Paper for The Galton Institute conference
"Man and Society in the New Millennium"
16 - 17 September 1999
at The Zoological Society of London
Regents Park, London NW1 4RY
Published as: Whitney, G. (1999). Reproduction technology for a new eugenics. The Mankind Quarterly, XL, #2, 179-192.
The first century or two of the new millennium will almost certainly be a golden age for eugenics. Through application of new genetic knowledge and reproductive technologies the Galtonian Revolution will come to fruition. This new revolution in the new millennium, which I call the Galtonian Revolution (Whitney, 1995; 1997a) will be more momentous for the future of mankind than was the Copernican Revolution or the Darwinian Revolution. For with the Galtonian Revolution, for the first time, the major changes will not be to ideas alone, but rather the major change will be to mankind itself.
In order to briefly discuss some of the reproductive technology that will contribute to the new eugenics, I need first to define the term "eugenics". So many different people with so many different agendas have appropriated this neat word, coined by Sir Francis Galton in 1883, that the word by itself can stand for almost anything (Whitney, 1990). Surely to some eugenics is a route to prevention rather than mere treatment of the ills of humanity. Also a path to the greatest good for the greatest number. To others eugenics is a new blasphemy, a devil-word; a term of hate and abhorrence, a term that in word associations is supposed to be linked with Hitler, Holocaust, genocide and the murder of innocents.
For the purposes of today's talk the definition of "eugenics" is one given by Sir Francis Galton himself. In 1904 at a meeting of the Sociological Society, Sir Francis said:
"Eugenics is the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage."
It is interesting, and overlooked by many, that Galton's own definition included both nature and nurture approaches to the improvement of humanity.
In that same talk Galton (1904) went on to briefly address what is meant by "improvement". "What is meant by the syllable Eu in Eugenics, whose English equivalent is good?" First of all, the goodness of a trait depended upon the balance of that trait with others in appropriate proportions; thus goodness was relative to the balance of traits in the individual and also to the make-up of the population. What was good might be much influenced by education, and the goodness or badness of traits was not an absolute, but relative to the current form of civilization. Thus Galton suggested that as much as possible we should keep morals out of the discussion and avoid absolutes, to keep out of endlessly entangling philosophical distinctions. One wishes that some of our current crop of so-called "bioethicists" would heed this advice.
Galton suggested that although
"no agreement could be reached as to absolute morality, the essentials of Eugenics may be easily defined. All creatures would agree that it was better to be healthy than sick, vigorous than weak, well fitted than ill-fitted for their part in life. In short that it is better to be good rather than bad specimens of their kind, whatever that kind might be. So with men."(Galton, 1904: 36).
And so with men. As we approach the new millennium we have at our call a reproductive technology that is beyond any imagined by the early eugenicists.
The advances over the last 50 or so years in genetics, molecular genetics, and developmental biology, are placing in our hands a wide range of technology that can be applied to eugenic ends. However, not all of these applications of reproductive technology are new.
Artificial insemination with a thought toward quality of offspring has been around for a long time. Dr William Pancoast of Jefferson College of Medicine in Philadelphia used sperm donated by "the best looking medical student" in his class when he impregnated a woman whose husband was infertile. That artificial insemination took place in 1884, although it was not reported until 25 years later, out of fear of controversy (NABER, 1996).
In vitro fertilization, the making of "test tube babies", has led to much consideration of a technological revolution in the field of human reproduction. It was only on July 25th, 1978, that Louise Brown, at 5 ¾ lb., was born in an English hospital. She was the first test tube baby (Bayertz, 1994). In the slightly more than two decades since the birth of Louise Brown there have been thousands of instances of in vitro fertilization. About 15% of couples are sterile, and in about half of the cases the problem is with the female, often blocked Fallopian tubes. For these couples in vitro fertilization with subsequent implantation of the embryo allows them to birth their own genetic child.
However, the embryo need not be implanted in the uterus of the woman that provided the egg. The first instance of egg donation was reported in 1984 from Australia (Cohen, 1996). People wanting pregnancy can be implanted with an embryo made with someone else's egg, or surrogate mums can carry the embryo as a service for someone else. The laboratory access that is a part of in vitro fertilization makes possible a wide range of procedures that depend on access to the embryo - diagnosis, genetic manipulation -and a whole series of further techniques such as embryo preservation.
Cryopreservation, combined with artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, greatly expanded the possibilities for eugenic births. It has been suggested that the half-life of semen frozen in liquid nitrogen is more than 1,000 years. With liquid nitrogen, frozen semen, eggs, or embryos can be shipped to almost any location. The famous "Repository for Germinal Choice", founded by Robert K. Graham and Hermann J. Muller, the 1946 Nobel Prize Winner, opened for business in 1980. Originally intended as a sperm bank for Nobel Prize Winners, it was later expanded to accept material from a wider range of healthy and outstanding donors. The Los Angeles Times (Hotz, 1997) reported that as of 1997 the Repository had contributed to the birth of 218 children, in at least 5 different countries, and the children that the staff knew about were all "bright and healthy".
According to news reports, in June of 1999 China opened a government-run "Notables' Sperm Bank" that accepts donors in three categories: intellectuals with at least a master's degree; top businessmen; and successful artists, entertainers, and athletes (Holden, 1999). Clinic officials are quoted as saying that they "would seek 'select sperm with high-quality characteristics' to fulfil a popular demand for 'attractive, intelligent children'" (Pottinger, 1999). It sounds to me like a fine plan indeed.
Nuclear substitution is an even more recent innovation. For mammals the first viable offspring from the substitution into an egg of the nucleus from an adult cell, was "Dolly", the famous sheep from Edinburgh that was announced in 1997 (Wilmut, et. al., 1997). Such cloning of the adult genome has attracted tremendous interest. Of course the resulting offspring will not be a phenotypic duplicate of the adult that donated the nucleus. Often overlooked in discussions is that the clone will also not be a complete genetic duplicate of the donor. The nuclear genes, those on the chromosomes, will be duplicates, but the mitochondrial DNA will be that provided by the egg. It remains to be seen how important this will be.
However, from the point of view of eugenics nuclear substitution with adult material will be extremely interesting. What is sidestepped is the genetic recombination that takes place at meiosis, the chromosomal crossing-over and the random sampling of a half-helping of genes into the haploid gametes that combine at fertilization. Instead of playing nature's roulette, the blind chance and dumb luck of sexual reproduction can be eliminated by substituting an already proven diploid genome. One of the major consequences would be a reduction in regression toward the mean for multifactorial traits. The action of Galton's "law of filial regression" could be largely eliminated. Also, as David Lykken (Lykken, et. al., 1992) has emphasized, some genetic characteristics are not normally transmitted from parent to offspring. The phenotypic traits that result from dominance and epistatic interactions among the genes in a unique genotype are lost with sexual recombination, but can be retained by cloning. He refers to such traits as "emergenic", extremes of genetic characteristics that are often not familial, but rather emerge as a consequence of a unique combination of genes in a unique genotype. Geniuses are perhaps one class of emergenic individuals. The amazing, often precocious abilities of geniuses has posed a problem for both genetic and environmental explanations; the truly extreme genius often crops up in an otherwise undistinguished family and often leaves undistinguished progeny. As Lykken puts it, "The answer is, I think, that genius consists of unique configurations of attributes that cannot be transmitted in half-helpings" (Lykken, 1999). Such emergenic individuals, where the half-helping of a haploid gamete loses the unique configuration, will have a chance at recreation through nuclear substitution.
Many authors have commented on the irony that Sir Francis Galton himself passed without progeny. With improvement of techniques for recovery of DNA from tissue samples, and nuclear substitution, I expect that Sir Francis' unique genotype will be reborn in the new millennium.
