Zummorr wrote:That is a dangerous road to wander down. Because implementing a program to support "genetic diversity or genetic favor-ability" is basically reviving a nasty old thing known as Eugenics.
The problem with a system which tries to control the genetics of a society is that it ultimately restricts the freedom of the societies individuals, it would prevent people from procreating. At the same time how does one determine which traits (because ultimately that is what you are selecting for right?) are favorable to society and should be passed on.
At the same time, while holistically genetic diversity generally healthier for a species it isn't an end all be all. Since many species like Elephant Seals or Naked Mole Rats have extremely poor genetic diversity but do just fine. The Mole Rats in particular have overcome those unwanted negative disease traits despite generations of inbreeding.
You misunderstand. I don't mean to suggest that we curtail the population by any means. What I mean is this:
Evolution describes the behavior of allele frequencies over time. It tells us what tends to die, what tends to live. But it also tells us what is difficult to maintain, and what is easy. It's not that it assigns us a methodology; it describes the things we should look at as challenges. How can we subvert these tendencies? How do we maintain our intelligence? Not at all by selecting against what we momentarily decide is stupid, but by investing more into the quality of our own development.
It's out of date, but it's still useful to describe things in these terms:
dN/dt = r((K-N)/K)
N is the population of a species. dN/dt is it's rate of growth.
r is it's maximum growth rate - say the animal is a mammal with six teats; it takes two to make a litter and anything more than 6 pups will lead to the extras starving to death, so we're looking at a growth of 300% (6/2) for this species.
K is the carrying capacity of an environment. There's only so many resources, and so if, just because of diets, every wolf needs 10 bunnies to live, then we have to define K in terms of wolves = bunnies/10.
The ratio of the population to the carrying capacity is pretty straightforward. If the population is greater than the capacity, the K - N becomes negative, which multiplies further making the description of growth negative. Likewise, a population generally grows when under capacity, because there are more resources to tap.
But what variables are really controllable? The rate of population growth and the population itself (taken from previous times, t) are dependent variables. So we're left with r, and K. But natural resources are scarce; it's not really practical to select for both. So we end up with a spectrum of strategies. At one extreme is r-selection - increase the total number of offspring you can produce, at the expense of K. But on the other end is K-selection - invest in making offspring capable of tapping into the resources of their environment, at the expense of the total number of offspring you can produce.
r-selection includes mice, who have many kits, most of whom don't make it to adulthood. It includes spiders, who spend everything in making a million babies and throwing them off to the wind, most of whom don't survive to adulthood. It includes many fishes, who dump clutches of eggs, fertilize them, and never see them again - and many don't survive to adulthood. Grasses fit it - they make many seeds and jump on any opportunity they can, without investing much into their own growth and structure.
K-selection includes whales, who generally have one calf they teach and protect and parent it for a year, who usually make it to adulthood. It includes many birds, who sit on their egg and feed their offspring so they can invest in long, costly developments for later returns. It includes some of the large trees; even though sequoias make many seeds, to reach adulthood they require extreme care in the most favorable conditions, so that, by adulthood, they develop extremely complex structures giving them uncanny protection from fire etc - in other words, they invest in offspring development over proliferation. And of course, humans are K selected. We spend nearly two decades developing ourselves.
But K-selection has implications. Implications extremely good for our altruism. For example, in an r-species where every individual is cheap and disposable, a male that does not mate with females is doomed to a short relatively meaningless life. But in a K-species, he can provide meaningful non-genetic support to another's offspring. He can contribute to society, he helps the overall fitness of our species. The same goes for almost every other member of our species differing from the norm.
But it also teaches against quiverfull-type bullshit. It implies that if we take to extremely large families, the quality of each of their lives will go down. It means that any fear we have of losing our intelligence is not to have as many offspring as possible, but to invest in the quality of our offspring - their education, their health, not through warfare etc.
K selection does come with some problems - our populations are more fragile, we don't survive trauma as well. It's a great tragedy to lose someone at an age like 20 or 16 - that's over a decade of investment lost with limited returns; even if the person reproduced they can't contribute to their offspring's development after the fact.
I don't know if you noticed that though, so I want to spell it out: our altruism, our investment into each other, is exactly what gives our lives worth. It makes us meaningful. It gives us our minds, it makes us human.
But listen to the eugenicists, listen to the racists, the anti-disabled, those folks wanting to kill off others of our species. They're afraid of their ingroup going extinct. But all humans are K-selected - so what does that mean? That means we're fragile. Kill off a group and we lose genetic and cultural information, reducing our resources, lowering our K which is bad even from an r-species standpoint. Kill off the person holding our 10 and we might not have the flush needed against what life deals. They have shown a tendency to eliminate an entirely successful contributing group simply because they don't live up to arbitrary temporary non-genetic standards in biologically microscopic span of time.
And I want to add this point - today we are treating effectively with drugs and therapy disorders that just a few hundred years ago - nothing really for human biology - we burnt at the stake because we didn't understand. Today we can work with the afflicted not to wipe them out but to find cures, to find behaviors that help us improve. We take care of the groups that, unlike other nonbreeding groups that can contribute to society, can't, precisely because we have shown that investing into their quality of life has long term benefits for other members of our species, and we can, by investing in them, give them exactly what they need to become contributing members of our society. And improve the overall fitness of our K-strategy.
The eugenicist's problem is that they don't understand biology. They don't understand human biology. And they certainly don't understand what it means to be human.