The Question was: Is it possible that we as humans have developed a behaviour, that which is, good, bad or ugly, that might have stopped us from evolving into the next level of species?
I gave my usual response that we have created a disaster by reducing natural selection while increasing mutations... This turned into a long discussion that, as such discussions do, revealed may things about both our positions. It does well tell what my thoughts are in relation to a common concept of Transhumans. Read it if you must.
Ann Carlyle Hi, Mike ~ I’d love to hear your thoughts on these points: 1) The number of individuals on a global scale who are surviving previously-fatal birth defects — surviving long enough to reproduce — must be too small to measure. 2) All humans need help to survive, so that is not different from individuals with visible birth defects. 3) All human infants are completely helpless for many years. There is no special day that the parents stop caring for their children by helping them survive. So the disabled child is not different from the rest of the kids. That child also receives indefinite support. 3) People with genetic damage in one respect may have great genetic advantages in another aspect of their life. We can hardly claim the wisdom to know who we should discard and who to save. 4) All people rely on other people all the time, all throughout life. We collaborate to provide water to every household, for example. Now if the social structure should collapse so that water no longer flows in pipes, then many people would die. That is no different from the continued survival of individuals who need a respirator to stay alive. If society collapses so that it can no longer provide electricity for the resperator, then people who need one will die. But in the meantime, we actually have the technology to provide water and electricity. So what is the point of allowing a chosen few to die prematurely or unnecessarily? If it does eventuate that society collapses and those people die, we are abruptly restored to the condition we would have been in if we had never had that technology in the first place. But in the meantime, we still have the input that the genetically damaged people contributed while they were alive. ————————- I don’t see a single thing that benefits us if we allow individuals who need more help (in certain ways) than usual to die, while preserving alive various other individuals (who also may be receiving additional help such as a university education.)
Mike Breeden Point 1) The number of individuals on a global scale who are surviving previously-fatal birth defects — surviving long enough to reproduce — must be too small to measure. That is incorrect. It’s easy to measure and is considered to be 3%. The is also that right now in the US the infertility rate is about 10%. The problem and the answer to all most of your points is that the rate will rise rapidly. That is what natural selection is to prevent and we have worked to neutralize natural selection with medicine and other things. That rate will just rise and rise and rise. Point 2)There is a huge difference between people with and without birth defects. All birth defects entail a cost with mental retardation being the most expensive disability of all. Many birth defects need life long assistance to function or even survive sometimes. That is not true for healthy people. Most of their lives they can take care of themselves. There is also a matter of quality of life. it does matter. Point 3) simply incorrect. A person with a minor birth defect may need little additional care, but a major defect can require years of assistance that goes on through their entire life. Yes, we do have that wisdom. It’s not perfect, but genetic technology can advise us pretty well. Do we have the need? Well, I’m afraid so because the birth defect rate is going to increase rapidly due to the reduced natural selection rate. Point 4) Say what? your logic is flawed. You are conflating related things and saying that they are equal. They are not though you do point out how much we rely on civilization, a lesson I like to remind people of. Still, people with significant birth defects are going to be subject to natural selection far sooner than people without weaknesses. They will not be able to help recover the services of civilization and will delay those that can help with that. … Really, my work is about pre-implantation artificial genetic selection because it minimizes the moral implications. You keep talking about “people” with birth defects. People are very different than zygotes of less than 1000 cells and must be treated by different moral rules. We do have to consider “people” as morally special, but I don’t think the same is true of zygotes at the gastrula stage. In any case, if you want to consider it in moral terms, be aware that while we usually don’t ascribe morality to nature, it has been described as red of tooth and claw. Humans can do better than that, but be aware that there will be a balance between any morality that humans can achieve and the brutal morality of Darwinism. If humans do not step up and make the moral decision to husband our genes, nature will do it for us in its blunt and brutal way.
