Clear Language, Clear Mind

August 9, 2017

Health dysgenics: a very brief review

Filed under: Genetics / behavioral genetics,Medicine,Reproductive genetics — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 08:42

Woodley reminded me of the dysgenics for health outcomes by linking me to a study about the increasing rates of cancer. I had first reached this conclusion back in 2005 when I realized what it means for evolution that we essentially keep almost everyone alive despite their genetic defects. The problem is quite simple: mutations accumulate and mutations have net negative impact on the functioning of the body. Most of the genome appears not to be relevant for anything (‘junk’ / non-coding), so mutations in these areas don’t do anything. Of mutations that hit other areas, many of them are synonymous, and thus usually have no effect. Mutations in areas that matter generally have negative effects. Why? The human body is an intricate machine and it’s easier to fuck it up when you make random changes to the blueprint/recipe than improving upon it. So, basically, one has to get rid of the harmful mutations that happen and this is done via death and mate choice (preference for healthy partners), collectively: purifying selection. Humans still have mate choice and some natural selection, but the natural selection has been starkly reduced in strength since before medicine that actually works (i.e. not bloodletting etc.), and thus, by mutation-selection balance, the rates of genetic disorders and genetic dispositions for disease should increase. In other words, mutation load for disease in general should increase. Does it?

It’s not quite so simple to answer because of various confounders. The most important ones are improved diagnosing (we have better equipment to spot disorders now) and population aging (older people are more sick). Population aging can be avoided by compared same-aged samples measured in different times. Diagnosis changes are much harder to deal with, and one has to look for data where the diagnostic criteria either did not change for the period in question or changed in a way we can adjust for.

There’s also another issue. For a number of decades, we have been using a clever form of selection: prenatal screening (and preconception screening in some groups), which obviously selects against mutational load for the screened diseases. However, most of this testing is for aneuplodies (mostly Down’s) which usually results in sterile offspring and is thus irrelevant for mutational load for disease (because it is not contributed to the gene pool). However, some of the testing is for specific diseases, usually ones that happen to be quite prevalent in some racial group: Tay-Sachs etc. in Ashkenazis, Charlevoix-Saguenay etc. in Quebecians, Aspartylglucosaminuria etc. in Finns etc. One obviously cannot look for evidence of dysgenics for these diseases as the selection against them distorts the picture.

The studies

I didn’t do a thorough search. In fact, these were the first two studies I found plus the one Michael found. The point of this review is to bring the idea to your mind, not prove it conclusively with an exhaustive review.

Cancer

Cancer incidence increasing globally: The role of relaxed natural selection

Cancer incidence increase has multiple aetiologies. Mutant alleles accumulation in populations may be one of them due to strong heritability of many cancers. The opportunity for the operation of natural selection has decreased in the past ~150 years because of reduction of mortality and fertility. Mutation-selection balance may have been disturbed in this process and genes providing background for some cancers may have been accumulating in human gene pools. Worldwide, based on the WHO statistics for 173 countries the index of the opportunity for selection is strongly inversely correlated with cancer incidence in peoples aged 0-49 and in people of all ages. This relationship remains significant when GDP, life expectancy of older people (e50), obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and urbanization are kept statistically constant for fifteen (15) out of twenty-seven (27) individual cancers incidence rates. Twelve (12) cancers which are not correlated to relaxed natural selection after considering the six potential confounders are largely attributable to external causes like viruses and toxins. Ratios of the average cancer incidence rates of the 10 countries with highest opportunities for selection to the average cancer incidence rates of the 10 countries with lowest opportunities for selection are 2.3 (all cancers at all ages), 2.4 (all cancers in 0-49 years age group), 5.7 (average ratios of strongly genetically based cancers) and 2.1 (average ratios of cancers with less genetic background).

Coeliac disease

Increasing prevalence of coeliac disease over time

Background  The number of coeliac disease diagnoses has increased in the recent past and according to screening studies, the total prevalence of the disorder is around 1%.
Aim  To establish whether the increased number of coeliac disease cases reflects a true rise in disease frequency.
Methods  The total prevalence of coeliac disease was determined in two population-based samples representing the Finnish adult population in 1978–80 and 2000–01 and comprising 8000 and 8028 individuals, respectively. Both clinically–diagnosed coeliac disease patients and previously unrecognized cases identified by serum endomysial antibodies were taken into account.
Results  Only two (clinical prevalence of 0.03%) patients had been diagnosed on clinical grounds in 1978–80, in contrast to 32 (0.52%) in 2000–01. The prevalence of earlier unrecognized cases increased statistically significantly from 1.03% to 1.47% during the same period. This yields a total prevalence of coeliac disease of 1.05% in 1978–80 and 1.99% in 2000–01.
Conclusions  The total prevalence of coeliac disease seems to have doubled in Finland during the last two decades, and the increase cannot be attributed to the better detection rate. The environmental factors responsible for the increasing prevalence of the disorder are issues for further studies.

Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions

Estimates of the prevalence of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions in the United States: Part II

Objective
To provide a single source for the best available estimates of the US prevalence of and number of individuals affected by osteoarthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica and giant cell arteritis, gout, fibromyalgia, and carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as the symptoms of neck and back pain. A companion article (part I) addresses additional conditions.
Methods
The National Arthritis Data Workgroup reviewed published analyses from available national surveys, such as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the National Health Interview Survey. Because data based on national population samples are unavailable for most specific rheumatic conditions, we derived estimates from published studies of smaller, defined populations. For specific conditions, the best available prevalence estimates were applied to the corresponding 2005 US population estimates from the Census Bureau, to estimate the number affected with each condition.
Results
We estimated that among US adults, nearly 27 million have clinical osteoarthritis (up from the estimate of 21 million for 1995), 711,000 have polymyalgia rheumatica, 228,000 have giant cell arteritis, up to 3.0 million have had self-reported gout in the past year (up from the estimate of 2.1 million for 1995), 5.0 million have fibromyalgia, 4–10 million have carpal tunnel syndrome, 59 million have had low back pain in the past 3 months, and 30.1 million have had neck pain in the past 3 months.
Conclusion
Estimates for many specific rheumatic conditions rely on a few, small studies of uncertain generalizability to the US population. This report provides the best available prevalence estimates for the US, but for most specific conditions more studies generalizable to the US or addressing understudied populations are needed.

Does it matter?

Yes. Treating diseases, especially rare diseases, is extremely expensive. As such, for countries with public health-care, there’s a very strong economic argument in favor of health eugenics via editing or embryo/gamete selection.

Socio-economic burden of rare diseases: A systematic review of cost of illness evidence

Cost-of-illness studies, the systematic quantification of the economic burden of diseases on the individual and on society, help illustrate direct budgetary consequences of diseases in the health system and indirect costs associated with patient or carer productivity losses. In the context of the BURQOL-RD project (“Social Economic Burden and Health-Related Quality of Life in patients with Rare Diseases in Europe”) we studied the evidence on direct and indirect costs for 10 rare diseases (Cystic Fibrosis [CF], Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy [DMD], Fragile X Syndrome [FXS], Haemophilia, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis [JIA], Mucopolysaccharidosis [MPS], Scleroderma [SCL], Prader-Willi Syndrome [PWS], Histiocytosis [HIS] and Epidermolysis Bullosa [EB]). A systematic literature review of cost of illness studies was conducted using a keyword strategy in combination with the names of the 10 selected rare diseases. Available disease prevalence in Europe was found to range between 1 and 2 per 100,000 population (PWS, a sub-type of Histiocytosis, and EB) up to 42 per 100,000 population (Scleroderma). Overall, cost evidence on rare diseases appears to be very scarce (a total of 77 studies were identified across all diseases), with CF (n=29) and Haemophilia (n=22) being relatively well studied, compared to the other conditions, where very limited cost of illness information was available. In terms of data availability, total lifetime cost figures were found only across four diseases, and total annual costs (including indirect costs) across five diseases. Overall, data availability was found to correlate with the existence of a pharmaceutical treatment and indirect costs tended to account for a significant proportion of total costs. Although methodological variations prevent any detailed comparison between conditions and based on the evidence available, most of the rare diseases examined are associated with significant economic burden, both direct and indirect.

Economic burden of common variable immunodeficiency: annual cost of disease

Objectives: In the context of the unknown economic burden imposed by primary immunodeficiency diseases, in this study, we sought to calculate the costs associated with the most prevalent symptomatic disease, common variable immunodeficiency (CVID). Methods: Direct, indirect and intangible costs were recorded for diagnosed CVID patients. Hidden Markov model was used to evaluate different disease-related factors and Monte Carlo method for estimation of uncertainty intervals. Results: The total estimated cost of diagnosed CVID is US$274,200/patient annually and early diagnosis of the disease can save US$6500. Hospital admission cost (US$25,000/patient) accounts for the most important expenditure parameter before diagnosis, but medication cost (US$40,600/patients) was the main factor after diagnosis primarily due to monthly administration of immunoglobulin. Conclusion: The greatest cost-determining factor in our study was the cost of treatment, spent mostly on immunoglobulin replacement therapy of the patients. It was also observed that CVID patients’ costs are reduced after diagnosis due to appropriate management.

There’s also lots of these kinds of studies, the second paper summarizes a number of them for this cluster of diseases:

A Spanish study reported that mean annual treatment costs for children and adult PID patients were e 6520 and 17,427, respectively. Total treatment costs spent on IVIg therapy proce- dures in Spain were approximately e 91.8 million annually, of which 94% consisted of drug cost [27] . Another study conducted in Belgium estimated the annual costs for IVIg therapy on an average to be e 12,550 [28].