Pre-natal diagnosis has been a real possibility since the 1959 discovery that aneuploidy, specifically trisomy-21, was the cause of Down's syndrome. Initially dependent on amniocentesis, newer and less risky procedures are available for the prenatal diagnosis of chromosomal anomalies as well as a large number of single-gene disorders. Advocates of pre-natal diagnosis, combined with the possibility of therapeutic abortion, have made the strong case that these essentially negative eugenic procedures are life-enhancing and life-giving, rather than life-destroying. Instead of suffering the agony and long term problems of a defective child, the pregnancy can be terminated and replaced with a healthy baby. Now so many prospective parents benefit from testing that Down's syndrome, once the most common form of severe retardation, is becoming rare in advanced countries. So too, Tay-Sachs disease among Askenazi Jews is a well-known success story for the eugenic benefits of pre-natal diagnosis.
Pre-implantation diagnosis and modification, made possible by in vitro fertilization, provides whole new dimensions to pre-natal diagnosis. The revolutionary impact of in vitro fertilization with regard to eugenics is that it involves as a matter-of-course access to the embryo during its earliest stages of development. The cells of early embryos are totipotent stem cells, when separated each is capable of producing a complete individual.
Separation in nature gives rise to monozygous - identical - twins or triplets, sometimes even more genetically identical clones. In the laboratory, cell mass division of the early embryo was first used to produce multiple clones of a human embryo in 1993 (Harris, 1998). With multiple copies of the identical genotype, a wide range of diagnostic procedures can be conducted with some of the clones, without fear of damage to the clone that might eventually be implanted for gestational development.
Access to the egg, sperm, and early embryo facilitates a wide range of genetic manipulations. Many techniques already routine in animal research might find application in human eugenics. Knockouts are individuals in which specific genes have been rendered non-functional. Gene substitution techniques can insert functional genes to compensate for defective natural genes, or to enhance trait expression beyond the naturally occurring range. Transgenic procedures involve the insertion of functional genes, even ones from other species. In wide use for research, a recent experiment demonstrates the application of transgenic technology to primates: Monkeys are being developed that have bioluminescence from jellyfish (Lau, 1999). Personally, I have no interest in having my private parts glow in the dark; however, it would be interesting to be able to navigate like a homing pigeon.
Many additional and more sophisticated techniques are undoubtedly on the way; in June of 1999, at the meeting of the American Society of Gene Therapy, "chimeraplasty" was considered, by which single-base DNA mistakes can be corrected in cell cultures and experimental animals (Gura, 1999). It is only a matter of time until these techniques are perfected to a level permitting moral application to human problems. Many of the techniques mentioned earlier, such as nuclear substitution and genetic manipulations are not yet efficient enough to be unquestionably suitable in therapeutic and eugenic application for humans. But with the pace of research it is surely only a matter of time, and a short time at that.
Designer children is a label often disparagingly applied by critics in discussions of individual's new abilities to make personal choices and eugenic decisions about their own children. Critics of eugenics blather about invented moral and ethical issues. But as bioethecist John Harris (1998) has said,
"The best I can do here is repeat a perhaps familiar thought, namely that although this is often taken to be a difficult question and indeed the idea of parents being able to choose such things very often causes outrage, I have found difficulty in seeing this question as problematic. It seems to me to come to this: either such traits as hair colour, eye colour, gender, and the like are important or they are not. If they are not important why not let people choose? And if they are important, can it be right to leave such important matters to chance? (Harris, 1998:29).
Which brings us to the issue of social attitudes toward eugenics. For at least the last half of this century there has been an unrelenting campaign to demonize eugenics. This propaganda assault has been so influential that all of the institutions and academic departments that were founded by Sir Francis Galton and Karl Pearson to advance the study and application of eugenics, have changed their name to eliminate the term. As one example, and the longest hold-out, in 1988 at its annual meeting the Eugenics Society adopted a resolution that changed its name to eliminate the word "eugenics". This organization that had started in 1907 as the Eugenics Education Society, was renamed to the more innocuous "Galton Institute"(Pearson, 1991), to which I am indebted for the honor of being here today.
