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Sorry, I used the term loosely.  His findings, his theories, his speculations, whatever you want to call them.  When I saw the post on Slashdot it seemed relevant to the discussion.

It's hardly an original idea.  I've wondered about it myself, and I doubt I'm alone in that.  Is it possible or likely that modern science and technology have made it possible for members of our species who are less robust from a survivability standpoint -- however you choose to define or measure that -- to survive and propagate, and in doing so move the overall numbers downward?

Purely anecdotal and so conclusive of nothing, I am a walking example of the question.  I carry not one but two genetic defects that, probably before the industrial revolution and almost certainly before the agricultural revolution, would have severely curtailed my expected life span.  And in so doing, substantially lessened the likelihood that I would have produced offspring, and if I had that I would have lived long enough to ensure that they got a good start in life and so lived to reproduce themselves.

For me the question is not academic.  I have wrestled with the ethics of possibly passing on those defects to my two sons. In my case the question is not lessening of intelligence -- we all seem to score a smidge above average on the typical mental aptitude tests -- but on the issue of physical robustness.  I wouldn't have made it through adolescence as a paleo bison hunter.  Probably not much past it as a neolithic agriculturist.  So, am I contributing, not to the dumbing down but maybe to the wimping down, of the human gene pool?

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 11:54:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
His findings, his theories, his speculations, whatever you want to call them.

No, it does matter what you call them. You can make up an infinite number of self-consistent hypotheses, but you first need to confront them with reality to take them seriously. Your own estimation that the trend "very likely does" exist needs a basis, too.

less robust from a survivability standpoint -- however you choose to define or measure that

Again, it matters very much how you choose to define that. Especially if we consider what Darwinian fitness means: it's not some innate quality, as in the imagination of Social Darwinists, but a function of the environment (in the widest sense of the word; one could also use "niche"), which in our case has been and is being modified heavily by culture.

I carry not one but two genetic defects that, probably before the industrial revolution and almost certainly before the agricultural revolution, would have severely curtailed my expected life span.

But we are not before the industrial and agricultural revolutions, so you are speaking about an imaginary "survivability". You then build an ethical dilemma atop this imaginary fitness. If physical robustness is not a trait with a greater value of fitness now, then why do you want it? (In fact, already our pre-agricultural-revolution ancestors were less robust than Neanderthals.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 01:12:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, vbo.  I seem to have dragged the discussion rather far afield from the original subject of you diary.  My apologies, it was not intentional.

I'll shut up now.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 01:35:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No worries, it's perfectly OK.
by vbo on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 05:17:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Err, sorry DoDo.  I thought I was answering vbo.  I seem to have exceeded my intellectual capacity for the day.

Now I'll shut up.

Now where are we going and what's with the handbasket?

by budr on Wed Nov 14th, 2012 at 05:10:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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