Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pro Choice Is Pro Life!

Neil McKenty has a terrific blog going, and his formula is pretty straighforward: pose a question and get outa the way. He gets some very lively discussions going on current events, and for the most part, his commenters are exquisitely well-behaved.

The most recent topic is Dr. Henry Morgentaler, and whether or not he should be awarded the Order of Canada. Opinions are divided, and the arguements on both sides are pretty eloquent. If you want to join that discussion, go here.

And, as happens more often than not, the discussion tends to branch out and get OT. On a personal level, I like to stick to one topic at a time, so I tend to chide others when they do that. Otherwise, my own stream-of-consciousness tendencies can take over, and the train goes right off the track, with nothing accomplished.

During the current discussion, I got sidetracked a bit by one of the others (who is anti-choice, and wants to know if we pro-choicers want to kill Bill Gates in a flurry of retroactive selective abortions -- presumably because he is genetically flawed and not because of his company's shenanigans with computer technology), and I ended up saying:

"Existing persons aside (because no, we are not going to rewrite history or make other peoples’ choices for them), I fail to see the advantage in deliberately propagating flawed genetics. Stock breeders cull weaknesses. Why don’t humans? Why do we deliberately weaken our own chances for survival as a species?"

I was going to delete that part of the comment, but I realized that it might make a really good topic for discussion. Why do we not breed ourselves the same way farmers breed crops and ranchers breed animals? We have the capability to do it that way. So why don't we?

We breed plants and animals to be stronger and more disease resistant, so why do we insist that genetically flawed and fragile humans should not only live beyond their natural abilities, but also that they be allowed to pollute the already flawed gene pool by breeding their weaknesses right back into it?

"Selective breeding" is a boon to agriculture, but a bogeyman to anti-choicers. We insist on better food crops because we are brain-dead when it comes to controlling our own stock.

Anti-choice activists decry the deliberate destruction of failed human genes that produce non-viable monsters. They will spit and claw at the sight of the words, "failed human genes" and probably faint at the word, "monsters." But failed and monsters is what they are. And those same people would insist that food crops around the world should be managed and bred to provide more and better nourishment to feed their own failed crops.

Most species start at the beginning and work their way up the evolutionary ladder. As a species, humans started in the middle and worked our way to opposite ends simultaneously. Technologically, we're progressing faster and faster. Biologically, we are regressing at the same speed.

At the end of time, I think we'll find that H. G. Wells was right. We are the architects of our own destruction. And, under the pretext of proponing human rights for fetuses, the anti-choice crowd are determined to wipe humans off the face of the earth entirely. And they accuse the pro-choice people of crimes against humanity!

How much more criminal can you get than to order the destruction of an entire species -- and your own species at that?


Anonymous Joe Agnost said...

This topic could get ugly in a hurry! ;)

The problem with humans culling the weak is that we tend to love our family members too much... and exactly WHO qualifies for culling would be the subject of another debate.

But if we produce better technology that can, with %100 certainty, tell you if your fetus is carrying 'weak' genes, and if abortions could be performed with %100 certainty that the mother will be able to reproduce again in the future, then I think aborting these fetuses could be considered. I'm not sure if our technology is there yet though.

You're right in theory - why would we want to keep polluting the gene pool by keeping obviously flawed individuals alive and able to procreate?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 1:40:00 PM  
Blogger SUZANNE said...

Why not kill newborns while we're at it? If newborns are polluting the gene pool, maybe they should go, too.

Oh, I know, some people will object. But in the name of destroying the human race, people who favour babies' rights are intent on destroying the human race. Tsk tsk.

I'm being facetious of course.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 1:56:00 PM  
Blogger jj said...

Chimera - Interesting topic.

I personally don't agree with "culling" defects simply because of the slippery slope aspect of things. I think it should ultimately be up to the parent(s) whether they're prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to cope with a child who has severe birth defects (ie. mental retardation). I don't think I could do it, but many can, and do, and don't regret their choice. I don't think that the small number of severely damaged people being produced has a significant effect on the gene pool.

The greatest threat to the gene pool is the number of borderline imbeciles (ie. Bush republicans) that are breeding like rabbits. (See "Idiocracy".)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 3:52:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Joe, I'm hoping people will keep this discussion on an adult level, not make it personal, and keep it from getting ugly. So far, we're off to a better start than I'd dare hope.

I was not talking about culling by killing living human beings. Perhaps discouraging the flawed humans from breeding their unfixed flaws back into the stock, but not by eliminating the ones already here. It will take longer to build good stock that way, but, as you say, people tend to get attached to their family members, flaws and all.

Suzanne, your histrionics are showing. And I'm not being facetious. I'm being theoretical.

JJ, if we could breed the human race for perfect 20/20 vision (no more blindness, no more glasses or contact lenses needed), would you consider that a good thing? Not to eliminate those who now have weak visual capabilities, but to breed better visual capabilities using those who already have it, and by stopping the gene that deters visual acuity?