Ann Carlyle Hi, Mike ~ Thanks for this intelligent and courteous answer. Just so you know, I am a big proponent of transhumanism, as I have stated many times on this Board. I am concerned with the idea that 1) We are able to distinguish between desirable and undesirable people-to-be. I think that cannot be the case. 2) I‘m also concerned that your selection principle seems to be with the physical body only. The phenotype is the only way we can identify bad zygotes. Surely the physical phenotype is a poor criterion, especially because we have abundant resources to take care of the mere physical bodies of deaf musicians, blind poets, or completely incapacitated theoretical astrophysicists. 3) I don’t know that you have dealt with the problem of ferreting out zygotes that harbor deleterious genes, or adults with recessives. That could potentially lead to a society that would be disastrous to put in control over the population. —————- I still don’t see why the continued existence of people with certain kinds of birth defects (but not all birth defects) is problematic. 1) The 3% figure that you cite is referring to the wrong thing. I am trying to find the number of people (adults) with fatal birth defects who are (1) presently kept alive only by modern technology (which excludes most of the world’s population) (2) and who therefore go on to reproduce. The vast majority of those who are eking out some kind of life only because of the help of Western science and medicine are too profoundly handicapped to marry. 2) If for some reason the technology to keep these people alive begins to falter, they will just go ahead and die — quite the same as if they had never had that help in the first place. So hounding them out of existence seems unnecessary and wasteful — leaving aside moral issues involved in the procedures for detecting bad genes in potential parents or in zygotes. 3) The real point of genetic improvements is in enhancing the happiness and well-being of humans, not the useless and wrong-headed chase after bad genes. ——————— Here’s a previous post of mine: Ann Carlyle's answer to Are low IQ, ugliness and mental disorders caused by genetic defects?
Mike Breeden I dislike the connotations of transhumanism. I propose just healthy humans. They’re pretty cool and have great potential right now. 1) My concern is not distinguishing “people to be”. It is with detecting broken genes. That is objectively observable. I do also want people that have the best traits of both parents. That will be harder but should be quite feasible. You say “desirable or undesirable” to make it look so subjective. It’s not and what part might end up being subjective must be handled with best judgment. Not to decide is to decide. Humans need to control their own destiny. They will have to make decisions. Nature will not do a good enough job to maintain civilization. It is to blunt. 2) Saying I am concerned only with the physical only shows your biases since I clearly mentioned “brains” as well and mentioned the cost of mental retardation. Further, I consider both genetic and strategic adaptation. I am working on the strategy book now. We can take care of some disabled people, but the rate will increase just like compound interest until supporting them will be impossible for the healthy part of society. Quality of life does count as well. 3) You don’t know, but I have a pretty good idea about the problems of ferreting out the genetic problems and my book mentions researchers doing it. What do you mean by a “population in control of society”? It would be the society in control of society. It can not be some small part of society. All parts of society that use genes for reproduction are subject to the problem. Further, genetic equality would allow a form of equality that few would dream of. The way the world is rapidly changing, many wonder if they or their children have a future or is it a future for the cognitively gifted. My path would allow everyone an investment and the ability to husband their genes so that they could compete just fine in the new ecology that is developing. You repeat yourself. “I still don’t see why the continued existence of people with certain kinds of birth defects (but not all birth defects) is problematic.” I will repeat that the issue is that the percentage would increase every generation until it was an unmanageable problem. 1, 2, 3) No, my 3% figure is just fine. It’s not just about what it is now, but what it will become. “So hounding them out of existence” Please don’t use such weighted phrasing. Be objective and accurate. The point is to allow parents to have healthy children and healthy families, something extremely important to most parents and the basis of morality. “The real point of genetic improvements is in enhancing the happiness and well-being of humans, not the useless and wrong-headed chase after bad genes.” … No, that is the second point. You seem to keep missing that the main point is that what we call human progress is the reduction in the natural selection rate. No species can survive that. We must replace the main effect of natural selection which is to remove broken genes. We can do it ethically and economically using pre-implantation selection which will be far less blunt than natural selection, known for its brutality or we can wait for civilization to fail such that we go back to a time of natural selection acting to make a natural balance. Perhaps it will be a feudalism or some other tribal form, but it will be a time of disease, ignorance, sickness, war, short lives and starvation. You say you are a fan of transhumanism. Well forget about any thoughts of transhumanism unless humans can make it to a stable post tribal ecology and the genetic and behavioral strategies that nature gives us will not be enough to do that. We need to direct both our genetic and strategic destiny. By the way, I reject your subjective and biased “wrong headed” comment. My #1. Can a species survive without natural or some other form of genetic selection operating to remove de novo mutations in each generation? Across the street from me is a house that I assume the state or county owns. In it are usually 4 or 5 gents that are mentally disabled to some degree or another (one is physically disabled enough that I don’t know his mental state. I greet him when I see him I the morning.) They tend to like me because though I don’t interact with them much, I know what they desperately want. More than anything else they want to be treated as normal human beings and I do, but they are not and they are very sad. It is a sad world we live in. My plan could make it a happier, healthier world for humanity. You seem Ok with a rather sickly humanity. I’m sorry, but it will not work and humanity will not have a future.