Galli et al . [29] assessed the economic impact associated with method of treatment of PID patients in Italy. Regarding the monthly treatment costs associated with the treatment of a typ- ical 20 kg child, the study reported antibiotic therapy to cost of e 58,000, Ig cost of e 468,000 and patients ’ hospitalizations cost of e 300,000 for IVIg method.

Haddad et al . [26] conducted a cost analysis study in the French setting and reported the total monthly treatment cost for a patient using hospital-based 20 g IVIg to be e 1192.19, in which approximately 57% of the total treatment cost was spent on Ig preparation and 39% on hospital admission charges. Another investigation on French PID patients demonstrated the yearly cost of hospital-based IVIg to be e 26,880 per patient [30] .

Other cost analysis studies comparing the direct cost impacts of Ig replacement methods reported annual per patient costs for hospital-based IVIg were US$14,124 in Sweden [31] , e 31,027 and e 17,329 for adults and children in Germany, respectively [32] , and e 18,600 in UK [33] . On the basis of one Canadian study, we found that total annual base case expenditure for hospital-based IVIg therapy of children and adults were $14,721 and $23,037 (in Canadian dollars), respectively. The annual per patient cost of Ig was 75%, the cost of physician and nurse care and hospital admission was 16% and the cost of time lost because of treatment was 8% [34]

The Genomic Health Of Ancient Hominins?

Davide Piffer reminded me that there is study of ancient genomes’ health, which finds that:

The genomes of ancient humans, Neandertals, and Denisovans contain many alleles that influence disease risks. Using genotypes at 3180 disease-associated loci, we estimated the disease burden of 147 ancient genomes. After correcting for missing data, genetic risk scores were generated for nine disease categories and the set of all combined diseases. These genetic risk scores were used to examine the effects of different types of subsistence, geography, and sample age on the number of risk alleles in each ancient genome. On a broad scale, hereditary disease risks are similar for ancient hominins and modern-day humans, and the GRS percentiles of ancient individuals span the full range of what is observed in present day individuals. In addition, there is evidence that ancient pastoralists may have had healthier genomes than hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. We also observed a temporal trend whereby genomes from the recent past are more likely to be healthier than genomes from the deep past. This calls into question the idea that modern lifestyles have caused genetic load to increase over time. Focusing on individual genomes, we find that the overall genomic health of the Altai Neandertal is worse than 97% of present day humans and that Otzi the Tyrolean Iceman had a genetic predisposition to gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases. As demonstrated by this work, ancient genomes afford us new opportunities to diagnose past human health, which has previously been limited by the quality and completeness of remains.

The authors themselves note the connection to the proposed recent dysgenic selection:

The genomic health of ancient individuals appears to have improved over time (Figure 3B). This calls into question the idea that genetic load has been increasing in human populations (Lynch 2016). However, there exists a perplexing pattern: ancient individuals who lived within the last few thousand years have healthier genomes, on average, than present day humans. This deviation from the observed temporal trend of improved genomic health opens up the possibility that deleterious mutations have accumulated in human genomes in the recent past. The data presented here do not provide adequate information to address this hypothesis, which we leave for future follow-up studies.

In other words, we expect the recent pattern to look something like this:

April 12, 2017

Hollywood eugenics and actual eugenics

Filed under: History,Reproductive genetics — Tags: , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 14:45

I oppose coercive eugenic policies, so don’t try to quote mine my blunt discussion as support for such policies.

Hollywood has a new anti-eugenics movie out, called The Thinning. There’s a trailer, and it will likely spoil the entire movie for you, but I reckon it will be crappy anyway, so:

For those too lazy to watch, it goes like this. To avoid dysgenics/Idiocracy, every generation has to take some standardized IQ/SAT-like test, and those who do very poorly on it, we sterilize execute. The movie is set in a near-future society where we used up a lot of the natural resources, so there’s also a need to keep the population size down (apparently the makers don’t realize this automatically happens due to below replacement fertility in every European country). There’s also some corruption going on with the testing. Of course, the protagonists are some of those deemed unfit, and naturally they don’t want to get executed, so they go on the run. The movie is essentially a new Gattaca.