That's what I mean when I use the word "cull." Maybe it was the wrong word to use, because some tend to link it with slaughter, and that's not the flavor at which I'm aiming.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 5:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main problem with any form of eugenics is, who decides?

I'll daringly take the plunge into the stereotypical, even trite, here...

Stephen Hawking.

Not to mention the forced sterilization in Virginia and many other states. Mostly they were of blacks, Jews and immigrants from "eastern Europe."

So, who decides?

If the decision was left up to me, I'd be all for sterilizing and/or issuing retroactive abortions to anyone who "for our own good" promulgated more liberty restricting laws.

Any of them.

Must wear seat belts. Must wear helmets on two-wheeled vehicles. Can't smoke anywhere, no matter whose property it is. Must buckle your child into a special seat in a vehicle until they're, oh... 21 or so. Have to be a certain arbitrary age to drink, fuck, whatever.

Any of them.

Me being in charge of such things should be enough to scare the hell out of any thinking person.

And the really scary part is that I don't think I'd be the worst in such a position.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 7:11:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

HH, ol' friend, you've nailed one of the biggest problems -- what, indeed, about Stephen Hawking? The man's brain functions at greater-than-light speed, and so long as he can have someone translate for him, he can get his ideas across. The wonder of it is that he should have died in his early twenties. If we didn't have the technology we've got, he would have done.

Now, as for what to "do" about him -- can we (if not now, then in the future) isolate his genes and propagate for his brain power, cutting out the gene that gave him ALS?

That's what I mean when I use the term, "cull."

"If the decision was left up to me, I'd be all for sterilizing and/or issuing retroactive abortions to anyone who "for our own good" promulgated more liberty restricting laws."

Can I help? Pretty please?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 7:30:00 PM  
Blogger dez said...

I've never been certain regarding the cause and effect of the apparent gradual "dumbing" of America. Is it due to the lack of scholastic standards in our public schools? Or, is it simply due to more stupid people reproducing than smart people?

Ever breed cats? When you are breeding purebreds, any kitten who does not meet the standard is either neutered and given away, or simply put down. Most professional breeders choose the latter, since the expense of caring for so many kittens until they can be given away would quickly become prohibitive.

This system works for any species of domestic animal, and was also the standard for most human civilizations throughout history.

Aborting fetuses (feti?) is considered less inhumane by modern medicine than leaving your baby in a snow drift. (IMHO, anyone who objects to abortions is not looking at the bigger picture, or learning from history.)

HH cuts straight to the point, as usual, with "who decides?"

My initial reaction was "the parents". But, that standard has been in place in China and India for the past few decades. Both countries having universal socialized medicine for quite some time, and both countries also placing a higher social value of males over females, the end result was obvious: Lots of single males in their peak reproductive years looking for mates - anywhere they can find them.

I see that problem as self-correcting, since both nations could stand a significant population reduction.

But, what about us? Will Americans settle for a defect-free child? Or are we willing to pay for more?

Advances in genetic engineering in the next few decades could make it possible for designer-babies for those who can afford it. If you had the power to make your son or daughter look like a movie star, would you?

Going back to Wells - what did the Eloi look like again?

And the rest of humanity, those without the power to shape their children in their own image - would they degenerate into the Morlocks?

Thursday, February 21, 2008 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

"Will Americans settle for a defect-free child? Or are we willing to pay for more?"

That particular point is close to being the cork in the bottle of remedies that are almost already available.

Leaving aside the "designer babies" scare tactic, let's just talk about healthy babies.

We are getting close to the technology by which we can eliminate a lot of birth defects, simply by gene manipulation. But there is a faction out there, Suzanne being a loud member of it, that says it's sinful to play with God's design and desires, and if he gives you a mentally retarded or crippled child, you'd bloody well better be grateful for it! He has a purpose in giving you a defective baby, and you should be glad to get one at all, and no, you don't get to ask what that purpose is, it's a secret and no one knows and God doesn't tell. But it's his will. [I should also say here that your disbelief in their gods counts not at all in their minds. They are on their way to making belief in their gods mandatory, and adherence to their interpretations of his "laws" obligatory. But that's another thread.]

Those people tend to exempt themselves, though. Not as a group, but as individuals. It's totally okay for them to tell you to suck it up and deal with it because you are, after all, part of their collective "you." But they won't want to do it themselves, because they are, well, individuals. And their case is "different." And as they themselves look at it, as individuals, their own stepping outside the boundaries won't make any difference to the collective. But nobody else should be allowed to step outside the lines, because if enough people are allowed to do it, that would make a difference. And if God wanted all children to be born healthy, he'd make it that way.

You gettin' dizzy, yet, Dez? Or are you able to follow the circular diabollogic?

