norm is chosen sub-replacement fertility and near zero mortality, anything which leads to having more than two children will be adaptive - including lowered intelligence.

Bruce Charlton said...

@KLA - I think you need to re-read the argument.It may be wrong, but if it is correct then any conceivable eugenic programme would be spitting into a hurricane.

Gloomy? Well, I have children, and I do worry about them living in a world of starvation, disease and violence leading to the death of billions.

The answer is religious - that some things, many things, must be accepted; and this life is not everything and not the end.

jones said...

One point that Greg Cochran makes in the '10,000 Year Explosion' is that, while most mutations are deleterious, sufficiently positive ones can sweep through a population. (He might have had lactose tolerance in mind.) And, more people => more mutations, => greater chance of /some/ mutation being really advantageous. Too, and I'm not sure this is from that book, if it takes a couple or a few mutations, each slightly dysgenic on its own but eugenic together, well we can tolerate the intermediate, worse stages better, now, making it possible to get a winning combination incrementally, instead of having to be all at once. We are indeed bathed in societal support now which reduces one kind of selection, but there always remains sexual selection.

Bruce Charlton said...

@jones - I think the difference is between the first 9800 years of the agriculture-induced population explosion - when human populations were being filtered of deleterious mutations by an extremely harsh mutation selection balance - and the past couple of hundred years when the population has gone from one to seven billion with very little child mortality - and indeed an unprecedented fitness *advantage* for those with above-average mutation loads (those with more mutations/ lower 'g' having a higher reproductive success than those with fewer mutations/ higher 'g') - and therefore almost certainly a massive degree of mutation accumulation.

jgress said...

So the traditional teachings surrounding marriage and family, where one adjures artificial contraception and trusts in God to provide as many children as He sees fit, kind of presupposes a high infant mortality and overall low reproductive success, except at the highest levels of society. Otherwise, in a modern situation where medicine allows most children to survive and reproduce, and if most people marry and have children, you will get overpopulation and dysgenic effects. I wonder if the answer from the traditionalist point of view is that most people will simply have to accept a life of celibacy if they cannot afford to raise children.

Bruce Charlton said...

@jgress - I have little doubt (but many fears) that 'normal service will be resumed' before too long, and the past two centuries will seem an unimaginable blip in human history.

But, in general, my feeling is that humans cannot plan and strategise these things in any way that is Good - all such species-wide plans will surely be corrupted and lead to great evil. We simply lack the motivation, wisdom and steadiness.

jgress said...

Sadly, you are probably right. And I was speaking only hypothetically, i.e. how would everyone behave if everyone lived according to traditional teachings. In reality, of course, most people use artificial contraceptives to avoid having to choose between sex and overpopulation, with the result that only the most irresponsible or most religious get around to reproducing.

J said...

The ultimate answer is religious, agreed.

I find difficult to believe the near total extermination of the peasant class in England. It is true that infant mortality rate were fantastic, even in royal and aristocratic families, but the population grew even in isolated rural hamlets and villages.The cities were the population sink. All over the world we find populations that didnt change in the last two thousand years.

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - It is difficult for us to believe, nonetheless I think it is true - 'near' extinction; because there would have been some upward mobility of exceptionally able (or beautiful) peasant children. But mostly, there would have been massive downward mobility.

"All over the world we find populations that didnt change in the last two thousand years." Not sure what you mean - but mutation selection balance is primarily a mechanism for populations to not-deteriorate, to stay the same - it is a Red Queen phenomenon where selection is required just to stay in the same place (and avoid being overwhelmed with mutations).

So populations that don't change would be quite normal. The reason for change would be a shift in the environment such that the traits required for fitness changed - such a shift happened (probably) in Medieval England, and in the Chinese Empire (a shift, perhaps, to needing more intelligence and conscientiousness and docility) - another example of a shift in selection pressures would be when resistance to a novel disease becomes the primary factor in determining fitness.

J said...