In the light of this, it seems in order to actually read what the actual eugenicists said. Why don’t we begin with Galton, the originator. Here’s Galton writing on eugenics in 1904 in his paper :

5. [the 5th aim] Persistence in setting forth the national importance of eugenics. There are three stages to be passed through: (I) It must be made familiar as an academic question, until its exact importance has been understood and accepted as a fact. (2) It must be recognized as a subject whose practical development deserves serious consideration. (3) It must be introduced into the national conscience, like a new religion. It has, indeed, strong claims to become an orthodox religious, tenet of the future, for eugenics co-operate with the workings of nature by securing that humanity shall be represented by the fittest races. What nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly. As it lies within his power, so it becomes his duty to work in that direction. The improvement of our stock seems to me one of the highest objects that we can reasonably attempt. We are ignorant of the ultimate destinies of humanity, but feel perfectly sure that it is as noble a work to raise its level, in the sense already explained, as it would be disgraceful to abase it. I see no impossibility in eugenics becoming a religious dogma among mankind, but its details must first be worked out sedulously in the study. Overzeal leading to hasty action would do harm, by holding out expectations of a near golden age, which will certainly be falsified and cause the science to be discredited. The first and main point is to secure the general intellectual acceptance of eugenics as a hopeful and most important study. Then let its principles work into the heart of the nation, which will gradually give practical effect to them in ways that we may not wholly foresee. [my emphasis]

So we can note a few things:

First, Galton is essentially arguing for a humane eugenics, not executions etc. In fact, Galton warned against “overzeal” that “would do harm” and “cause the science to be discredited”! Probably did not imagine the horrors of Nazi extermination policies, but it’s a nice warning given what actually happened. The related science still suffers from the discreditation that followed the horrors of Nazism. For the purposes of improving the gene pool, it is not necessary to kill anyone.

Before reproductive genetics, it was sufficient to alter the rates of breeding. This can be done in many ways and does not necessarily have to involve coercive sterilization policies. One could pay people with better genes to have children or pay people with bad genes to not have children. Payment need not be direct, but could be done via tax exemptions and so on. Luckily for us, the speed of dysgenics has been slow, and so we probably don’t need to do anything authoritarian or even economic, and we can just promote the use of embryo selection and genetic engineering.

The Nazi program to kill genetically defective Germans seems to have been aimed, in part, at opening up hospital space for the injured their warring would create. For a history on eugenics, I recommend reading Eugenics and the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Curiously given the modern political climate, eugenic laws were generally implemented in Scandinavia by progressive, social democrats (left-wing), and was opposed by religious conservatives. After all, eugenics is about improving the gene pool, so it’s a collective matter. Eugenic policies go hand in hand with welfare states. If one has too many people that has to be taken care of due to genetic defects (e.g. the blind), then welfare policies are not possible.

Second, the part about races is not literally about Europeans/Caucasians, Asians, Africans etc., but in the more loose historical sense of “the race of man”. I’ve read a number of Galton’s works and it’s not my impression that he was advocating for Earth to be inherited by essentially one racial group, which would be an extreme version of racial supremacy politics. At least, that’s my understanding of his views.

Third, the text reflects Galton’s idea of imbuing eugenic aims into religions so as to have people follow the principles. To most people today this seems weird, but in the early 1900s when the world was much more religious, it seemed more reasonable. We can also note that many religions and cultures did ban marriages between closely related people, especially nuclear family (siblings, parent-offspring). This prevents inbreeding, so it is eugenic. Of course, other religions and cultures promoted (first) cousin marriages which are quite bad in terms of inbreeding problems.

Here’s a poster/background to use/spread with a direct quote.

August 14, 2015

Can we make humans that are 1,000 SDs smarter than current humans?

Note that perhaps there should be doubt quotation marks around human in the title. Would humans with a 1,000 SD increase in (general) cognitive ability (CA) really be human?

Steve Hsu discusses his rough estimation that we can increase CA in humans around 1,000 SD by basically turning all the current alleles with negative effects into their positive or neutral variants. While the problem seems sound enough to me, I can think of some problems.

Trait level x gene interactions

One problem is the possibility of trait level x gene interactions. For instance, suppose that a large number of genes affect pathway X to CA in a roughly linear fashion (i.e. what we find using familial studies and GCTA methods). This could be brain nerve conduction velocity (BNCV) for which there is some evidence that it is related to CA (TE Reed, AR Jensen, 1993). One seemingly mostly forgotten study did find evidence that the correlation between IQ and NCV is genetic (FV Rijsdijk, DI Boomsma, 1997). There is a physical limit on how fast BNCV can be such that the closer to get the the physical limit, the smaller increase we get from altering another negative allele to its positive version. This would be roughly equivalent to the situation in physics with the speed of light. A given amount of energy converted to kinetic energy will result in a smaller increase in m/s as we get closer to the speed of light (the physical limit).

In the comments, Hsu invokes the history of artificial selection on e.g. oil content to argue against trait level x gene interactions. See also: Animal breeding, human breeding. Brains are much more complicated than simple oil content, tho.

Brain size and BNCV

I seem to recall that due to the relatively low BNCV, there is a limit on the practice size of the brain. We know that brain size correlates with CA around .25 (large meta-analysis), which perhaps after corrections for errors will be .35 (restriction of range and measurement error; see Understanding Statistics). The reason this problem happens is that the internal brain communication will become slower at the brain size increases (brief discussion here), which presumably in the end results in a lower (possibly negative in the long run!) increase in CA from changing the alleles that result in larger brains. Solving this could mean requiring more modularization, which presumably would affect the factor structure of cognitive abilities resulting in a weaker general factor.

Brain size and reproduction

When selecting for one trait one will simultaneously select for a number of other genetically correlated traits. With cognitive ability, one of them is brain size. However, due to the physical limitation on space on women’s wombs, we cannot just scale up the scale of brains indefinitely. The relatively large human head size already results in complications with giving birth in current humans. The birth problem has probably been a relatively strong selective force against higher CA.

We can of course use Cesarians now to avoid between-the-legs birth, so it is not really a problem, but it adds costs to the reproduction process. In the long run, if we scale up brain size a lot, we would need to scale up the size of women’s interior space to accommodate the larger fetus. Note that if we just increase the size of women overall, this would result in smaller brain to brain ratio, which is what really matters. So it won’t be so easy to deal with this problem.

The final (biological reproduction) solution is to stop using women for reproduction: artificial wombs/uterus. This technology is however not being aggressively pursued as far as I know, so it is probably a number of decades away.

Of course, we will want to switch to some other neurate at some point too. :)

July 28, 2015

Animal breeding, human breeding

Filed under: Genetics / behavioral genetics — Tags: , , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 06:29

Reading up on the huge animal breeding literature gives a useful background to one’s thinking about what selection on humans will do in the future (embryo selection and direct editing á la CRISPR).

Embryo-selection

I made the above infograph some time ago, maybe 1-2 years. It is still pretty accurate. The newest data for genome sequencing does not look much different.

Steve Hsu has been following some of the animal breeding literature, e.g. Frontiers in cattle genomics.

I digged around a bit and found some reviews. They mentioned various interesting experiments. Of course, the most interesting experiment is still the Russian domesticated fox experiment (I want one of these!). Recently, there was an interesting one about breeding for brain size in guppies.

gr1

There is also the famous rat maze ability experiments. Solving mazes is g-loaded in humans (Jensen, 1980, book). A good review is Tolman and Tryon Early research on the inheritance of the ability to learn.

rat

The most new and interesting part in relationship to humans is using genomic predictors alone. There is a recent, easy to read review: Understanding genomic selection in
poultry breeding.

selection for eggs

Because the animal breeding field has been going for so long, one find 100s if not 1000s of these types of graphs, yet they are still exciting. One might wonder: is there nothing one cannot select for? It seems no matter the trait, evolution finds a way. Dawkins seems to agree:

Political opposition to eugenic breeding of humans sometimes spills over into the almost certainly false assertion that it is impossible. Not only is it immoral, you may hear it said, it wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, to say that something is morally wrong, or politically undesirable, is not to say that it wouldn’t work. I have no doubt that, if you set your mind to it and had enough time and enough political power, you could breed a race of superior body-builders, or high-jumpers, or shot-putters; pearl fishers, sumo wrestlers, or sprinters; or (I suspect, although now with less confidence because there are no animal precedents) superior musicians, poets, mathematicians or wine-tasters. The reason I am confident about selective breeding for athletic prowess is that the qualities needed are so similar to those that demonstrably work in the breeding of racehorses and carthorses, of greyhounds and sledge dogs. The reason I am still pretty confident about the practical feasibility (though not the moral or political desirability) of selective breeding for mental or otherwise uniquely human traits is that there are so few examples where an attempt at selective breeding in animals has ever failed, even for traits that might have been thought surprising. Who would have thought, for example, that dogs could be bred for sheep-herding skills, or ‘pointing’, or bull-baiting?

[from The Greatest Show on Earth]

Selection for High and Low Fatness in Swine

pig_backfat_1

Also interesting is that selective breeding makes it possible to estimate realized heritability, not just from family relationships.

pig_backfat_2pig_backfat_3

I think we will see some interesting humans in the future. The reason is this: embryo selection is very close and genetic engineering is fairly close. If some countries ban them, others will allow them. Or one can sail or fly to a seastead. Or use any number of black market solutions that will inevitably spring up. Probably, not all jurisdictions will ban it, so there will be reproductive havens+tourism just like there are tax havens and even suicide havens. I don’t think Western governments will dare to force abortions on pregnant returnees, so there is nothing much they can do at that point. There is also of course the near-impossibility of proving that a fetus is a result of embryo selection, not normal fertilization. After all, embryo selection is just choosing between actual possibilities (hopefully, philosophy readers will allow me the flagrant abuse of modal terminology). If everybody starts having healthier children by using this technology, there will be no way to prove that a particular couple ‘cheated’. It is only in the aggregate one can prove that something is going on. A particular couple may just have been lucky. As for direct editing, it may be possible to spot genetically, but I doubt this will happen.

