I have a topic I'd like some input on. Is health care selfish and dangerous?
I'll assume everyone here believes in evolution, and understands the basics. With that in mind, is it selfish and dangerous to administer even simple medical care like antibiotics to children to save their lives so they can pass their "weakened" genes on to the next generation? Doesn't that go against the mechanisms that allowed us to grow more complex, and survive until we are what we are today?
Also, is it selfish and dangerous of us to want longer lifespans at ever increasing expense to our children? When social security first came out the average life span after retirement was only a few years, but today it can often be measured in decades, and usually requires very expensive health care to do it. There's also the issue of a growing population pitted against finite resources that are increasingly being fought over.
Lastly, with all the problems the above can incur, is there a reasonable expectation that science will soon be able to provide the technology to "clean the gene pool" in a humane way, and allow longer lives without such great expense for medical care, and natural resources?
Interesting question, and interesting responses.
No one has mentioned fertility treatment. I can't help feeling that this is a mistake. Couples previously unable to reproduce find suddenly that they can. And one sperm "donor" can produce more children than he'd be likely to "naturally": without physical effort, emotional investment, and decades of financial support. And how many women of amazingly advanced years have become mothers: and for what motives; and with what consequences?
Living longer seems fine for the individual, so long as one has health. But it also increases the consumption of resources. The global population is predicted to hit seven billion this October, [increased from just 2 bn in 1930, and still rising]: but food, water, fuel, and other resources are already becoming critical. And funding care homes [predominantly for the elderly] has now become a national crisis here in the UK.
A year ago I deposited this "Advance Directive" under the 2005 Mental Capacity Act with my GP. --
Though we're still waiting for euthanasia or assisted dying to be legalised here.
As for "cleaning the gene pool", whatever this means, I believe we're still a long way from fully understanding how genes work. I'm not a biologist: but while gene X may control property or attribute x, attribute y may be controlled or influenced by several genes. As a further complication, gene Z may influence attributes a, b, and c. As there's not a nice, simple, one-to-one correspondence, elucidating all the ramifications WON'T be a simple task. And Prof. Stephen Hawking is an example of someone who, under a simplistic eugenics programme, might never have been born. If we try cleaning the gene pool, we might inadvertently polish off the entire species quite spectacularly.
Of course, this could prove to be of immense benefit to countless other species.
As always, I enjoyed your posts, Scott. I feel like I learn something every time you speak.
I agree with you as well, John. The whole idea of cleaning the the gene pool or designer babies gives me the willies. That's a little too Hilterish for me.
I have heard it nine ways from Sunday from anti-vaxxers that I gave my kids autism by getting them all their shots on time and for everything suggested by the CDC and supported by my insurance. Now there is a large measles outbreak and it looks to be a bad one. My kids are fine. No worries here. But all those people who told me it was much better for a child to actually get measles than get the shots, well, I hope they changed their mind or never run into anyone with measles. Otherwise, my children, autistic or not, are the fittest.
Besides, I am beginning to wonder if autism isn't some widespread initial change in evolution, because it's not all bad. An child with autism who is on the upper end of the spectrum can process tremendous amounts of information. They can look at a computer filled with all sorts of different information that would be totally confusing to me and see a pattern and pick out the one thing that they see as important. It's amazing how much data these kids can store and how easily they can process it. They have brains like an information warehouse.
Living with a child with autism, yeah there are problems with social issues and often hygiene problems, but sometimes I have to sit back and say "wow" to all the things they can easily do that us "normal" folks can't without a lot of effort.
I wrote a chapter on the MMR scandal - and it still runs even today. Bizarre. Worse still the doctor responsible is still in practice!
Autism isn't likely to be an evolutionary advantage at this stage (although we can never be sure) and it may not even be heritable. I have Asperger's and only one of my children shows the slightest sign: which may be entirely down to her copying me.
The people around you should sue if their children are infected with measles - not the MMR folk, but the idiotic journalists and celebs who foolishly could not see beyond a greedy, self-serving doctor and his faulty data.
I have a horrible feeling of foreboding over all of this, with the future prospects of natural selection, red in tooth and claw, taking it's toll on humanity in it's own, unsympathetic and remorseless way.
I would suggest that the crisis awaiting us all from the scarcity of resources and food production, allied to global warming, which is now all but unavoidable, will lead to first national and then global conflicts and a global breakdown of civilisation. Caring for the sick and week may be no more than a field dressing in this breakdown.
I know that this an apocalyptic Malthusian vision, but there are too many of us now with 6 billion on the Earth. Where will we be when we get to 10 billion? Is optimism an attitude that we can still afford? I am getting more and more apprehensive with the passing years and that growing certainty of mortality as a cancer "survivor" for the moment, that I worry increasingly for my kids, now in their 30's, will have inherited hell on earth before they too get to their 60's.
There will be nothing clean or humane about it.
Yeah, I had a similar discussion with a co-worker. He kept calling Obama a Communist. When I corrected him that Obama was pushing some mild Socialist reforms, he came back with the 'fact' that Communism and Socialism are the same exact thing.
I ended it with something to the effect of, "Okay, this discussion is over. You're too ignorant to participate in it." He's one of the Fox News idiots ... I think the only one we have in my department, thankfully.
Totally Igroant question.
To me, the issue is more complex than your question states. Your question, in part, appears to assert an indirect implication that there is mostly cost with little benefit when it comes to health care that increases lifespan. The elderly are rich sources of first-hand knowledge. And while not all old age equals wisdom, in spite of exceptions, certainly it is a valid general rule. So then, I think, if we're going to look at this issue in terms of expense, we need to ask: what is the cost vs benefit analysis? Yes, there are costs (and not just monetary)...but do the benefits of longer lifespans outweigh those costs?