How is it possible that the prevention of human suffering has become identified as evil? From whence has come the unrelenting propaganda campaign to demonize eugenics, which after all is devoted to the prevention of suffering and the improvement of mankind? In a word, the answer is Marxism, including its present incarnation as Politically Correct modern liberalism.
In order to understand the campaign against eugenics, it helps to place it in the context of an on-going ideological and political war. Two general commentaries about the political scene in America, and that generalize to western civilization, catch the flavor of events with their titles. One is entitled "It's a War, Stupid!" written by David Horowitz, Peter Collier and J.P. Duberg (1997). David Horowitz is one of the more prolific writers among the crop of American "neo-conservatives"; they are radical-left activists from the 1960s who have grown up. Horowitz is a self-proclaimed "red-diaper baby", raised in the communist party atmosphere of New York City. It's a War, Stupid! Makes the point that a one-sided ideological war has been going on for much of this century, a war of socialists against traditional society. As with any war, truth is one of the first casualties. Horowitz's message is that many of the combatants on the side of the good guys don't even realize what is going on.
The other title is "America's 30 Years War: Who is winning?", written by Balint Vazsonyi(1998). Vazsonyi escaped his native Hungary during the short-lived Revolution of the 1950s. Having lived under two socialist totalitarian regimes, the Nazi and the Soviet, he is personally familiar with the tactics. His concern in the book is that socialism is slowly transforming America. While the liberal media tout the end of the cold war with the collapse of the Soviet economy, it is the socialists who are winning a worldwide ideological and political war. Vazsonyi points out the unique English, Anglo-Saxon roots of what he calls America's basic founding principles. He identifies four: rule of law; individual rights; guarantee of personal property; and a shared cultural identity. These basic principles are slowly being replaced by socialism. Today we have government-mandated group rights, government controlled redistribution of property, and divisive multiculturalism.
The basis for this late-20th century all-out war against eugenics is that the big winner from the Second-World War was Bolshevism, international socialism. As early as the 1920s, while many western progressive socialists were still also eugenicists, Stoddard was warning of Bolshevism's denial of heredity (Pearson, 1991). Two of Marxist-Leninist's bedrock ideological underpinnings became environmental determinism, and radical egalitarianism. In the socialist state, all differences between individuals or groups are said to be caused by past exploitation, and since all people are inherently the same, social engineering can transform the world. Of course genetics, recognizing both inherited and environmental causes, is inconsistent with Marxist ideology, and eugenics, the application of genetic knowledge for the benefit of humanity is anathema to socialist environmentalism.
Everyone knows of the travesty of post-war science in the Soviet Union - the 1948 purging of genetics because it was inconsistent with Politically Correct environmentalism - that became known as Lysenkoism. Under Lysenkoism the only acceptable explanation for differences, even among strains of wheat, was environmental differences, thus they practiced "vernalization", that is, early education of little plants as they allowed their seed grain to deteriorate genetically (Soyfer, 1994). Everyone knows of Lysenkoism, and rightly criticizes the absurdity of denying scientific reality in the service of an ideology.
Yet today, no one acknowledges the obvious fact that there is no substantive difference between Lysenkoism and official government policy toward education in America (Whitney, 1998).
Both of the major political parties entertain various vernalizations -ever earlier head start programs - while they demonize as "hateful" or "racist" anyone who suggests that radical egalitarianism and environmental determinism miss an important part of the real world. With Political Correctness, and though-control crimes, euphemistically called "hate crimes", western society is becoming ever more constricted. In some European countries, such as Germany, one can be imprisoned for discussing basic science. In the United Kingdom, long term university faculty can be sacked, as illustrated by Christopher Brand, lately of Edinburgh University, sacked for the high crime of telling the truth (Whitney, 1997b).