In the EU, I suspect the legality of this practice will come down to legal interpretation. The EU has a CHARTER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION, in which one can read:

Article 3
Right to the integrity of the person
1.   Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity.
2.   In the fields of medicine and biology, the following must be respected in particular:
(a) the free and informed consent of the person concerned, according to the procedures laid down by law;
(b) the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons;
(c) the prohibition on making the human body and its parts as such a source of financial gain;
(d) the prohibition of the reproductive cloning of human beings.

But given that selection of persons is widely done for e.g. Down’s syndrome, (b) is clearly ignored in practice. (c) is also ignored e.g. for sperm and egg selling, altho they call it donation (with a nice monetary benefit in return). So, the best hope is that embryo selection for medical reasons will sneak into practice and become so standard that it would seem outlandish to ban it. This is well underway. When the public comes to accept it, the judges will probably make up some legal reason to interpret (b) narrowly, e.g. as to refer to forced sterilization. One may be able to find support for this in the background work for this charter, altho I haven’t looked into it.

Given that the technology will likely come into wide-scale practice within the next couple of decades, what remains to be researched more — a lot more — is how people will actually make choices. When prospective parent(s) have to make decisions re. which embryos to implement, there will be a choice. With a limited choice of embryos, one cannot simultaneously maximize all desirable traits and minimize all undesirable traits. There will probably be clear trends in this: few will select against intelligence, few will select short boys, few will select nasty diseases, most will select for health and happiness. People like Helen Henderson are not common:

I can say, without hesitation, that my life has been richer because I have MS. How can anyone who has no experience with disabilities understand that?

[From Future Human Evolution.]

If they still try to get children with horrible genetic diseases, the government probably (should?) will step in and ban it.

Still, there will be lots of variation. This variation in selective pressure between people should — together with strong assortative mating — result in divergence of human lines. This is will be similar akin to dog, cat and horse breeds. Assortative mating is apparently so strong that people even choose pets that are similar to themselves: Self seeks like: many humans choose their dog pets following rules used for assortative mating.

dog_pet

We truly live in interesting times. :)

If you want to read more like this, there was also recently the double paper: Eugenics, Ready or Not I, II. (I could not find a link to part 2.)

 

March 1, 2014

“Why is humankind doomed without eugenics?” #2

Filed under: Differential psychology/psychometrics — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 23:13

From reddit http://www.reddit.com/r/genetics/comments/1z1tli/design_your_own_baby_a_genetic_ethics_dilemma/cfqrlol

Zorander22 writes:

1) I would wager a guess that most people are capable of far more than they’re current employment situations might indicate. The idea that machines are taking over increasingly complex tasks is an important one… which, depending on how wealth gets distributed, could ensure an easy future for many people, rather than spelling the doom of humanity. If machines and computers end up being able to do increasingly complex tasks without limit, it seems like they would soon outstrip people, even with substantial eugenics programs or genetic engineering in place.

2) People are still under selection processes. Many of these likely happen before birth (wombs and women may have built-in systems to stop supporting fetuses if there are signs there may be serious genetic problems). People are still dying in a non-random manner… and moreover, people are having children in a non-random matter, so sexual selection may play an important role. While there may be trends regarding intelligence and birth rates, it is likely that there are many other factors influencing birth rates and the success of offspring. Low intelligence may increase birth rates through poor implementation of birth control methods or planning, but there could be other hidden effects with high intelligence leading to more resources available for raising more children. As birth control gets easier to implement, you might soon see more intelligent people having more kids on average than less intelligent people.

What we are undergoing right now is an expansion in the variability within our gene pool. We have a huge number of organisms with new mutations cropping up. Far from being a bad thing, this variability is one of the key ingredients for evolution to take place – evolution doesn’t happen consistently throughout time, it often happens in response to changed environmental factors. For some organisms to have better success due to a changing environment, there needs to be a large amount of variability within the population, so that there are lots of phenotypes expressed, some of which will perform better than others. This increase in our genetic variability will serve us well if there’s ever a dramatic change in our environment.

Deleetdk writes:

I would wager a guess that most people are capable of far more than they’re current employment situations might indicate.

No. This is a core belief of educational romanticism which Charles Murray talks about[1] .

More yes, not “far more”. There are limits. The primary area, I think, where talent is not using used is with the gifted children. There is an extreme lack of gifted programs in many countries. Khan Academy is changing this. The future is bright in this area. :)

The idea that machines are taking over increasingly complex tasks is an important one… which, depending on how wealth gets distributed, could ensure an easy future for many people, rather than spelling the doom of humanity.

Let’s say we’re 30 years into the future and no eugenics has been used for g. Now, maybe 30% of the working age population is leeching (e.g. via a basic income policy[2] ), which raises taxes further for the working part of the population. Keep also in mind that people are having fewer children, so the non-working age population is also much larger (subreplacement fertility[3] is a huge economic problem in the near future). Let’s say that in total 30% of the population is working, while the rest is leeching. Why would the workers pay so much of their income? Keep in mind that crypto-currencies will make it more or less impossible to effectively force them if they don’t want to. Do you think this is a bright future? I don’t. One solution would be artificial wombs[4] , but that technology might not be ready yet by then. I don’t know.