Thank you for answering. I meant that many populations were static for long time while in England (supposedly trapped in a Malthusian vicious circle - vide "A Farewell to Alms" -) population increased rapidly. A study based on English wills cannot be accepted as final, moreso when data on well documentad aristocratic and military families shows that they barely reproduced themselves. Everyone dealing with populations, from Roman emperors to Galton to Lew Kuan Yew worry about the fecundity of the proletarians and the lack of offspring of the middle classes. I think the conclusion of A farewell ... is wrong - English peasant class was not exterminated and replaced. Mostly it still lives in the same place or in the next town their ancestors lived. Regarding the current dysgenic trend, it is not the end of the world, we have been there (more than once).

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - "English peasant class was not exterminated and replaced. Mostly it still lives in the same place or in the next town their ancestors lived."

I think FtA is by far the best evidence so far - and GC goes on to show that peasant surnames have often gone extinct (until c 1800, when low class surnames began to replace surnames of the wealthy). The people currently living in the same place or next town are the children of the medieval middle classes.

"data on well documentad aristocratic and military families shows that they barely reproduced themselves. "

But that was GC's point - it was the intelligent and hard working middle classes (NOT so much the idle/military upper classes) which had the greatest reproductive success, and handed on these traits to following generations.

" Regarding the current dysgenic trend, it is not the end of the world, we have been there (more than once)."

No we have not been here - nothing remotely like it.

In a phrase: *Seven Billion People" - until a couple of hundred years ago world population was maximum one billion. If/ when whatever made the difference in supporting an extra 6 billion was to disappear - so would 6 billion people.

Kenneth Lloyd Anderson said...

How eugenics is seen as the moral, humane, and religious thing to do

Contrary to the prevailing political correctness (cultural Marxism), and counter to most traditionalists, eugenics is the moral and humane thing to do for many reasons. It can slow the suffering that comes from the collapse of civilization largely due to the genetic and cultural lag of primitive sex and pugnacity instincts (ergs) much in excess of civilized needs. You say that a eugenic solution would be like spitting into a hurricane, but the hurricane can become a manageable thunderstorm if we at least begin the task. It can be accomplished democratically and voluntarily when people become aware of the positive moral and humane aspects of eugenics.

Raymond Cattell pointed out many of these things in his brilliant but perhaps necessarily disorganized and complicated book “Beyondism.” Cultural inventions are the work of exceptionally gifted individuals, but then new culture can demand more complex adjustments from the general population then they are genetically suited for. The resulting genetic lag is the cause of many social problems. Individuals who pursue dangerous antisocial behavior do so with genetic defects as well as by their cultural habits and values. An increase in intelligence and a reduction of psychotic disabilities along with education can help ease the stress, which can then help avoid the cruelty of failures and the disasters of cultural death. The decline of nations is not a necessity, as gloomy fatalists often think.

We can then get on with the sacred mission of evolving toward Godhood. I differ from Cattell in seeking to reform Christianity with the Twofold Path, rather than radically rejecting it. That is, with theological materialism we conservatively retain the traditional Inward Path to the God or Father within as the symbolic experience of the Godhood reached in the Outward Path of material/supermaterial evolution. Eugenics can be seen as the way to help us survive and improve on earth, as well as the way to join religion and science in the great mission and adventure of attaining the sacred goal of evolving to Godhood in the cosmos.

Bruce Charlton said...

@KLA - I think eugenics is based on the abstract idea of the interests of 'the state' having priority over the family.

I can understand how people get into this in hope of evading the responsibility of the family - people understandably want to have family responsibility but without the horrible risks it entails - and they don't want to 'depend on charity' but they want for people to pretend that being supported in comfort no matter what happens is a 'right' - and open-ended no matter how many people have that 'right'.

Anyway, if the state picks up the tab then sooner or later there will be eugenics or collapse.

"he hurricane can become a manageable thunderstorm if we at least begin the task. "

The point is that IF the evidence related to mutation accumulation is correct then we are talking about killing maybe 85% of children JUST TO STAY WHERE WE ARE - any positive effects of differential breeding would only yield benefit AFTER that point.

Bruce Charlton said...

@YMS - Personality and intelligence are both substantially genetically inherited, and make a significant difference to most measurable social behaviours. What this leads-to depend on demographics!

But these are means not ends. The main problem in the world now is that we have evil goals. So aptitudes and abilities have become of negative significance - supplying enhanced means to destructive/ chaotic ends.