Ann Carlyle Well, Mike ~ I admire your book, which makes me respect your opinions — even if I don’t agree with them. And I disagree with your predictions that we will accumulate more and more people unable to care for themselves. And that isn’t even counting the fact that NONE of us can take care of ourselves. Everyone relies on many others all the time for all kinds of things, permanently and episodically. You have just drawn some arbitrary line, sequestering some people on one side slated for zygote extermination, and other people who are also not taking care of themselves on the other side. ———————- I would love to hear your negative ideas about genetically enhancing people (and other organisms) if you had the chance.
Mike Breeden You disagree with my predictions. OK, then answer My #1 question. Can a species survive without natural or some other form of genetic selection operating to remove de novo mutations in each generation? Won’t they accumulate into a dangerous genetic load? I’m a very good biologist and I don’t think a species can survive without some form of genetic selection. I’ve taken care of myself for about 40 years. No one took care of me. I’ve built more than I have consumed. Now I am all for helping others, but I’ve not gotten much help and don’t expect to either. I do work to make a society where people can and do help each other more. You misunderstand. There is no arbitrary or other lines. This effects us all, pauper and queen. It’s not about zygotic extermination. It’s about healthy children and people that can survive. Please just answer my #1 question. Can a species survive without Natural or other forms of genetic selection? If so, please explain. Otherwise, what I say about artificial selection is necessary and about as ethical and economical a solution as we will find. No, it’s not perfect, but then neither is life. It’s about survival or nothing else is possible anyway. I want people to have high-quality health, beauty and brains that don’t deteriorate or fail in mid-life. We have the genes for that available. I just want to use artificial selection to increase the frequency of them to where everyone has them. (The problem of broken genes will have to be solved first though.) Another issue is that genetic and cultural development has always been by hybridization. That is just a topic no one really touches on. I carefully cover that in my book. Frankly, I haven’t seen anyone with a description of human potential nearly as complete as mine. I’ve been surprised by the potentials of hybrids I have met. I have no problems with genetically enhancing people, but when I ask people what that might mean, no one has an answer, so I don't dwell on it. Do you have any suggestions on the topic? Anyway, my objective is that humans create and adapt to a new long term stable ecology where they can survive and develop. A species without a stable ecology is known as … extinct. After a time, those people may have the wisdom to direct human evolution to become more than we are now. We are babes right now and do not have that knowledge or wisdom. We do have great genetic resources available right now that we haven't started to exploit. Let’s do that first. I do not work for transhumans or other …. image of humans in the future. Survival is the ultimate conservatism. I work for human survival and how to solve the problems we face now. Let them decide then.
Ann Carlyle You said: “Can a species survive without natural or some other form of genetic selection operating to remove de novo mutations in each generation?” My response: There are 7 billion people on the planet. Keeping 10 million Stephen Hawkins alive (not for his contributions, but just because he is someone’s beloved son) is not even a tiny drop in the bucket. And of course, outside of the US and Europe, Stephen Hawkins die like flies. In other words, selection of every kind is constantly operating. It’s impossible to eliminate selection. ——————- You said: “I’ve built more than I have consumed” My response: Not so. You didn’t fight the British or the Germans (twice), and you didn’t pass the laws that protect you, and you didn’t invent and implement the infrastructure (banks, roads, airports), and you didn’t invent language, or writing, or schools, and you didn’t teach yourself math in the schools that other people built for you. You didn’t invent vaccinations or sterile surgery or public health or sidewalks. Those things required the love for generations as yet unborn (you) and the good husbandry (to pay for and sustain them) of many generations. By the time you were 6 months old, you had consumed the work of thousands of years by billions of individuals. You have not built more than that. ————————— You said: “It’s not about zygotic extermination. It’s about healthy children and people that can survive.“ My response: Euphemizing the issue does not disguise it. ————————— You said: “I just want to use artificial selection to increase the frequency of them to where everyone has [the best genes]” My response: That’s what I want too. But actively giving them to the fertilized egg is a better way to get there than trying to discern and eliminate zygotes without them. We should start gestating designer babies as soon as we can, and simply ignore the zygotes (which is all of them) that don’t live up to our highest genetic standards. Generation by generation, the transhumans will populate the world and nobody is subjected to a forcible abortion. ————————— You said: “I have no problems with genetically enhancing people, but when I ask people what that might mean, no one has an answer, so I don't dwell on it. Do you have any suggestions on the topic?” My response: Every day we discover more about the assortment of various alleles in the global gene pool. Probably we can already insert the best gene for Trait A in an ovum. As soon as we have the technology, we will be able to start a zygote off with one of — let’s say 500 idealized templates (resistance to diseases, high IQs, etc) and let the parents choose superficial features like hair color or musical ability.