If machines and computers end up being able to do increasingly complex tasks without limit, it seems like they would soon outstrip people, even with substantial eugenics programs or genetic engineering in place.

Yes, nonbiological computers will eventually outperform biological computers no matter how much we use eugenics for g. My idea is that we need to get MUCH smarter before allowing this to happen. I think we can make it work, but the world population needs to improve, say, 5 SD in g first.

People are still under selection processes. Many of these likely happen before birth (wombs and women may have built-in systems to stop supporting fetuses if there are signs there may be serious genetic problems). People are still dying in a non-random manner…

Yes, but this selection force is very weak compared to the constant influx of de novo mutations. Welfare systems without eugenics are unstable, since they lead directly to dysgenics that will sooner or later make the welfare system economically untenable.

people are having children in a non-random matter, so sexual selection may play an important role.

I agree. This selection force is likely to be stronger in the future due to increased assortative mating from online dating like OKCupid[5] (this is an interesting research question: do people who met over netdating show stronger assortative mating than those who didn’t? AFAIK, no one knows!). This might itself increase dysgenics for g though. It depends on how fertility is a function of g. If the effect is multiplicative rather than additive, then bright people will have a very low fertility indeed. I currently don’t know the answer to this question.

While there may be trends regarding intelligence and birth rates, it is likely that there are many other factors influencing birth rates and the success of offspring. Low intelligence may increase birth rates through poor implementation of birth control methods or planning, but there could be other hidden effects with high intelligence leading to more resources available for raising more children. As birth control gets easier to implement, you might soon see more intelligent people having more kids on average than less intelligent people.

No. The trend has been going for 100 years or more. This is no change in the future for this trend. See: Dysgenics: Genetic Deterioration in Modern Populations (Richard Lynn)[6] . PDF[7] .

What we are undergoing right now is an expansion in the variability within our gene pool. We have a huge number of organisms with new mutations cropping up. Far from being a bad thing, this variability is one of the key ingredients for evolution to take place – evolution doesn’t happen consistently throughout time, it often happens in response to changed environmental factors. For some organisms to have better success due to a changing environment, there needs to be a large amount of variability within the population, so that there are lots of phenotypes expressed, some of which will perform better than others. This increase in our genetic variability will serve us well if there’s ever a dramatic change in our environment.

Agreed about the variation (due to increased assortative mating which increases variation). Some evolution is more or less constant, selection for polygenic traits (height, g, weight, personality, etc.) is probably more or less constant and not ‘punctuated’ (in Gouldian sense).

There is plenty of variation currently in the human gene pools for evolution of more g. See also Steve Hsu on genetics of g[8] .

February 28, 2014

“Why is humankind doomed without eugenics?”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 06:25

From Reddit.

Two reasons.

1) Technological unemployment. This is going fast right now. Already a large part of the population is useless and can only leech on society economically. This percent is due to increase quickly soon when automated cars become mainstream which will shortly make most drivers workless. There are thousands of people who cannot handle complex work, and the simple work is going away.

See e.g.: http://www.etla.fi/en/publications/computerization-threatens-finnish-employment/, http://skills.oecd.org/skillsoutlook.html Figure 1.6.

2) Dysgenics. First off, the less intelligent are having more children boosting the problem with the above. But second, the contant de novo mutations are filling up in the human population genome. There is almost no natural selection to sort it away. This means that over time humans will become weak with a high rate of various genetic diseases.

The only future is with eugenics, so they will have to overcome their guilt by association fallacious reasoning[3] with Nazism, just as they did for vegetarianism and anti-smoking (Hitler was a vegetarian and the Nazis were the first to introduce anti-smoking campaigns).

 

January 17, 2014

Eugenics and the Welfare State: Sterilization Policy in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland (1996)

Filed under: Differential psychology/psychometrics,Political science,Sociology — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 15:36

Interesting small book that casts light on the use of sterilizations in nordic countries. It shows quite clearly that eugenics has it origin in collectivist and socialist thinking and was supported by most parties in the 20-40s. Clearly not just something the nazis did (and did wrong).