Sooner or later, the American government is gonna have to instigate some kind of universal health plan for all citizens. Most of the rest of the western world has socialized their basic medical needs already. And while socialized medicine is not a perfect system, when it comes to access to basic health care, any nation who does not already provide it is looked upon as being backward. In the future, any nation that refuses to provide it will be accused of torturing their own citizens. And if Bushco thinks there's a stink now about Gitmo, just wait (oops...getting OT...).

Anyway, simple gene manipulation to ensure healthy babies -- not designer tots (I mean, really, I love looking at Angelina Jolie, but I don't want to look at an entire herd of her!) -- is close to being a reality. And in the long run, it'll be much more cost effective.

Now, wait for the objections, and make notes on whence they come.

Friday, February 22, 2008 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

We might have been more open to the idea of "culling" were it not for Hitler's experiment.

I have to agree that the "who decides" is the big question. I think only the parents can make that decision.

Do we have the technology to determine early in a pregnancy if a fetus is flawed? Yes, we do. I personally know someone who just terminated a pregnancy because testing showed the fetus had Down's Syndrome. They agonized over the decision. I personally totally agree with what they did and I would have done the same. But the choice must be with the indivdual(s).

My one caveat would be that if people choose not to terminate, they must be willing to provide lifelong care for the child. It's hardly fair to choose to bring a flawed or severely handicapped child into the world and then instituionalize that child or expect the rest of society to pay for the care of that child.

Saturday, February 23, 2008 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Karen, Hitler was not a eugenicist. He was a raving lunatic who was heavily into drugs and genocide. His idea of a "perfect world" was one without Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, homosexuals, blacks, and just about everyone else who didn't live up to his standards of "Aryan." Hell, he didn't even know the meaning of the term, "Aryan." Blonde-haired and blue-eyed it ain't.

I absolutely refuse to allow "hitlerphobia" to ruin a perfectly good topic of discussion, though. Anyone who tries to refute the idea of doing whatever we can to ensure survival of the species by invoking the spectre of insanity is gonna get taken to school on it.

And like you, I really do think the choice should be up to the individual parents-to-be, rather than legislated by the state. What prospective parents would deliberately tie themselves to the extra effort, expense and heartache by not choosing to correct a correctable gene? I'll go you one further, too. If there are such parents (and there will be, if only on religious grounds, which is fine for them as long as they don't try to legislate it onto anyone else), then it will be up to them to guarantee that those children do not breed and pass along the defective genes. I don't care how they do it, but keeping the species healthy is paramount.

Saturday, February 23, 2008 1:15:00 PM  
Blogger jj said...

Chimera - I agree that if there were correctable genes for severe disabilities, it should be an option open to people (and I think most would choose it). But again, I think it should be up to the individual and not mandated by the state.

OTOH, Karen makes a good point - if such corrections were available, and parents chose not to use them and have the child in its natural "damaged" condition, it shouldn't be up to the state to provide the subsequent extraordinary care that such a child might require.

Apart from exceptional circumstances, though (blindness, retardation), the whole eugenics thing makes me a little uneasy. I could see it leading to a point where we become more and more obsessed with perfection, and less tolerant of the differences and minor imperfections that make us unique. It's just human nature.

Saturday, February 23, 2008 7:03:00 PM  
Blogger Chimera said...

I think the main reason that the thought of eugenics makes people uneasy is because each person has been taught not to trust his own judgement about his own "taste" and personal definition of what's desireable in another person. From the time we're born, we are pressured into allowing someone else to govern our ideas of what we like/dislike/accept. First our parents, then older siblings (or really pushy younger ones), then teachers, peers, government, clergy, favorite celebrities, etc. We get pressure from all those groups to change our own attitudes about what is desirable.

That's what advertising is all about. It tells us that our own taste is lousy, and that someone else knows better than we do. We need to stop allowing that.

We could bypass a lot of the pressure by listing what specific conditions would be paramount to manipulation. Correcting for disabilities would far and away be more important than blonde or dark hair, for example.

We've already gotten where we are by the pressure of others. Now we have to start shoving back, doncha think?

Sunday, February 24, 2008 9:26:00 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

The good news is that when you've reached my venerable age, you do learn to trust your own taste & judgement, and pretty much figuratively tell the rest of the world "Sod off". That's why you see so many old geezers wearing dark socks with sandals, or dress shoes & dark socks with shorts, or with their pants waists up under their armpits.

Monday, February 25, 2008 9:41:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

LOL! Nice visual images (and soooooo close to home)! I'm pretty close to your age, and I, too, dress for comfort and to hell with fashion (I got style).

At our age, though, no one wants to listen to us anymore because they figure the world has passed us by, and we no longer understand the issues, which will have changed somewhat since when we were younger.

It's the young who need to gain the confidence of their own convictions, who need to listen to their inner voices, who need to trust their own judgement, who need to create their own independence of thought, who need to be bold enough to say to their peers, "I disagree."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


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