You seem to be evading what I have explained and you have refused to answer my one question. It is the deciding factor in my understanding, so I have a problem with that. Deflecting suggests you know I'm right. As for Steven Hawkings, have you ever cared for a person with ALS? From your comment, I suggest not. My brother in law had it. It was a disaster and immensely resource demanding to care for him over many years, because my clever sister figured out how to keep him alive by imitating nature. I saw what it did to her, her family and even how it effected the families of her siblings. You are wrong! Caring for one ALS patient, let alone 10 million, is not a drop in the bucket. Caring for the disabled, such as those with ALS or Alzheimers, can disable or even kill the caregiver. You are correct. Natural selection cannot be eliminated, but it can be critically reduced... and it has been if you simply look at the numbers as my book does. Huh? "By the time you were 6 months old, you had consumed the work of thousands of years by billions of individuals." If what you said was true, you are basically saying that every person consumes all that has been created before them. Your logic is faulty and your math is wrong. You might also be very surprised at how much I have built, starting when I was rather young. Lighting one candle from another does not diminish the illumination of the first. It adds to it. Humans that create offer illumination that lasts beyond their lives can ignite, brighten and add to the light created by those that follow. Euphemizing may not disguise what? I see more deception in your argument. You evade my one question. You claim that the needs of people with disabilities are minimal and can infinitely be maintained. You never mention quality of life for them or the amazing demands on the individuals that care for them. There is nothing euphemistic about healthy children or people with disabilities. Nothing is more the essence of reality. "That’s what I want too". How then? "But actively giving them to the fertilized egg". Huh? What does that mean? (I see below.) My idea is giving them a fertilized egg, their fertilized egg, but one selected from a number of eggs that have been screened for the the least de novo mutations and the best genetic potentials of both parents. "We should start gestating designer babies ...". That is exactly what I am saying, but not designer since we don't have that technology and it won't do the job, as I explain in my book. Instead, we must imitate nature and select between zygotes. We cannot create designer babies now and the technology is very problematic. We have already greatly reduced natural selection. We already have the basics of artificial selection and it is being done. Who mentioned abortion of forcible abortion? I clearly emphasized pre-implantation selection. Don't talk to me about euphemisms when you pull stuff out of the air and load it with meanings ie. "forcible". "Probably we can already insert the best gene for Trait A in an ovum." No, we cannot. One person experimented with it and he's in jail. "As soon as we have the technology,". That might well be like fusion... further off than you think. The problem of "untargeted effects" of CRISPR must be pretty much 100% overcome before the technology is safely usable on humans. Also, as I describe in my book, that kind of technology is very targeted and fine like a weeder in a garden. Natural selection is a general effect like a herbicide. We must replace the general effect. "let’s say 500 idealized templates... and let the parents choose...". And that is why I hate some transhumanist ideas. The parents cannot even have their own children. That's sick and immoral... in my opinion and will be in the opinion of many. It's also likely to fire off human moral instinct and then forget it ever happening. Morally, that seems right there with your "forcible abortions". It's also unnecessary and it's dangerous because you are reducing genetic variation and diversity. ... These templates... are they going to look like you? Even if you start out with perfect templates (cough cough… I warn about the search for perfection elsewhere.), there will be de novo mutations every year that break them. You are talking about blasting away all procedures of nature governing reproduction. You seem far more brave and reckless than me which is really saying something. I follow the natural conservative principles of survival. You have defended the existence and care of multitudes of disabled people, yet you propose using radical technology to create perfect people with no disabilities. I see a disconnect and recommend caution. You seem infected with the meme that desires perfection, but there is no such thing and it locks your mind in a process of like a computer trying to multiply by infinity. Nature, like engineering, works on the principle of not letting perfection be the enemy of good enough. Perfection is a dangerous illusion to pursue and will make you hate the imperfect… such as humanity. Those that the Gods would destroy, first they make mad. That madness is arrogance and overconfidence. It's why transhumanist ideas tend to bother me. They are confident that they know what human destiny should be, but they are children with only a child's knowledge. I know better. It is why I work only to create a new ecology where humanity can have the time to mature and think. Then, long from now, maybe they will have the wisdom and knowledge to decide more about humanity's possible destiny. To try to do so now is simply arrogant folly. Now we must simply survive, work to fix the problems we have created and must fix to survive so as to give them the time and a chance to make those decisions. After you directly answer my first question, please tell me why we should follow your suggested path with all its risks and requirements for non-existent, very challenging, expensive technology that will be available who knows when, when my suggested path of imitating natural selection and nature is available now at minimal cost, when we need it?