A favorite attack on eugenics is to equate it with Nazis. In various ways a slippery slope is argued: official government sanctioning of eugenic concepts leads inevitably to, racism, anti-Semitism, euthanasia, genocide, holocaust, and all the rest of it. Confounding eugenics with Nazism has been so successful a tactic since World War 2, that many people who are interested in eugenics do what they are suppose to do: hang their head in shame and shut their mouth. However, what should be shouted is that the whole argument is a sham, another falsehood.
As Marian Van Court has pointed out, in the first half of the 20th century, a total of at least 29 countries passed eugenic laws, including Germany, United States, Canada, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Greece and Spain. One of these advanced countries proceeded in time of war from euthanasia to genocide. The other 28 countries did not. One out of 29 does not establish a pattern (Van Court, 1998). The post-war propaganda linking eugenics to Nazism and a slippery slope to holocaust is just that: Horrific, continuing propaganda warfare.
The tone and content of this paper is strongly supportive of eugenics. However, there is one aspect of traditional eugenic programs that I have concerns about: That is government regulation of any sort. Voluntary personal decisions are one thing, government coercion is another. I can think of nothing as grotesque as to have the likes of Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, or Tony Blair making my reproductive choices.
One problem is that we actually know so little about genetics that it is terribly premature for government regulation. Imagine what the central planners that gave us the soviet economy could do with the vastly more complex human gene pool. Although the Human Genome Project is well along toward sequencing the bases in a human genome (Whitney, 1997a), we know next to nothing about what most of the genes do. We don't even know how many there are. Just recently the human mutation rate was estimated to be considerably higher than previously thought (Crow, 1999 ). Just in mid-1999 it was reported that the functional human genome may be one-third larger than previous estimates (Wade, 1999).
Playing in the dark as we are at this time, it may be best to let people make their own decisions. We do not need totalitarian control, a set of self-chosen "anointed ones" (Sowell, 1996) controlling the reproductive behavior of a domesticated proletariat. In little understood systems we must expect to encounter what we seem to have encountered, which is unintended consequences.
For example, when effective means of contraception were introduced last century, some of the main results seem to have been dysgenic (Lynn, 1996). Sir Francis Galton spoke of ways to test and bring together promising young men and women so that they would be more likely to form eugenic matches. This desire for assortative mating was not a prime reason for the push for women's liberation including co-educational higher education, but it has been one of the consequences of young women going to college with young men. Assoritative mating extends the range of a metrical trait even if there is no change in gene frequency (Lynch & Walsh, 1998). With the characteristics of the IQ distribution, if a population raised its average by only 5 points, it would double the incidence of gifted people 3 standard deviations above the mean, and cut by half the number of retarded. Selective higher education may be genetically stratifying our society, another unintended consequence (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994; Weiss, 1995).
The legalization of voluntary abortions in the United States in 1973 may have had the unintended consequence of lowering the crime rate in the 1990s. This is because women at higher risk of raising criminals; teenage mothers, single mums, blacks, have disproportionately higher rates of abortion (Donohue & Levitt, 1999).
As a final example of unexpected consequences, consider the effects of modern medicine on the gene pool. Many eugenicists have lamented the dysgenic effects of modern medicine that keeps alive severely affected, genetically anomalous individuals. However, the provision of supportive medicine may actually reduce the incidence of the deleterious genes. John Hartung and Peter Ellison (1977) have reported that, probably due to the psychological and physical stress of caring for a severely affected offspring, parents of such medically maintained children tend to have fewer later progeny, enough fewer to actually reduce the incidence of the responsible genes.
Although we know so little at the present time, our store of genetic knowledge and reproductive technology is vastly greater than at any time in the past. And our rate of acquisition of new knowledge and techniques is accelerating. If we can just educate the people, defeat the socialist ideologues, and keep the politician's hands off, then, with the new reproductive technology contributing to the Galtonian Revolution, a brave, and wonderful, new world awaits us in the new millennium.
I thank Marian Van Court for helpful suggestions on an earlier draft. Preparation of this paper was supported in part by a grant from the Pioneer Fund.
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