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3831890-eugenics-and-the-welfare-state

 

In Sweden, however, th e au th o rities advocated p ersu asio n , n o t force. The

Swedish sterilization p rogram contained several procedures by which involun­

tary sterilization was carried out. The legally incompetent, to begin with, could

be subjected to sterilization without their consent according to the 1934 and

1941 laws. How was this category defined? According to instructions circulated

by the Board of Health in 1947, a person should be able to understand “the

meaning and the consequences” of the operation to be declared legally compe­

tent. But: “Such an understanding is n o t at hand only because he knows that he

cannot have a child after a sterilization; it must furtherm ore be required that

he to some extent comprehends the importance o f sterilization for himself and

for society.” As to the mentally retarded, legal incompetence was said to prevail

if he or she could be com pared intellectually with a person twelve years old or

younger.68

 

Mental age of 12 seems to accord nicely with modern deviation based definitions. 12/16=.75 or 12/18=.67. Normalt siger man at <70 IQ er retarderet. Det samme gælder i Danmark, jf. https://www.sundhed.dk/borger/sygdomme-a-aa/boern/sygdomme/vaekst-og-udvikling/udviklingshaemning/

 

 

Mjoen condemned this lenient attitude toward alcohol as an irresponsible

handling o f scientific results by a “spectacle-wise” academic. M ohr was guilty

o f neglecting the risk involved by the uncertainty o f the results, argued Mjoen.

He admitted that no effects on the hereditary material had been proven. But

the lack o f scientific p ro o f in no way justified the lack o f action. “We have every

reason to believe that alcohol is a much more serious enemy for the family, the

people and the race than one has so far considered it to be!”42

 

The arg u m en t o f u nacceptable risk was often used by M joen to justify

eugenic measures. The risk incurred by not acting was so serious that it was

morally irresponsible n o t to take immediate action even on the basis o f quite

u n certain knowledge. He also justified steps against race crossing w ith the

same kind o f argument. He admitted uncertainty about the detrimental effects

and agreed that more knowledge must be sought, but in such a situation it was

safest to say, “ Until we have acquired sufficient knowledge be careful/”43

 

apparently another example of the irrational precautionary principle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

July 11, 2013

Review: Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-First Century (John Glad)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 01:19

Found here: http://whatwemaybe.org/

http://whatwemaybe.org/txt/txt0000/glad.john.2006.future_human_evolution.book.full.003k.en.pdf

The homepage is really weird, but the book turned out to be… pretty good. At first I was not impressed, especially because he went into insufficient details with the g factor and stuff related to that. But really g factor or not, is somewhat unrelated to eugenics. It contains some interesting quotes too. Here’s two of them:

We do our utmost to check the process of elimination;
we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the
sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert
their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last
moment…. Thus the weak members of civilized socie-
ties propagate their kind. No one who has attended to
the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this
must be highly injurious to the race of man. (Darwin)

Democracy demands that all of its citizens begin the race even.
Egalitarianism insists that they all finish even.
Roger Price, “The Great Roob Revolution”

I recommend reading this book for its focus on eugenics history, and why it is not quite how we were told in Nazi Germany. There was a lot I didn’t know there. Richard Lynn’s 2001 book on the same topic is also worth reading. It is more dry, but goes more into detail about the methods.

Me? I still think we should employ population wide, state funded (to make sure the poor can do it too), non-coercive (because I don’t trust states to do this properly) methods using not sterilization, but embryo selection, selective abortion (more than we do now), germ-line genetic engineering.

October 6, 2011

Ebook: Richard Lynn – Eugenics: A reassessment, 2001

Filed under: Ethics,Genetics / behavioral genetics — Tags: , , , , , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 09:38

Becus this is the next book that i am reeding. Enjoy!

Richard Lynn – Eugenics <- scanned and OCR’d PDF, somwat large (14 MB)

August 19, 2011

Christopher Badcock on eugenics

Filed under: Genetics / behavioral genetics — Tags: , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 06:09

“Most importantly, Galton and all other eugenicists prior to the 1970s made the fundamental
error of believing that heredity is a means by which nature reproduces organisms. Today we
know that fundamentally the truth of heredity is the exact opposite of this apparently obvious
situation: organisms evolve to reproduce their DNA (the organic polymer that is the
biochemical basis of heredity), not DNA to reproduce the organism. The consequence is that
human males, for example, die more readily than females at all ages thanks mainly to the
effects of testosterone: a sex hormone which reduces ‘fitness’ in the sense of shortening life
expectancy by suppressing the immune system and increasing risky and aggressive behavior
but which is also a key element in promoting true Darwinian fitness: the reproductive success
of the individual’s genes. Males without testes live longer, but cannot reproduce, and so are
of no use to evolution!” (Christopher Badcock, Eugenics)

Put it quite nicely even tho it is an exaggeration. Organisms that cannot reproduce are not entirely useless to evolution. The obvious examples being worker ants. In humans, it would be (strict) homosexual males, even tho they sometimes reproduce (a friend i had in primarily school had his father come out as homosexual when the father was around 40 years old), and infertile people. These people can still help other people some of which may be fertile. They can help in various ways that in the end increases the fitness of those they help. For instance, grandparents may help their grandchildren with school, and thus the children received better grades and wanted to do well in school. This eventually resulted in that the children got good educations which helped them acquire a good mate.

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