Ann Carlyle You said: “My idea is giving them a fertilized egg, their fertilized egg, but one selected from a number of eggs that have been screened for the least de novo mutations and the best genetic potentials of both parents. "We should start gestating designer babies ...". That is exactly what I am saying, but not designer since we don't have that technology and it won't do the job, as I explain in my book. Instead, we must imitate nature and select between zygotes. We cannot create designer babies now and the technology is very problematic.“ My response: If you think that the technology to produce and harvest any number of fertilized ova, and then analyze them to choose between them is even remotely possible, you are quite mistaken. Not to mention that a homozygous trait is going to show up in ALL zygotes, and if it is a dominant trait, it will show up in every individual — no matter how deleterious it is. That means that in your plan, for some couples, there can never be a zygote worthy of gestation. But even in a couple who are not homozygous dominant for any undesired trait, how many zygotes do you imagine you’d need to detect the “best” genetic potential of the parents? And how do you know what is “best”? How do you define it? Do the parents get to choose? Is “ugly, diabetic, and stupid” better or worse than “Smart and pretty but with BPD”? —————— You said: “ … eggs that have been screened for the least de novo mutations … “ My response: Natural selection does not filter out “de novo” mutations. Natural selection cannot even tell if a mutation is new or not. Evolution depends on giving new mutations a chance in the environment. All your idea would rver do is to stop evolution. ———————- You said: “ ,,, you have refused to answer my one question.” “After you directly answer my first question, … “ My response: I think I have answered every one of your questions, but apparently not. May you please remind me of this mystery question? You keep on referring to it, but you never say what it is.
Mike: "If you think that the technology to produce and harvest any number of fertilized ova, and then analyze them to choose between them is even remotely possible, you are quite mistaken." ---- Oh? Well, harvesting a number of ova and fertilizing them is what current infertility treatments have depended on for years. Then the doctor selects the most vital and robust zygotes to be implanted. As my book mentions, In the US, Dr. Dagan Wells was doing the genetic screening years ago as has Dr Wang in China. The technology was started years ago and as you know genetic technology has been progressing ridiculously fast. Multiple Sclerosis is actually already an easy target for genetic screening. "Natural selection does not filter out “de novo” mutations. Natural selection cannot even tell if a mutation is new or not." ---- It's not about new or old. It's about functional. Natural selection filters out broken or non-functional mutations and most de novo mutations, by over a factor of well over 100, are non-functional or reduced function. What do you think the function and action of Natural Selection is? "Evolution depends on giving new mutations a chance in the environment. All your idea would rver do is to stop evolution." ---- This is a sort of disingenuous comment coming from a person that wants wholesale genetic engineering and design. We can use CRISPR, carefully, to introduce mutations. I'm amazed that we already know of some potential mutations to introduce that exist naturally but would spread slowly. The technology does race on. Still, though, some form of selection will be needed to maintain those synthetic mutations. I'm more concerned with short term survival anyway. Your dreams may come true eventually, but not if we don't solve the near term #1 genetic problem. My question which I labeled #1 in a few places is: Can a species survive without natural or some other form of genetic selection operating to remove de novo mutations in each generation? Are you a biologist even? The problem of genetic load is covered in high school biology. What I don't understand though is why you object so much to my path? I've worked on the problem since long before anyone else seems to have thought of it. I got my degree from the UC exploring it. I've researched it for decades. I figured out the problem before anyone noticed it experimentally. I've laid out the details and other people's research in my book. I've described it in moral and technical terms as economical and ethical. I've explained my objections to your path in technical, economic and moral terms. I'll add that to use CRISPR and any other genetic technology will require zygote screening. Any. No technology is perfect, especially organic technologies. They are messy which is the hallmark of organic chemistry. Any other genetic technology will require the artificial selection I propose... plus other technologies. So what is your objection? Why do you make up objections like "forced abortions" to support your position? Why not instead thank me for spending my life and talent to solve one problem needed for human survival? What are you holding out for, perfection? What?
Ann Carlyle You’re right. Holding out for “perfection” is a losing strategy. And you made a good point when you commented that my approach does not allow people to have their own children. I think the faster we can gear up the technology for all this, the better. And there doesn’t even have to be a “One Solution” approach. Thanks for your eye-opening conversation. May your ideas propagate in all the right places! ~ Ann And thank you for an interesting and challenging discussion - Mike FYI, I think I mentioned I was working on a book called Strategy For A New Ecology to complement the Genetics Book... I think that I can say that by ...amalgamating... human ecology with philosophy I can offer some useful knowledge including both a strategy of how humans survive into the future and a why. It's sort of a blend of Epicurus and Darwin. I hope that I’m fairly close to done. ... One must have a hobby.