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?
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?
Evolution does not work that way. There aren't really "weaker" and "stronger" genes, as their fitness is determined by the environment. Therefore, we aren't avoiding evolution or weakening ourselves with medical care, we are simply changing the selection criteria. Let me ask you this: is a population that can find scientific answers or one that can survive bacterial plagues more likely to help us in the long run? Which should we select for? These are easy or arbitrary questions, but personally I'd prefer to have the science to get me off this rock if the need arises. That means keeping people alive so they can grow to become scientists.
To suggest that curing ourselves of disease is somehow immoral is to sacrifice our well-being and enjoyment of life on the sacred high altar of Darwinian evolution. To do so is neither morally sound nor evolutionarily useful. Why wait to get sick and fail to treat yourself? Why not simply commit suicide, right here and now? You'd have even less impact than if you wait!
How much better it would be to simply control our reproduction so that we do not burden the planetary ecology with excess copies of our genes and the bodies that carry them around and demand resources for their sustenance, either in the next generation nor the infinitum that would follow. The notion that we may someday repair our genome of faulty mutations does not change this; if we are genuinely serious about future generations, the environment would be vastly better off for our having not indulged in reproduction than for our having failed to cure ourselves of a readily treatable disease. It would certainly be more humane.
How much better it would be for us to create an economic system that fully accounts for externalized costs. Our present accounting system does not do this, and so does not penalize us for pushing the costs of pollution and resource extraction onto other beneficiaries of the environment. How much better it would be to make ourselves, our children and each other consciously aware of the environmental consequences to our actions have, rather than simply commit medical suicide. In the end, that could actually produce less environmental impact than simply going out with a bang and leaving everyone else to go on their way.
If one is going to take the view that the world is better off without us, then fine; let's go all the way and do what the biosphere seems to be already trying to do - rid itself of our species altogether. The biosphere would certainly be far less perturbed; but are we better off? Of course not. We would no longer exist!
Therefore, I posit that it is irrational to ask such questions as the premise to this discussion, which itself is irrational almost by definition - as irrational as is Ayn Rand's selfishness-is-good hypothesis, but in the opposite direction, suggesting that self annihilation is good and therefore worth doing. At the end of the day, human beings are and will always be (for the foreseeable future) part of the natural environment. While it is rational to try to make a difference, however small, by minimizing our impact on the environment, it is irrational to assume that voluntary self annihilation in the absence of other actions, would have any useful impact and would therefore somehow be desirable.
Well, it is selfish in the sense that altruism is inherently selfish.
I'm not sure about all scenarios, but I would say that the first example you gave (administering antibiotics to children) is actually beneficial and part of natural selection. Viruses and bacteria are constantly evolving. Under "natural" circumstances, our bodies would join in the arms race to combat bacteria. However, since we walk the path of the toolmaker, our arms race involves the advancement of technology. Instead of biological changes to combat viruses, we have instead substituted technology to combat them. Also, a sick child with weak genes can still serve a beneficial purpose in our society. Through technology, we also have a substantial amount of control over our day to day living conditions. We are no longer complete slaves to environmental changes, which gives us more leeway as to what genes are beneficial to our survival. Technology has made survival easier.
I would say that wanting longer lifespans is only currently selfish; through genetic engineering we can eventually make it so that it isn't selfish. We can make food more plentiful, and/or our appetites smaller. We can increase our longevity, and reduce our susceptibility to illness. Right now however, our desires are ahead of our technological achievements. But even if we did have the technology, our society would reject such a notion.
Eugenics can be a touchy subject, but it needn't be. I do hope we will one day be able to humanely alter our gene pool. It's probably even vital for our continued survival. It will happen when non-theists are the majority.
How interesting. This reminds me of my Social Ethics class in college. I remember writing an essay; “Is Abortion in the Spirit of Capitalism”, playing off on Max Weber’s, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”.
Is health care selfish?
A decision is considered selfish if the decision maker knowingly burdens or harms others for personal gain.
Generally speaking, Self-interest includes one's own needs and desires in the schema of priorities, and is inclusive of both cooperation and selfishness.
Is health Care dangerous?
I am asking,
Health Care is dangerous for whom or for which social groups?
Is it more or less selfish and dangerous for a culture to promote poor eating habits, poor hygiene habits, and self destructive behavior than it is 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?
By “weakened” genes””, are you referring to mutations/alleles? “Healthy” people with “strengthened genes” also pass on mutations to the next generation.
Remember, in the “biological sense” we are speaking in here, every living “thing” evolves, along with us humans.
When you talk about complexities, also remember tolerances. Not only do our bodies build up tolerances to pharmaceuticals, but so do the microbes and virus’ and bacteria build up tolerances to pharmaceuticals.
Instead of questioning the use of antibiotics on children, ask the more relevant question about the over use of antibiotics in everything from hand sanitizers to air fresheners and the reckless habits we have when we take our prescribed medications.
Regarding the question; “Is it selfish and dangerous of us to want longer life spans at ever increasing expense to our children?”
I will ask,
Is it more or less selfish and dangerous for a culture to promote poor eating habits, poor hygiene habits, and self destructive behavior than it is for a culture to promote healthy eating habits, healthy hygiene habits and progressive, healthy lifestyles?
Lastly your question, “ 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?
Once again, remember, in the “biological sense” we are speaking in here, every living “thing” evolves, along with us humans.
When you talk about complexities, also remember tolerances
Ever heard the Donald Rumsfeld quote,
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.”Sincerely, Bob
I remember reading a sci fi book as a kid. I thought it was called "blade runner", but it's not like the movie. It was about a guy that was a runner for stolen surgical kits to provide underground medical treatment in a society that sterilized people if they sought medical treatment for even simple problems, like fractures. They were trying to "keep the gene pool clean" because diabetes, as one example, had almost destroyed society.
I've heard of the problems of providing antibiotics to people in poor countries that only exasperated their problems by allowing their populations to increase without increasing their prosperity.
I know genes aren't weak or strong. That's why I wrote "weak" in reference to survival of the fittest. You know, only the strong survive?
Sometimes I think about these things when I read about a family that gets into legal trouble because they don't provide proper medical treatment to their children because of religious reasons. Their belief in God may not be rational, but what about letting nature take it's course? Modern health care has been around for only a very very short time in regard to how long humans, and our ancestors have been around, yet some people call health care a "right". Health problems are also on the rise in wealthy nations.
Personally, I'm leaning toward science to provide the answers in the future of our health care.
If by "survival of the fittest" you mean natural selection, that does not mean the strong survive.
Also, letting nature take it's course may have been acceptable when there was no alternative. That is no longer the case and our society has decided that allowing a human to suffer when the suffering can easily be prevented is unacceptable. One example where we aren't quite there is with assisted suicide, but I think after a few more years more states will legalize it.
A question well worth our time and effort.
But rather than ask if health care is selfish and dangerous--life itself is both, ask if we and our children are willing to pay for it and for the science that will enable gene pool manipulation.
We need also, perhaps first, to recognize that among our rights is a right to terminate our own lives. We were given life without our consent; we have a right to end it when we choose.
I love the responses so far, I knew this would be a good topic!
I've found that if I try to start discussions like this with people I know they usually just get a blank look on their faces. I'm glad I joined the Atheist Nexus!
The inaccuracies of your post have been aptly pointed out, so I would like to try a different tack.
Where would you start? Long before we had antibiotics, vaccinations and sterile hospitals, people died at alarming rates until we learned the importance of clean water and sewage disposal. The average age of death in 1905 was a mere 45. Clean water and sewage made the difference.
Those two developments increased life spans more than any other scientific finding as far as I know.
Would you deny people clean water and to have their sewage disposed of in a fashion that does the least harm to our environment?
Why not go back to the invention of the plow? That single invention was responsible for the most significant increase in crop growth in the history of mankind. Would you have us planting by hand? Without clean water and living in our own sewage?
The other developments only increased lifespans from the people dying in their 60's to their 80's.
While correct, this is a little simplistic too. AKron has opened an interesting can of worms here.
For instance the fact that people live perhaps 20+ years more than they did post WWI, is having a dramatic effect on the load humans are placing on our planet.
Scott is correct in this regard - we're having far too many children and in the UK it's not healthcare but left-wing altruism (if you can call it that) that has driven it. Over here, a person can have pretty much as many children as they want (often with multiple partners if that suits) and be assured that the state (i.e. the rest of us) will take care of her and her offspring.
This drive to have more children is evolutionary of course - given that only a few would survive - but now this isn't the case, some folk think it's OK to have multiple children regardless of the impact on the rest of us. There's an interesting discussion here all of its own; one that was explored (poorly, unfortunately) in the comedy Idicocracy. It's worth a watch nevertheless. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiocracy.