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Nicholas Wade reports in the New York Times:

Biologists Call for Ban on Gene Editing Technique in Humans
By NICHOLAS WADE MARCH 19, 2015

A group of leading biologists on Thursday called for a worldwide moratorium on use of a new genome editing technique to change human DNA in a way that would permanently affect future generations.

The biologists fear that the new technique is so effective and easy to use that some physicians may push ahead with it before its safety can be properly assessed. They also want the public to understand the ethical issues surrounding the technique, which potentially could be used to cure genetic diseases, but also to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence, a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.

“You could exert control over human heredity with this technique, and that is why we are raising the issue,” said David Baltimore, a former president of the California Institute of Technology and a member of the group, whose paper on the topic was published in the journal Science.

Ethicists, for decades, have been concerned about the dangers of altering the human germ line — making changes to human sperm, eggs or embryos that will last through the life of the individual and be passed on to offspring. Until now, these worries have been theoretical. But a technique invented in 2012 makes it possible to edit the genome very precisely and with much greater ease than earlier methods. The technique has already been used to edit the genomes of mice, rats and monkeys, and few doubt that it would work the same way in people.

Any such use is tightly regulated in the United States and Europe. American scientists, for instance, would have to present a plan to treat genetic diseases in the human germ line to the Food and Drug Administration, which has not yet approved such a plan.

The biologists writing in Science, however, are concerned about those countries in which science is less well regulated. They urge that “scientists should avoid even attempting, in lax jurisdictions, germ line genome modification for clinical application in humans” until the full implications “are discussed among scientific and governmental organizations.” …

Dr. Doudna

The new genome-editing approach was invented by Jennifer A. Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier of Umea University in Sweden.

By the way, when we hear all the time about how horrible it is that women are not an equal percentage of nuclear bomb designers or whatever, it’s worth keeping in mind that the top women have tended to go into the life sciences rather than the death sciences.

Their method, known by the acronym Crispr-Cas9, co-opts the natural defense system with which bacteria precisely target the DNA of the viruses that attack them. Researchers can simply prime the defense system with a guide sequence of their choice and it will then home in on the matching DNA sequence in any genome presented to it. Dr. Doudna is the lead author of the Science article calling for control of the technique and organized the meeting at which the statement was developed.

Dr. Charpentier

Though highly efficient, the technique occasionally cuts the genome at unintended sites. This does not matter in laboratory experiments but could be hazardous when applied to the human germ line. The issue of how much mistargeting could be tolerated in a clinical setting is unresolved and is one that Dr. Doudna’s group wants to see thoroughly explored before any human genome is edited.

Scientists also say that replacing a defective gene with a normal one may seem not be entirely harmless, given that there is insufficient research about how genes interact.

This proposed moratorium seems prudent. Medical research on humans generally moves very slowly for very good reasons. You don’t want to mess up your child. In the case of germ line genetic engineering, you don’t want to mess up your descendants unto the seventh generation.

Practical genetic engineering for positive eugenics still seems a long, long way off, since most desirable traits appear to be the result of interactions of numerous genes that we don’t understand yet, with IQ being likely the most immensely complicated. Understanding, first, how to boost IQ, and, second, understanding the tradeoffs that would be involved, is daunting just to muse upon, much less to accomplish.

But what about genetic engineering for negative eugenics, such as fixing simple, well-understood genetic problems, such as Huntington’s, Tay-Sachs, or sickle cell anemia? For example, the Dor Yeshorim (or Committee for Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases) charity tests for Tay-Sachs to avoid marriages among those at risk for procreating children who would suffer from it. Would a higher tech version of negative eugenics appeal to those at risk?

Perhaps those kind of diseases are where germ line human genetic engineering will get its foot in the door?

As I’ve been saying since the 1990s, the inevitability at some point in the future of genetic engineering technologies implies that we ought to be studying the effects of naturally occurring human biodiversity in the present so we don’t walk into the next age of human history blinded by ideology.

 
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  1. What ethical issues? God is dead. Right?

    • Replies: @Stealth
    @Chris

    Pretty much. Like Ray Stantz, I've never met the guy.

    , @anowow
    @Chris

    Exactly.

    The moral and ethical confusion and chaos of our era. Who has the right to say anything?


    We are in an era when sodomy is government sanctioned and single moms who've made bad mating choices are lionized. Speculators are given preferrential tax treatment over workers.

    Teens can have abortions on demand, but must ask parental permission to get married. Because, the latter condition is irreversible, unlike the former.

  2. this could put a lot of HBD bloggers outta bidness!

  3. Are there a lot of purely negative adaptations? Doesn’t TAy Sachs lead to higher brain capacity if you only get it from one side? Can’t be sure it was TS but I remember some hereditary Jewish disease was like that

    • Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe
    @Mikeja

    "Are there a lot of purely negative adaptations? Doesn’t TAy Sachs lead to higher brain capacity if you only get it from one side? Can’t be sure it was TS but I remember some hereditary Jewish disease was like that"

    Getting the gene for Tay-Sachs from just one parent, confers a substantial degree of immunity to tubercolosis.

  4. Priss Factor [AKA "The Priss Factor"] says:

    Hmm, does this mean all races can be made equal in ability via bio-engineering?

    Then, all our issues might become obsolete.

    Maybe not a bad thing.

    • Replies: @Realist
    @Priss Factor

    There are some groups where this procedure would not be cost effective.

  5. I can understand the argument that the technology might not be ready for primetime. Let’s call it proposition 1.

    I can’t understand how selection for beauty, intelligence, and health can be a bad thing (Prop 2).

    My fear is that people will exaggerate the strength of the argument for Prop 1 because they believe in Prop 2. And Prop 2 is simply anti-human and evil.

    • Replies: @Veracitor
    @Hepp

    "...enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence, a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken."

    Who are those "many ethicists?" Why should we respect their bizarre opinion that the rest of us should "never" "enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence?" Are those "many ethicists" suffused with envy or hatred of beautiful and intelligent people? Or do those "many ethicists" possess rare beauty and intelligence which give them advantages they would lose if beauty and intelligence became common?

    I sure hope that sentence was mangled by an editor, because Nicholas Wade is usually a much better writer.

  6. Name another technological development that was successfully kept under wraps? In another age, the wearing of a sword was limited by the king, but plenty of men had weapons anyway. The crossbow was banned until everyone had one. Gun bans are another obvious failure. Nuclear weapons are the only example that comes to mind and that’s not a comforting example.

    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this. They have no problem harvesting organs from prisoners so they will have no fears about experimenting on future generations. The Russians will probably jump on this as well.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    @The Z Blog

    There's another high tech country besides China and Russia that doesn't care all that much about international opinion, and assumes the "eugenics=Nazis" conventional wisdom doesn't apply to them.

    Replies: @Lagertha, @Lagertha, @Massimo Heitor

    , @rod1963
    @The Z Blog

    Yep. The Chinese will undoubtedly go full bore into human experimentation given their innate lack of restraint and ethics.

    And if they don't I have no doubt that the Eugenics here in the U.S. and Europe will be making a beeline to countries where human experimentation isn't a issue provided you bribe the right people and keep out of sight. Especially the failures. Say like Argentina, Brazil, India and the Gulf States. If they start now, probably in 20-40 years they'll have a large database of what works and what doesn't.

    Of course this sort of research is pure evil because of what the scientists will put the mothers and their children through. But there is no shortage of heartless scientists. During the 1950's and 60's there were plenty of scientists who performed radiation experiments on American civilians and soldiers to see how they could take before dying or getting sick.

    About IQ, yeah increasing it would be a good thing provided you don't turn these newly minted gene jokes into sociopaths like the Silicon Valley robber barons or a serial killer like Durst.

    Of course that's not the philosophers stone which they really seek - I bet in the back of their minds they'd love to find a way of extending human life into the hundreds of years or more.

    , @HA
    @The Z Blog

    "I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this."

    Maybe, but as candid_observer noted, 'going' ahead is not the same as 'getting' ahead. A few years ago, we heard that the Koreans and the Chinese were going to leave the West behind by virtue of their lack of hang-ups regarding human cloning and embryonic stem cell technology. So far, nada from that (though perhaps it is too soon to say). Will this be any different?

    , @Jo S'more
    @The Z Blog



    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this. They have no problem harvesting organs from prisoners so they will have no fears about experimenting on future generations. The Russians will probably jump on this as well.

     

    Yeah, but if the Chinese were so hot for this kind of technology, why didn't they pursue it themselves in the first place?
    , @Massimo Heitor
    @The Z Blog


    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this.
     
    Chinese culture and government is more amenable to the basic idea and ethics, but the actual important research work and relevant biotech companies is happening elsewhere. Despite what you read in the New York Times, and the political environment in the US, the US research output and biotech firms have been and still are leading the push and the advancements in genetic engineering and much of modern medicine. There is important work done elsewhere particularly Europe, Japan, and even China, but US is a hotbed for this work.

    Look at Editas Medicine. They aren't writing op-eds, they are the ones making this a reality. Some of their star workers are Americans on Chinese descent, but it's a very US company.
  7. As I mentioned somewhere else on the net regarding this subject, once researchers perfect the technology of converting somatic cells to germ cells, this whole issue will be moot (one assumes there’s no objection at this time to editing somatic cell dna.)

  8. okay, who wants to bet that within 20 years, the Chinese upper class starts engineering themselves babies with blonde hair and blue eyes.

    we’d be able to figure out the relationship between genes and IQ much faster with a genetic engineering approach

    • Replies: @Alfa158
    @devil's advocate

    Not impossible, Mattell dropped the Chinese looking Barbie from that market due to slow sales. All the kids wanted the classic Barbie. Based on idealized depictions of people in Chinese illustrations though, I think they would start with giving their kids pale skin, narrower faces and slightly rounder eyes. The fashion could eventually evolve to pale eyes and light hair but with the features Euorasian. Something more like Japanese anime characters.

    , @Bill P
    @devil's advocate


    okay, who wants to bet that within 20 years, the Chinese upper class starts engineering themselves babies with blonde hair and blue eyes.
     
    Chances are the first models out of China will resemble manbearpig more than some Aryan goddess.
  9. @Hmm, does this mean all races can be made equal in ability via bio-engineering?

    just clone everybody so they are exactly identical.

    one gene to rule them all, one gene to find them, one gene to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

    • Replies: @Eustace Tilley (not)
    @let it burn

    juicing seals:

    I despair of democracy when I stumble across "contributions" such as yours. "Keep to your cabins; you do assist the storm!"

  10. My fear is that people will exaggerate the strength of the argument for Prop 1 because they believe in Prop 2. And Prop 2 is simply anti-human and evil.

    You pretty much nailed it.

    We know that China and likely other Asian countries will never enact such bans, so all this is going to do is help their genetic science industries and hurt the West’s. Especially Europe’s.

  11. @The Z Blog
    Name another technological development that was successfully kept under wraps? In another age, the wearing of a sword was limited by the king, but plenty of men had weapons anyway. The crossbow was banned until everyone had one. Gun bans are another obvious failure. Nuclear weapons are the only example that comes to mind and that's not a comforting example.

    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this. They have no problem harvesting organs from prisoners so they will have no fears about experimenting on future generations. The Russians will probably jump on this as well.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @rod1963, @HA, @Jo S'more, @Massimo Heitor

    There’s another high tech country besides China and Russia that doesn’t care all that much about international opinion, and assumes the “eugenics=Nazis” conventional wisdom doesn’t apply to them.

    • Replies: @Lagertha
    @Steve Sailer

    I don't mean to cavil on your post but: I just read "germ" in the 4th paragraph when I think it was supposed to be "gene?"

    , @Lagertha
    @Steve Sailer

    I don't mean to cavil on your post but: I just read "germ" a few times when I think it was supposed to be "gene?" Or have I always been dense in biology?

    Replies: @Massimo Heitor

    , @Massimo Heitor
    @Steve Sailer


    There’s another high tech country besides China and Russia that doesn’t care all that much about international opinion, and assumes the “eugenics=Nazis” conventional wisdom doesn’t apply to them.
     
    Israel?

    Sailer and crowd are absolutely wrong to focus completely on the political climate and social taboos and just ignore where the actual technical progress and breakthroughs are happening.

    Some of the biggest CRISPR/Cas genetic engineering research breakthroughs have come out of Berkeley, California. Some of the most promising biotechs doing real life human genetic engineering like Editas are in Cambridge, MA.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer

  12. Would be nice if I could ensure any potential daughters don’t inherit my BRCA1 mutation.

  13. One thing I’ve never seen mentioned regarding these techniques is how likely completely ineffective they will be for the vast majority of traits we care about.

    Why?

    Because these traits, as it turns out, are correlated with virtually no SNPs of anything but the most trivial effect; in order to change the trait at a genetic level, it would, presumably, require thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of changes to the DNA. IQ is one such, but virtually all behavioral traits fall in this bin as well — indeed so do many diseases with a genetic component.

    Given that we don’t know how to make such vast changes reliably, and we don’t know what the consequences would be of such vast changes across so many other traits we might care about, I just don’t see the feasibility of bringing about these genetic changes far into the distant future.

    If there’s something wrong with this reasoning, I’d genuinely appreciate someone more knowledgeable pointing it out to me.

    • Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe
    @candid_observer

    "Given that we don’t know how to make such vast changes reliably, and we don’t know what the consequences would be of such vast changes across so many other traits we might care about, I just don’t see the feasibility of bringing about these genetic changes far into the distant future."

    You may be correct, but I suspect a few decades of research within the context of an amoral disregard for the sanctity of human life, will be quite sufficient for the Chinese to hash this out for us.

  14. @The Z Blog
    Name another technological development that was successfully kept under wraps? In another age, the wearing of a sword was limited by the king, but plenty of men had weapons anyway. The crossbow was banned until everyone had one. Gun bans are another obvious failure. Nuclear weapons are the only example that comes to mind and that's not a comforting example.

    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this. They have no problem harvesting organs from prisoners so they will have no fears about experimenting on future generations. The Russians will probably jump on this as well.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @rod1963, @HA, @Jo S'more, @Massimo Heitor

    Yep. The Chinese will undoubtedly go full bore into human experimentation given their innate lack of restraint and ethics.

    And if they don’t I have no doubt that the Eugenics here in the U.S. and Europe will be making a beeline to countries where human experimentation isn’t a issue provided you bribe the right people and keep out of sight. Especially the failures. Say like Argentina, Brazil, India and the Gulf States. If they start now, probably in 20-40 years they’ll have a large database of what works and what doesn’t.

    Of course this sort of research is pure evil because of what the scientists will put the mothers and their children through. But there is no shortage of heartless scientists. During the 1950’s and 60’s there were plenty of scientists who performed radiation experiments on American civilians and soldiers to see how they could take before dying or getting sick.

    About IQ, yeah increasing it would be a good thing provided you don’t turn these newly minted gene jokes into sociopaths like the Silicon Valley robber barons or a serial killer like Durst.

    Of course that’s not the philosophers stone which they really seek – I bet in the back of their minds they’d love to find a way of extending human life into the hundreds of years or more.

  15. Anyone taking odds on whether the New York Times will stick by their Razib Khan hire or whether the nascent SJW attempt to get him removed will gather steam?

    • Replies: @Anon
    @Earl Lemongrab

    I hadn't heard this. Is it a real thing or just a few SJW people complaining.

    Replies: @shk12344, @NOTA

  16. To the people who say “China will do it anyway”:

    You may be right, and I hope so. But also don’t underestimate how often Asians simply end up aping Western norms. In South Korea recently, the Supreme Court just struck down their anti-adultery law. You think a court would’ve made a decision in favor of “sexual freedom” without Western influence?

    The threat is that Western scientists influence their colleagues abroad and turn the world against human improvement. In the long run, though, I’m hopeful that some states will be immune, and the payoffs may be so great that others can’t ignore it.

    • Replies: @shk12344
    @Hepp

    Just to let you know, anti-adultery law was originally passed in 1953 to give some legal protection to wives who have cheating husbands. The repeal of anti-adultery law really has nothing to do with kind of sexual freedom that is practiced in the West.

    Replies: @Hepp

    , @Anonymous
    @Hepp

    Note that none of the East Asian countries wanted to modernize and open up to trade. They tried to remain closed and preserve their way of life even if it meant less wealth and technology. Korea was even known as the "Hermit Kingdom". They only opened up and modernized because they were forced to by the Western powers or by circumstance.

    Replies: @Hepp

  17. @Chris
    What ethical issues? God is dead. Right?

    Replies: @Stealth, @anowow

    Pretty much. Like Ray Stantz, I’ve never met the guy.

  18. “Practical genetic engineering for positive eugenics still seems a long, long way off, since most desirable traits appear to be the result of interactions of numerous genes that we don’t understand yet, with IQ being likely the most immensely complicated. Understanding, first, how to boost IQ, and, second, understanding the tradeoffs that would be involved, is daunting just to muse upon, much less to accomplish.”

    No, I don’t think that it’s that far off. In fact, I think that you could do it now if you had sufficient willpower.

    1. Get a big dataset with millions of people with different IQs and get their genotypes (BGI is getting a big dataset, and it’s selected to have a group of people with high IQs).

    2. Use a linear model (inshallah, a convolutional or recurrent neural network) to predict phenotype variables.

    3. Generate a bunch of stem cell colonies and prune them based on the predicted phenotype.

    4. Implant stem cells from the selected colony.

    Presumably taking the top k% of the kids that you could have had randomly will make a big difference, even though it would be less powerful than editing specific genes.

    • Replies: @candid_observer
    @Alex

    Well, what you're describing is not exactly what I'd call genetic engineering -- it's just selection of genomes for desirable characteristics. It's just very fast, effective selection.

    Replies: @Uptown Resident

    , @Alfa158
    @Alex

    BGI is just the start. Killing this technology is like trying to ban gunpowder. Certainly there is potential for screw-ups hurting the subjects rather than improving them, but I wonder if the bioethicists trying to ban the technology are actually more worried that it will work as promised rather than that it will have negative effects. They are probably inclined to the nurture versus nature theory of humanity, and genetic engineering it will make too obvious that our genes affect a lot more than our superficial cosmetic differences.
    In any event the position is irrelevant; if the technology is practicable it will be adopted, and those societies who hold back will be left in a cave screaming KHAAAANNNNN!!!

  19. @Alex
    "Practical genetic engineering for positive eugenics still seems a long, long way off, since most desirable traits appear to be the result of interactions of numerous genes that we don’t understand yet, with IQ being likely the most immensely complicated. Understanding, first, how to boost IQ, and, second, understanding the tradeoffs that would be involved, is daunting just to muse upon, much less to accomplish."

    No, I don't think that it's that far off. In fact, I think that you could do it now if you had sufficient willpower.

    1. Get a big dataset with millions of people with different IQs and get their genotypes (BGI is getting a big dataset, and it's selected to have a group of people with high IQs).

    2. Use a linear model (inshallah, a convolutional or recurrent neural network) to predict phenotype variables.

    3. Generate a bunch of stem cell colonies and prune them based on the predicted phenotype.

    4. Implant stem cells from the selected colony.

    Presumably taking the top k% of the kids that you could have had randomly will make a big difference, even though it would be less powerful than editing specific genes.

    Replies: @candid_observer, @Alfa158

    Well, what you’re describing is not exactly what I’d call genetic engineering — it’s just selection of genomes for desirable characteristics. It’s just very fast, effective selection.

    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    @candid_observer

    Right, civilizations have been "editing" the genomes of their populations, the slow way, for millennia.

    Before marriage was a civil right, it was a technology that society used to control reproduction.

    Replies: @Anonymous

  20. James Thompson has blogged http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.com/2015/03/genes-for-class-education-and-iq.html about the paper

    E Krapohl and R Plomin (2015) Genetic link between family socioeconomic status and children’s educational achievement estimated from genome-wide SNPs. Molecular Psychiatry (2015), 1–7

    http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/mp20152a.pdf

    It seems to contradict Steve’s assertion

    “Practical genetic engineering for positive eugenics still seems a long, long way off, since most desirable traits appear to be the result of interactions of numerous genes that we don’t understand yet, with IQ being likely the most immensely complicated.”

    • Replies: @candid_observer
    @Beliavsky

    Don't see the contradiction, at least looking at the abstract:


    Moreover, genome-wide polygenic scores based on a previously published genome-wide association meta-analysis of total number of years in education accounted for ~3.0% variance in educational achievement and ~2.5% in family SES.
     
    That's not a lot of effect, and, while I haven't gone through the paper, I'd expect that even this small result involves a great many SNPs.
    , @Uptown Resident
    @Beliavsky

    Has someone written a lay synosis of this paper for readers with liberal arts degrees? It would seemingly corroborate Gregory clark's work on the persistence of class across generations

  21. @Earl Lemongrab
    Anyone taking odds on whether the New York Times will stick by their Razib Khan hire or whether the nascent SJW attempt to get him removed will gather steam?

    Replies: @Anon

    I hadn’t heard this. Is it a real thing or just a few SJW people complaining.

    • Replies: @shk12344
    @Anon

    Below is the link for Gawker article about Razib Khan, posted by a commenter in an earlier Sailer commentary

    The original link from Gawker website,

    http://tktk.gawker.com/new-times-op-ed-writer-has-a-colorful-past-with-racist-1692187849

    For those who would rather not click on Gawker website, here's the "safe" link,

    https://archive.today/fyiVY

    Some tidbits from the article,

    "According to his Times author page, Khan is “a science blogger, a programmer and a doctoral candidate in genomics and genetics at the University of California, Davis.” Omitted from the paper’s biography, as a quick Google search indicates, is Khan’s history with racist, far-right online publications."

    "....A decade earlier, in 2000, Khan wrote a letter to VDARE, a white nationalist website named after the first white child born in America, in which he discussed another VDARE essay by Steve Sailer, the openly racist science writer, concerning the threat of the United States becoming “more genetically and culturally Mexican."

    Replies: @Anon

    , @NOTA
    @Anon

    The nature of Twitter storms is that it's very hard to tell how many real humans (as opposed to sockpuppets) are involved, and harder still to determine what fraction of the humans involved know and care deeply about the issue vs just having retweeted something they saw somewhere.

  22. @Beliavsky
    James Thompson has blogged http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.com/2015/03/genes-for-class-education-and-iq.html about the paper

    E Krapohl and R Plomin (2015) Genetic link between family socioeconomic status and children’s educational achievement estimated from genome-wide SNPs. Molecular Psychiatry (2015), 1–7

    http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/mp20152a.pdf

    It seems to contradict Steve's assertion

    "Practical genetic engineering for positive eugenics still seems a long, long way off, since most desirable traits appear to be the result of interactions of numerous genes that we don’t understand yet, with IQ being likely the most immensely complicated."

    Replies: @candid_observer, @Uptown Resident

    Don’t see the contradiction, at least looking at the abstract:

    Moreover, genome-wide polygenic scores based on a previously published genome-wide association meta-analysis of total number of years in education accounted for ~3.0% variance in educational achievement and ~2.5% in family SES.

    That’s not a lot of effect, and, while I haven’t gone through the paper, I’d expect that even this small result involves a great many SNPs.

  23. We already have the technology to select for desired traits: preimplantation genetic diagnosis. It is frequently used to avoid things like Tay-Sachs.

  24. I think the near impossibility of any genetic engineering for behavioral traits may be a corollary to the recently proposed Fourth Law of Behavioral Genetics:

    On the basis of molecular studies that have measured DNA variation directly, we propose a Fourth Law of Behavior Genetics: “A typical human behavioral trait is associated with very many genetic variants, each of which accounts for a very small percentage of the behavioral variability.”

    See Razib’s commentary on the paper proposing this:

    https://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-fourth-law-of-behavior-genetics/

  25. @Alex
    "Practical genetic engineering for positive eugenics still seems a long, long way off, since most desirable traits appear to be the result of interactions of numerous genes that we don’t understand yet, with IQ being likely the most immensely complicated. Understanding, first, how to boost IQ, and, second, understanding the tradeoffs that would be involved, is daunting just to muse upon, much less to accomplish."

    No, I don't think that it's that far off. In fact, I think that you could do it now if you had sufficient willpower.

    1. Get a big dataset with millions of people with different IQs and get their genotypes (BGI is getting a big dataset, and it's selected to have a group of people with high IQs).

    2. Use a linear model (inshallah, a convolutional or recurrent neural network) to predict phenotype variables.

    3. Generate a bunch of stem cell colonies and prune them based on the predicted phenotype.

    4. Implant stem cells from the selected colony.

    Presumably taking the top k% of the kids that you could have had randomly will make a big difference, even though it would be less powerful than editing specific genes.

    Replies: @candid_observer, @Alfa158

    BGI is just the start. Killing this technology is like trying to ban gunpowder. Certainly there is potential for screw-ups hurting the subjects rather than improving them, but I wonder if the bioethicists trying to ban the technology are actually more worried that it will work as promised rather than that it will have negative effects. They are probably inclined to the nurture versus nature theory of humanity, and genetic engineering it will make too obvious that our genes affect a lot more than our superficial cosmetic differences.
    In any event the position is irrelevant; if the technology is practicable it will be adopted, and those societies who hold back will be left in a cave screaming KHAAAANNNNN!!!

  26. @devil's advocate
    okay, who wants to bet that within 20 years, the Chinese upper class starts engineering themselves babies with blonde hair and blue eyes.

    we'd be able to figure out the relationship between genes and IQ much faster with a genetic engineering approach

    Replies: @Alfa158, @Bill P

    Not impossible, Mattell dropped the Chinese looking Barbie from that market due to slow sales. All the kids wanted the classic Barbie. Based on idealized depictions of people in Chinese illustrations though, I think they would start with giving their kids pale skin, narrower faces and slightly rounder eyes. The fashion could eventually evolve to pale eyes and light hair but with the features Euorasian. Something more like Japanese anime characters.

  27. @Hepp
    To the people who say "China will do it anyway":

    You may be right, and I hope so. But also don't underestimate how often Asians simply end up aping Western norms. In South Korea recently, the Supreme Court just struck down their anti-adultery law. You think a court would've made a decision in favor of "sexual freedom" without Western influence?

    The threat is that Western scientists influence their colleagues abroad and turn the world against human improvement. In the long run, though, I'm hopeful that some states will be immune, and the payoffs may be so great that others can't ignore it.

    Replies: @shk12344, @Anonymous

    Just to let you know, anti-adultery law was originally passed in 1953 to give some legal protection to wives who have cheating husbands. The repeal of anti-adultery law really has nothing to do with kind of sexual freedom that is practiced in the West.

    • Replies: @Hepp
    @shk12344

    The historical context matters less than what the law represents now. Striking it down is a pathetic attempt to be more like Western societies.

  28. @shk12344
    @Hepp

    Just to let you know, anti-adultery law was originally passed in 1953 to give some legal protection to wives who have cheating husbands. The repeal of anti-adultery law really has nothing to do with kind of sexual freedom that is practiced in the West.

    Replies: @Hepp

    The historical context matters less than what the law represents now. Striking it down is a pathetic attempt to be more like Western societies.

  29. Tay Sachs seems an ideal early target. Children born with Tay Sachs currently die by the age of 4 and there are no currently available treatment options. Even if there is risk of negative side effects, imminent death is usually worse. Saving children’s lives that would otherwise have no hope is a noble deed. The entire political spectrum would celebrate it and there will be minimal objections. Additionally, it can attract all kinds of early funding and grant money.

    People with Sickle Cell regularly survive into their fifties or longer and people with Huntingtons disease generally don’t start to show problems until their twenties, so there is less demand for treatments, and there will be less tolerance for risks or negative side effects.

    I imagine a single point mutation on a single nucleotide is about as technically simple as it gets. Clearly, the technically simple goals should be targeted first, before the more complex goals. Things like IQ and personality, beyond the ethics and controversy, are far more technically complicated so they will inevitably have to wait for the more attainable goals and the technology to mature.

    Editas Medicine (http://www.editasmedicine.com/) is one to watch. They are supposedly far along in bringing human genetic engineering treatments to clinical practice. I am not sure if they are doing germline modification or somatic, but either way, it’s a big step, and will lead to technical process improvements and better understanding.

    The second major avenue that genetic engineering technology will mature is through the food industry as seen with crops and soon with livestock. The first transgenic salmon have been approved for market use. AFAIK, that is the first time we’ve modified livestock as opposed to plants for large scale human use. That is bound to lead to engineering and process improvements.

    For the last few years, I’ve been searching for a way that I shift my career to something where I still have a salaried job, but I am making some form of technical contribution to the bigger goal of human genetic engineering. Bioinformatics is one popular option. The actual genetic lab work is very hard to get into outside of a full time PhD program. I’d like to see better ideas along these lines for me and other young engineering types who are interested.

  30. @Steve Sailer
    @The Z Blog

    There's another high tech country besides China and Russia that doesn't care all that much about international opinion, and assumes the "eugenics=Nazis" conventional wisdom doesn't apply to them.

    Replies: @Lagertha, @Lagertha, @Massimo Heitor

    I don’t mean to cavil on your post but: I just read “germ” in the 4th paragraph when I think it was supposed to be “gene?”

  31. @Steve Sailer
    @The Z Blog

    There's another high tech country besides China and Russia that doesn't care all that much about international opinion, and assumes the "eugenics=Nazis" conventional wisdom doesn't apply to them.

    Replies: @Lagertha, @Lagertha, @Massimo Heitor

    I don’t mean to cavil on your post but: I just read “germ” a few times when I think it was supposed to be “gene?” Or have I always been dense in biology?

    • Replies: @Massimo Heitor
    @Lagertha

    Germ is correct. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_cell

  32. @Anon
    @Earl Lemongrab

    I hadn't heard this. Is it a real thing or just a few SJW people complaining.

    Replies: @shk12344, @NOTA

    Below is the link for Gawker article about Razib Khan, posted by a commenter in an earlier Sailer commentary

    The original link from Gawker website,

    http://tktk.gawker.com/new-times-op-ed-writer-has-a-colorful-past-with-racist-1692187849

    For those who would rather not click on Gawker website, here’s the “safe” link,

    https://archive.today/fyiVY

    Some tidbits from the article,

    “According to his Times author page, Khan is “a science blogger, a programmer and a doctoral candidate in genomics and genetics at the University of California, Davis.” Omitted from the paper’s biography, as a quick Google search indicates, is Khan’s history with racist, far-right online publications.”

    “….A decade earlier, in 2000, Khan wrote a letter to VDARE, a white nationalist website named after the first white child born in America, in which he discussed another VDARE essay by Steve Sailer, the openly racist science writer, concerning the threat of the United States becoming “more genetically and culturally Mexican.”

    • Replies: @Anon
    @shk12344

    Thanks. I had a look and it's pretty depressing punch him, kill him, sack him, kick him out of his phd etc. Parts are quite funny - based on the premise than Rzaib is Hindu a discussion of how Indians shouldn't be racist vs how the caste system is inherently racist or endless discussions of whether/why brown people are racist.
    The comments also follow a pattern I have seen before. At the top someone asserts ("scientific racism" is false because 1 science 2 race is a social construct 3 iq doesn't exist) then further down if these assumptions are challenged in any way people assert that they have already been proved. I really hope this doesn't affect his NYT job although I suspect it might.
    Looking though some of the linked material I think that like all of us he might have been less careful or maybe less thoughtful when he was younger. On the other hand this might reflect my bias.

  33. To be precise, crispr was invented and perfected by two polish guys working in the Sweden lady’s lab.

  34. @Sailer,

    I just happened to reading an article that speaks directly about that particular country that doesn’t believe the opposition to Eugenics doesn’t apply to them.

    It said Eugenics goes way back as a means to raise IQ. Wealthy merchants would marry of daughters to Rabbinical students with proven intellect and urged to have many offspring. This is contrasted to the Catholic way that would take the smartest peasants and stick them in monasteries or convents.

    It mentioned a 1930s policy recommendation of three points:
    “Social Eugenics will accomplish the following: It will reduce future welfare rolls. It will reduce our prison population. It will reduce future crimes. It will consist of a simple three-point plan: First, the Aid to Dependent Children will be phased out. . . . Second . . . Persons on Welfare who consent to sterilization will receive a one thousand dollar cash bonus. . . Third, all prison inmates will be [given] a three-year reduction in their prison sentences if they consent to sterilization.”

    This belief persisted until the late 60s when the Holocaust begin to get rolling. Then anti-eugenics writers began to get the upper hand:

    “they became more dogmatic, and less rigorously scientific. Their readers were taught that certain opinions are acceptable, even praiseworthy, whereas others are forbidden, held only by screwballs and evil-doers. For example, according to them, all good and decent people believe the following: that heredity counts for nothing; that race doesn’t exist; that IQ is a fraud invented by White men who wanted to feel superior; that everyone is born exactly the same on everything that matters. Obviously, if only the environment determines human behavior, then there’s no point in eugenics.”

    But then that is belief that is appropriate for us, but not for them.

    “Unlike the U.S. situation, this anti-eugenics view never even got off the ground in Israel. Behavioral scientist Aviad Raz (b. 1968) of Ben Gurion University is quite open in pointing out that both the word ‘eugenics’ and the actual practice of eugenics enjoy broad approval in that country, and objections to eugenics – at least as far as genetic screening combined with eugenic abortions – are a ‘non-issue’ in Israel: Eugenic ideologies and practices have persisted in Israel, in a thinly disguised mode, even after the holocaust, because they were an inherent and formative part of Zionism . . . [P]renatal genetic testing was eugenic and was indeed supported precisely for that reason, since ‘eugenic’ for them meant the improvement of the health of progeny and carried positive rather than negative connotations.”

    I read where there is a whole bunch of Jewish Fairy Tales where the protagonist is celebrated for hoodwinking the Goyim. This would seem like the biggest hoodwinking of them all.

  35. HA says:
    @The Z Blog
    Name another technological development that was successfully kept under wraps? In another age, the wearing of a sword was limited by the king, but plenty of men had weapons anyway. The crossbow was banned until everyone had one. Gun bans are another obvious failure. Nuclear weapons are the only example that comes to mind and that's not a comforting example.

    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this. They have no problem harvesting organs from prisoners so they will have no fears about experimenting on future generations. The Russians will probably jump on this as well.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @rod1963, @HA, @Jo S'more, @Massimo Heitor

    “I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this.”

    Maybe, but as candid_observer noted, ‘going’ ahead is not the same as ‘getting’ ahead. A few years ago, we heard that the Koreans and the Chinese were going to leave the West behind by virtue of their lack of hang-ups regarding human cloning and embryonic stem cell technology. So far, nada from that (though perhaps it is too soon to say). Will this be any different?

  36. This might be the final thrust of the sword into the neck of the blank slatists. If genes don’t matter, why should this? They will have to finally admit they were wrong and go back to advocating for the left side of the bell curve based on pity as in the bible vs. out of social justice / fairness like Marx.

  37. “…to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence, a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.”

    No no, we mustn’t do that. That would go against all the efforts we’re making to dumb down everything. It would upset all the mediocre people that we’ve been trying so hard to enable and please. It would divert the breeding trajectory we are currently on.

    BTW, I find Drs. Doudna and Charpentier to be rather alluring. They are good examples of the brains and beauty that should be cultivated in future generations.

    Also, as Steve indicates, even if the elite propagandize us into viewing this as ungood, their cousins in other places might have no qualms about using it to augment their exceptionalistic traditions.

  38. @candid_observer
    @Alex

    Well, what you're describing is not exactly what I'd call genetic engineering -- it's just selection of genomes for desirable characteristics. It's just very fast, effective selection.

    Replies: @Uptown Resident

    Right, civilizations have been “editing” the genomes of their populations, the slow way, for millennia.

    Before marriage was a civil right, it was a technology that society used to control reproduction.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    @Uptown Resident

    The difference is that until now civilizations didn't have the sufficient technology to upend sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction was preserved.

    This sort of technology directly involves 3rd parties and social infrastructure in the procreative process and thus represents a departure from sexual reproduction and its meiotic lottery.

    Replies: @Uptown Resident, @WhatEvvs

  39. @Beliavsky
    James Thompson has blogged http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.com/2015/03/genes-for-class-education-and-iq.html about the paper

    E Krapohl and R Plomin (2015) Genetic link between family socioeconomic status and children’s educational achievement estimated from genome-wide SNPs. Molecular Psychiatry (2015), 1–7

    http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/mp20152a.pdf

    It seems to contradict Steve's assertion

    "Practical genetic engineering for positive eugenics still seems a long, long way off, since most desirable traits appear to be the result of interactions of numerous genes that we don’t understand yet, with IQ being likely the most immensely complicated."

    Replies: @candid_observer, @Uptown Resident

    Has someone written a lay synosis of this paper for readers with liberal arts degrees? It would seemingly corroborate Gregory clark’s work on the persistence of class across generations

  40. @devil's advocate
    okay, who wants to bet that within 20 years, the Chinese upper class starts engineering themselves babies with blonde hair and blue eyes.

    we'd be able to figure out the relationship between genes and IQ much faster with a genetic engineering approach

    Replies: @Alfa158, @Bill P

    okay, who wants to bet that within 20 years, the Chinese upper class starts engineering themselves babies with blonde hair and blue eyes.

    Chances are the first models out of China will resemble manbearpig more than some Aryan goddess.

  41. “[The technique] could be used to cure genetic diseases, but also to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence, a path than many ethicists believe should never be taken.”

    “never”? Even when all possible unintended
    consequences have been eliminated?
    I am trying to image what the argument could
    be for such an extreme position, which sounds
    like it comes from the dialog of an old
    “Frankenstein” movie. Following this policy
    means that beauty must always be artificial
    (makeup, breast implants, etc.), never
    intentionally inborn.

    The scientists identified here, however, are
    more reasonable: what they say is “Let us
    proceed very carefully.”

    And it is doubtful whether in the long run
    governments could prevent some billionaire from
    buying land in Central America for a Jurassic Park-
    like laboratory of practical eugenics on an Island
    of Dr. George S. Moreau — and makings lots of money
    from Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and other rich celebrities
    in need of designer babies.

    • Replies: @IA
    @Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

    "I am trying to image what the argument could
    be for such an extreme position"

    One such argument would be, how do you know you won't create people even more evil than us dumb ones.

  42. “…to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence, a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.”

    So now we have the PC cult saying that genes have no effect and at the same time that said genes shouldn’t be used to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence.

    • Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe
    @anon

    "So now we have the PC cult saying that genes have no effect and at the same time that said genes shouldn’t be used to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence."

    I don't understand why you assume people skeptical of this technology, are part of "the PC cult." I'm skeptical of this technology myself. I don't see how a person can NOT be skeptical of it, without being marked as a fool, at this stage of the process. One has to embrace recklessly altering the human genome, in order to prove one isn't a supporter of Hillary? How odd.

  43. I agree with this ban. I wonder why no one suggests banning these frivolous and useless experimentation creating bipaternal and bimaternal mice.

  44. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @shk12344
    @Anon

    Below is the link for Gawker article about Razib Khan, posted by a commenter in an earlier Sailer commentary

    The original link from Gawker website,

    http://tktk.gawker.com/new-times-op-ed-writer-has-a-colorful-past-with-racist-1692187849

    For those who would rather not click on Gawker website, here's the "safe" link,

    https://archive.today/fyiVY

    Some tidbits from the article,

    "According to his Times author page, Khan is “a science blogger, a programmer and a doctoral candidate in genomics and genetics at the University of California, Davis.” Omitted from the paper’s biography, as a quick Google search indicates, is Khan’s history with racist, far-right online publications."

    "....A decade earlier, in 2000, Khan wrote a letter to VDARE, a white nationalist website named after the first white child born in America, in which he discussed another VDARE essay by Steve Sailer, the openly racist science writer, concerning the threat of the United States becoming “more genetically and culturally Mexican."

    Replies: @Anon

    Thanks. I had a look and it’s pretty depressing punch him, kill him, sack him, kick him out of his phd etc. Parts are quite funny – based on the premise than Rzaib is Hindu a discussion of how Indians shouldn’t be racist vs how the caste system is inherently racist or endless discussions of whether/why brown people are racist.
    The comments also follow a pattern I have seen before. At the top someone asserts (“scientific racism” is false because 1 science 2 race is a social construct 3 iq doesn’t exist) then further down if these assumptions are challenged in any way people assert that they have already been proved. I really hope this doesn’t affect his NYT job although I suspect it might.
    Looking though some of the linked material I think that like all of us he might have been less careful or maybe less thoughtful when he was younger. On the other hand this might reflect my bias.

  45. Seems to me that embryo selection is still the most promising medium term path. Fertilize 10 embryos, analyze their genomes, pick the one with the lowest genetic load.

  46. @Uptown Resident
    @candid_observer

    Right, civilizations have been "editing" the genomes of their populations, the slow way, for millennia.

    Before marriage was a civil right, it was a technology that society used to control reproduction.

    Replies: @Anonymous

    The difference is that until now civilizations didn’t have the sufficient technology to upend sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction was preserved.

    This sort of technology directly involves 3rd parties and social infrastructure in the procreative process and thus represents a departure from sexual reproduction and its meiotic lottery.

    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    @Anonymous

    True, societies have been obliged to work through sexual reproduction (in humans and other animals; not plants, though ... We've been grafting since preclassical antiquity).

    Even so, third parties could still get involved in shaping reproduction patterns before Crispr. parents, the church, laws prohibiting disparagement and kin marriages, etc. In the classic "the world we we have lost," early modern historian Peter laslett shows describes how villagers who were worried about poor people marrying and having children they couldn't feed, effectively prevented "beggar weddings" through the marriage banns system.

    Replies: @Anonymous

    , @WhatEvvs
    @Anonymous

    Do you really think society has "sufficient technology" to upend sexual reproduction? Or do you think it's one of those things scientists say when they want grant money?

  47. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Hepp
    To the people who say "China will do it anyway":

    You may be right, and I hope so. But also don't underestimate how often Asians simply end up aping Western norms. In South Korea recently, the Supreme Court just struck down their anti-adultery law. You think a court would've made a decision in favor of "sexual freedom" without Western influence?

    The threat is that Western scientists influence their colleagues abroad and turn the world against human improvement. In the long run, though, I'm hopeful that some states will be immune, and the payoffs may be so great that others can't ignore it.

    Replies: @shk12344, @Anonymous

    Note that none of the East Asian countries wanted to modernize and open up to trade. They tried to remain closed and preserve their way of life even if it meant less wealth and technology. Korea was even known as the “Hermit Kingdom”. They only opened up and modernized because they were forced to by the Western powers or by circumstance.

    • Replies: @Hepp
    @Anonymous

    No one "forced" Asian countries to open up their economies. Had they just remained anti-Communist, the US wouldn't have cared what else they did. They opened up their economies because they wanted to get wealthier. That's fine. The only potential problem is if they ape Western social norms regarding sex and immigration.

    Replies: @Anonymous

  48. @Chris
    What ethical issues? God is dead. Right?

    Replies: @Stealth, @anowow

    Exactly.

    The moral and ethical confusion and chaos of our era. Who has the right to say anything?

    We are in an era when sodomy is government sanctioned and single moms who’ve made bad mating choices are lionized. Speculators are given preferrential tax treatment over workers.

    Teens can have abortions on demand, but must ask parental permission to get married. Because, the latter condition is irreversible, unlike the former.

  49. Razib is gone from the NYT. I found Razib to be a mean-spirited and nasty person, but I’m sad he won’t be on the NYT editorial page

    http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/03/new-york-times-drops-razib-khan-204287.html

    • Replies: @anowow
    @Hepp

    Razib Khan is gone because the NYT is run by a bunch of spineless centrists.

    Those basket cases over at gawker would have no clout, none at all, no ability to coerce using shame if not for the susceptibility of Democrat and GOP liberals. Similar case in point, Kanye West race-shaming Dubya. And it worked. It worked.


    It says something when otherwise productive, intelligent people allow themselves to be manipulated by individuals all sporting an array of psychological and emotional hang-ups. It seems like the American Far Left, who are to be distinguished from actual old-fashioned Communists, is filled with dysfunctional sorts who would otherwise have long since committed suicide directly or indirectly via substance abuse or unsafe immoral activities/behaviors unless they found causes to justify their continued existence.

    This country can shock and awe the heck out of foreign peasants who pose no threat to ourselves or our way of life, but it is powerless in the face of our domestic human refuse.

    , @P
    @Hepp

    Someone once described Razib as a graduate of the "Greg Cochran School of Charm". He's a somewhat ornery character, but I've read him for years and will continue to do so.

    I was slightly surprised when the NYT started publishing him as his views and associations are well known and easy to find out about. Perhaps they thought that his ethno-religious background would protect him.

  50. @Anonymous
    @Uptown Resident

    The difference is that until now civilizations didn't have the sufficient technology to upend sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction was preserved.

    This sort of technology directly involves 3rd parties and social infrastructure in the procreative process and thus represents a departure from sexual reproduction and its meiotic lottery.

    Replies: @Uptown Resident, @WhatEvvs

    True, societies have been obliged to work through sexual reproduction (in humans and other animals; not plants, though … We’ve been grafting since preclassical antiquity).

    Even so, third parties could still get involved in shaping reproduction patterns before Crispr. parents, the church, laws prohibiting disparagement and kin marriages, etc. In the classic “the world we we have lost,” early modern historian Peter laslett shows describes how villagers who were worried about poor people marrying and having children they couldn’t feed, effectively prevented “beggar weddings” through the marriage banns system.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    @Uptown Resident

    This technology directly involves 3rd parties and social infrastructure in the procreative act. It's a fundamental departure from sexual reproduction and its meiotic lottery. It's not akin to prior social customs, which couldn't intrude upon and upend sexual reproduction and the meiotic lottery itself.

  51. @Anonymous
    @Hepp

    Note that none of the East Asian countries wanted to modernize and open up to trade. They tried to remain closed and preserve their way of life even if it meant less wealth and technology. Korea was even known as the "Hermit Kingdom". They only opened up and modernized because they were forced to by the Western powers or by circumstance.

    Replies: @Hepp

    No one “forced” Asian countries to open up their economies. Had they just remained anti-Communist, the US wouldn’t have cared what else they did. They opened up their economies because they wanted to get wealthier. That’s fine. The only potential problem is if they ape Western social norms regarding sex and immigration.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    @Hepp

    I'm talking about before the Cold War.

  52. @The Z Blog
    Name another technological development that was successfully kept under wraps? In another age, the wearing of a sword was limited by the king, but plenty of men had weapons anyway. The crossbow was banned until everyone had one. Gun bans are another obvious failure. Nuclear weapons are the only example that comes to mind and that's not a comforting example.

    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this. They have no problem harvesting organs from prisoners so they will have no fears about experimenting on future generations. The Russians will probably jump on this as well.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @rod1963, @HA, @Jo S'more, @Massimo Heitor

    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this. They have no problem harvesting organs from prisoners so they will have no fears about experimenting on future generations. The Russians will probably jump on this as well.

    Yeah, but if the Chinese were so hot for this kind of technology, why didn’t they pursue it themselves in the first place?

  53. @Hepp
    Razib is gone from the NYT. I found Razib to be a mean-spirited and nasty person, but I'm sad he won't be on the NYT editorial page

    http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/03/new-york-times-drops-razib-khan-204287.html

    Replies: @anowow, @P

    Razib Khan is gone because the NYT is run by a bunch of spineless centrists.

    Those basket cases over at gawker would have no clout, none at all, no ability to coerce using shame if not for the susceptibility of Democrat and GOP liberals. Similar case in point, Kanye West race-shaming Dubya. And it worked. It worked.

    It says something when otherwise productive, intelligent people allow themselves to be manipulated by individuals all sporting an array of psychological and emotional hang-ups. It seems like the American Far Left, who are to be distinguished from actual old-fashioned Communists, is filled with dysfunctional sorts who would otherwise have long since committed suicide directly or indirectly via substance abuse or unsafe immoral activities/behaviors unless they found causes to justify their continued existence.

    This country can shock and awe the heck out of foreign peasants who pose no threat to ourselves or our way of life, but it is powerless in the face of our domestic human refuse.

  54. @Uptown Resident
    @Anonymous

    True, societies have been obliged to work through sexual reproduction (in humans and other animals; not plants, though ... We've been grafting since preclassical antiquity).

    Even so, third parties could still get involved in shaping reproduction patterns before Crispr. parents, the church, laws prohibiting disparagement and kin marriages, etc. In the classic "the world we we have lost," early modern historian Peter laslett shows describes how villagers who were worried about poor people marrying and having children they couldn't feed, effectively prevented "beggar weddings" through the marriage banns system.

    Replies: @Anonymous

    This technology directly involves 3rd parties and social infrastructure in the procreative act. It’s a fundamental departure from sexual reproduction and its meiotic lottery. It’s not akin to prior social customs, which couldn’t intrude upon and upend sexual reproduction and the meiotic lottery itself.

  55. @Hepp
    @Anonymous

    No one "forced" Asian countries to open up their economies. Had they just remained anti-Communist, the US wouldn't have cared what else they did. They opened up their economies because they wanted to get wealthier. That's fine. The only potential problem is if they ape Western social norms regarding sex and immigration.

    Replies: @Anonymous

    I’m talking about before the Cold War.

  56. Shocking Revelation: Gawker founder, Elizabeth Spiers, co-founder of racist GNXP blog with racist racist Razib Khan!1!!!1

    The guilt-by-association ouroboros is thus complete. Gawker can kill itself now.

    • Replies: @Anon
    @Jason Malloy

    I posted something to that effect today but Gawker deleted it.

    Replies: @Jo S'more

    , @Dain
    @Jason Malloy

    I took that info and tweeted it. Thanks! Wanted to HT but couldn't find your account, if any.

  57. P says:
    @Hepp
    Razib is gone from the NYT. I found Razib to be a mean-spirited and nasty person, but I'm sad he won't be on the NYT editorial page

    http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/03/new-york-times-drops-razib-khan-204287.html

    Replies: @anowow, @P

    Someone once described Razib as a graduate of the “Greg Cochran School of Charm”. He’s a somewhat ornery character, but I’ve read him for years and will continue to do so.

    I was slightly surprised when the NYT started publishing him as his views and associations are well known and easy to find out about. Perhaps they thought that his ethno-religious background would protect him.

  58. @Jason Malloy
    Shocking Revelation: Gawker founder, Elizabeth Spiers, co-founder of racist GNXP blog with racist racist Razib Khan!1!!!1

    The guilt-by-association ouroboros is thus complete. Gawker can kill itself now.

    Replies: @Anon, @Dain

    I posted something to that effect today but Gawker deleted it.

    • Replies: @Jo S'more
    @Anon

    You can still put it on her Wiki page.

  59. Somewhat related: I’m anxiously waiting for Neal Stephenson’s new novel “Seveneves” to come out… should be relevant to our brave new world

  60. Bah, what’s the big deal? Aliens have been genetically engineering us for millennia. I know this because I saw it on the History Channel.

    But in all due seriousness, selecting for intelligence isn’t the only thing to worry about. Someone might get it in their heads to genetically engineer a line of human Barbie dolls – blond hair, enormous breasts, and docile personalities. The horror.

    • Replies: @AnAnon
    @Hapalong Cassidy

    those aliens did a really terrible job on most of the population.

    also:"But in all due seriousness, selecting for intelligence isn’t the only thing to worry about. Someone might get it in their heads to genetically engineer a line of human Barbie dolls – blond hair, enormous breasts, and docile personalities. The horror." - no one is going to want their kids to be docile, that much is a non-starter. Now hyperaggressive large breasted blondes on the other hand...

  61. @let it burn
    @Hmm, does this mean all races can be made equal in ability via bio-engineering?

    just clone everybody so they are exactly identical.

    one gene to rule them all, one gene to find them, one gene to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

    Replies: @Eustace Tilley (not)

    juicing seals:

    I despair of democracy when I stumble across “contributions” such as yours. “Keep to your cabins; you do assist the storm!”

  62. everybody is into eugenics, especially every women. Thats how human reproduction works. Women decide who shall have children with them. Apart from that I guess eugenics will be the big thing the 21. century, antiracism in extreme. They will try to implement eugenic projects for some populations and forbid them for others, thus those populations with a deficit in mean IQ will be able to catch up. Sure this will cost some money, much more than the Gates Foundation can give, but thats what taxes in rich countries are for, isn´t it?

  63. @Anon
    @Jason Malloy

    I posted something to that effect today but Gawker deleted it.

    Replies: @Jo S'more

    You can still put it on her Wiki page.

  64. @Anonymous
    @Uptown Resident

    The difference is that until now civilizations didn't have the sufficient technology to upend sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction was preserved.

    This sort of technology directly involves 3rd parties and social infrastructure in the procreative process and thus represents a departure from sexual reproduction and its meiotic lottery.

    Replies: @Uptown Resident, @WhatEvvs

    Do you really think society has “sufficient technology” to upend sexual reproduction? Or do you think it’s one of those things scientists say when they want grant money?

  65. @Lagertha
    @Steve Sailer

    I don't mean to cavil on your post but: I just read "germ" a few times when I think it was supposed to be "gene?" Or have I always been dense in biology?

    Replies: @Massimo Heitor

  66. @Anon
    @Earl Lemongrab

    I hadn't heard this. Is it a real thing or just a few SJW people complaining.

    Replies: @shk12344, @NOTA

    The nature of Twitter storms is that it’s very hard to tell how many real humans (as opposed to sockpuppets) are involved, and harder still to determine what fraction of the humans involved know and care deeply about the issue vs just having retweeted something they saw somewhere.

  67. @The Z Blog
    Name another technological development that was successfully kept under wraps? In another age, the wearing of a sword was limited by the king, but plenty of men had weapons anyway. The crossbow was banned until everyone had one. Gun bans are another obvious failure. Nuclear weapons are the only example that comes to mind and that's not a comforting example.

    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this. They have no problem harvesting organs from prisoners so they will have no fears about experimenting on future generations. The Russians will probably jump on this as well.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer, @rod1963, @HA, @Jo S'more, @Massimo Heitor

    I think the way to bet here is that the Chinese, for sure, will go full speed ahead with this.

    Chinese culture and government is more amenable to the basic idea and ethics, but the actual important research work and relevant biotech companies is happening elsewhere. Despite what you read in the New York Times, and the political environment in the US, the US research output and biotech firms have been and still are leading the push and the advancements in genetic engineering and much of modern medicine. There is important work done elsewhere particularly Europe, Japan, and even China, but US is a hotbed for this work.

    Look at Editas Medicine. They aren’t writing op-eds, they are the ones making this a reality. Some of their star workers are Americans on Chinese descent, but it’s a very US company.

  68. @Hepp
    I can understand the argument that the technology might not be ready for primetime. Let's call it proposition 1.

    I can't understand how selection for beauty, intelligence, and health can be a bad thing (Prop 2).

    My fear is that people will exaggerate the strength of the argument for Prop 1 because they believe in Prop 2. And Prop 2 is simply anti-human and evil.

    Replies: @Veracitor

    “…enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence, a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.”

    Who are those “many ethicists?” Why should we respect their bizarre opinion that the rest of us should “never” “enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence?” Are those “many ethicists” suffused with envy or hatred of beautiful and intelligent people? Or do those “many ethicists” possess rare beauty and intelligence which give them advantages they would lose if beauty and intelligence became common?

    I sure hope that sentence was mangled by an editor, because Nicholas Wade is usually a much better writer.

  69. @Priss Factor
    Hmm, does this mean all races can be made equal in ability via bio-engineering?

    Then, all our issues might become obsolete.

    Maybe not a bad thing.

    Replies: @Realist

    There are some groups where this procedure would not be cost effective.

  70. Besides diseases like Tay-Sachs which might be amenable to relatively simple genetic editing, there may be some other traits which people would try to influence with small edits.

    Consider polymorphisms of ACTN3. It is well-known that homozygotes for one form have more immediate strength and homozygotes for another have more endurance. A 2011 article by Luces et-al. reported that the “endurance” allele seemed to be associated with longevity. Now, some people might wish to edit their offspring to promote strength (especially since that might advantage those offspring in competing for mates). On the other hand, some people might wish to edit their offspring to promote longevity (which also might promote inclusive fitness; strength isn’t everything).

    I suspect that people might try to mess with identified genes whether or not they have a full understanding of interactions among many genes, so I think Steve’s call for caution is wise.

  71. >> Yeah, but if the Chinese were so hot for this kind of technology, why didn’t they pursue it themselves in the first place?

    Because they noticed that America got its ICBM fleet by kidnapping German engineers in 1945?

  72. @Mikeja
    Are there a lot of purely negative adaptations? Doesn't TAy Sachs lead to higher brain capacity if you only get it from one side? Can't be sure it was TS but I remember some hereditary Jewish disease was like that

    Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe

    “Are there a lot of purely negative adaptations? Doesn’t TAy Sachs lead to higher brain capacity if you only get it from one side? Can’t be sure it was TS but I remember some hereditary Jewish disease was like that”

    Getting the gene for Tay-Sachs from just one parent, confers a substantial degree of immunity to tubercolosis.

  73. @Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)
    "[The technique] could be used to cure genetic diseases, but also to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence, a path than many ethicists believe should never be taken."

    "never"? Even when all possible unintended
    consequences have been eliminated?
    I am trying to image what the argument could
    be for such an extreme position, which sounds
    like it comes from the dialog of an old
    "Frankenstein" movie. Following this policy
    means that beauty must always be artificial
    (makeup, breast implants, etc.), never
    intentionally inborn.

    The scientists identified here, however, are
    more reasonable: what they say is "Let us
    proceed very carefully."

    And it is doubtful whether in the long run
    governments could prevent some billionaire from
    buying land in Central America for a Jurassic Park-
    like laboratory of practical eugenics on an Island
    of Dr. George S. Moreau -- and makings lots of money
    from Madonna, Angelina Jolie, and other rich celebrities
    in need of designer babies.

    Replies: @IA

    “I am trying to image what the argument could
    be for such an extreme position”

    One such argument would be, how do you know you won’t create people even more evil than us dumb ones.

  74. @candid_observer
    One thing I've never seen mentioned regarding these techniques is how likely completely ineffective they will be for the vast majority of traits we care about.

    Why?

    Because these traits, as it turns out, are correlated with virtually no SNPs of anything but the most trivial effect; in order to change the trait at a genetic level, it would, presumably, require thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of changes to the DNA. IQ is one such, but virtually all behavioral traits fall in this bin as well -- indeed so do many diseases with a genetic component.

    Given that we don't know how to make such vast changes reliably, and we don't know what the consequences would be of such vast changes across so many other traits we might care about, I just don't see the feasibility of bringing about these genetic changes far into the distant future.

    If there's something wrong with this reasoning, I'd genuinely appreciate someone more knowledgeable pointing it out to me.

    Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe

    “Given that we don’t know how to make such vast changes reliably, and we don’t know what the consequences would be of such vast changes across so many other traits we might care about, I just don’t see the feasibility of bringing about these genetic changes far into the distant future.”

    You may be correct, but I suspect a few decades of research within the context of an amoral disregard for the sanctity of human life, will be quite sufficient for the Chinese to hash this out for us.

  75. @Jason Malloy
    Shocking Revelation: Gawker founder, Elizabeth Spiers, co-founder of racist GNXP blog with racist racist Razib Khan!1!!!1

    The guilt-by-association ouroboros is thus complete. Gawker can kill itself now.

    Replies: @Anon, @Dain

    I took that info and tweeted it. Thanks! Wanted to HT but couldn’t find your account, if any.

  76. Few practical applications?

    Hmmm. Male pattern baldness… That’s a few billion dollars for starters.

  77. The biologists fear that the new technique is so effective and easy to use that some…

    I’ve been trying to tell people for a while, CRISPR is so easy to use that some nuts are going to use it to create diseases that will wipe out billions.

    There was an article a month or two ago about a bunch of college students creating a synthetic genome as a senior project. The technology does not take massive infrastructure or personnel like nuclear weapons.

    The argument against bio weapons is always that they have no strategic value. What was the strategic value of 9/11?

    • Replies: @WhatEvvs
    @another fred


    I’ve been trying to tell people for a while, CRISPR is so easy to use that some nuts are going to use it to create diseases that will wipe out billions.
     
    I'm listening. This stuff is doable and very scary. Did you know that a vial of live smallpox virus was found in an unused closet in a CDC facility in 2014? Nothing to worry about, move along. Smallpox.

    And I've been trying to tell people for a while about these crazy experiments in creating lab mice with same sex parents, but no one cares.

  78. WhatEvvs [AKA "Bemused"] says:
    @another fred

    The biologists fear that the new technique is so effective and easy to use that some...
     
    I've been trying to tell people for a while, CRISPR is so easy to use that some nuts are going to use it to create diseases that will wipe out billions.

    There was an article a month or two ago about a bunch of college students creating a synthetic genome as a senior project. The technology does not take massive infrastructure or personnel like nuclear weapons.

    The argument against bio weapons is always that they have no strategic value. What was the strategic value of 9/11?

    Replies: @WhatEvvs

    I’ve been trying to tell people for a while, CRISPR is so easy to use that some nuts are going to use it to create diseases that will wipe out billions.

    I’m listening. This stuff is doable and very scary. Did you know that a vial of live smallpox virus was found in an unused closet in a CDC facility in 2014? Nothing to worry about, move along. Smallpox.

    And I’ve been trying to tell people for a while about these crazy experiments in creating lab mice with same sex parents, but no one cares.

  79. Franken-people, here we come….When was the last time anyone listened to an ethicist?

  80. @anon

    “…to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence, a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken.”
     
    So now we have the PC cult saying that genes have no effect and at the same time that said genes shouldn't be used to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence.

    Replies: @Kevin O'Keeffe

    “So now we have the PC cult saying that genes have no effect and at the same time that said genes shouldn’t be used to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence.”

    I don’t understand why you assume people skeptical of this technology, are part of “the PC cult.” I’m skeptical of this technology myself. I don’t see how a person can NOT be skeptical of it, without being marked as a fool, at this stage of the process. One has to embrace recklessly altering the human genome, in order to prove one isn’t a supporter of Hillary? How odd.

  81. Virologists have a lot of tools for messing with the genomes of their viruses, and have been making new viruses from old ones for decades now. I’m skeptical that his technique is going to change much.

    There is a moral argument that it would be wrong to alter the genomes of our kids even if we knew what we were doing (which is a long way off for big stuff like making your kid smarter and healthier.). I don’t quite buy it, though.

    There is also a practical consideration–how likely do you think people with current technology will be to do your future kids good vs harm?

  82. Our best related example, IVF, attempts to use human ideas of what is most viable/robust when determining which embryos to implant. This doesn’t actually work that well. One of the reasons twins are common in IVF is that what the doctors thought of as the best embryos and what were most likely to lead to a viable delivery didn’t match up that well. The process is still poorly understood and just implanting two at a time seems to work out better than either one at a time or multiples that are selectively reduced (aborted) later. But two at a time wasn’t a first thought, it was a fallback position.

    I know that a lot of people are convinced that there’s some way to slice and dice genes with nothing but upside, but it is much more likely to come with some epic downsides for (very likely) marginal gains in whatever are the desired traits. We already see that just implanting an embryo into a non-genetically related womb changes its outcomes, even if the egg+sperm are from geniuses. There are so many little effects we can’t control unless we do somehow figure out artificial wombery (and even then, big assumption about replicating enough of that environment to get adequate results) that I remain skeptical that these techniques will work better than good old selective marriage.

    Just make it less of a hassle for smart women to get pregnant and have babies every 2-3 years starting around age 20. That would get a lot better results for smart and possibly also attractive kids than all this other intervention.

  83. @Hapalong Cassidy
    Bah, what's the big deal? Aliens have been genetically engineering us for millennia. I know this because I saw it on the History Channel.

    But in all due seriousness, selecting for intelligence isn't the only thing to worry about. Someone might get it in their heads to genetically engineer a line of human Barbie dolls - blond hair, enormous breasts, and docile personalities. The horror.

    Replies: @AnAnon

    those aliens did a really terrible job on most of the population.

    also:”But in all due seriousness, selecting for intelligence isn’t the only thing to worry about. Someone might get it in their heads to genetically engineer a line of human Barbie dolls – blond hair, enormous breasts, and docile personalities. The horror.” – no one is going to want their kids to be docile, that much is a non-starter. Now hyperaggressive large breasted blondes on the other hand…

  84. @Steve Sailer
    @The Z Blog

    There's another high tech country besides China and Russia that doesn't care all that much about international opinion, and assumes the "eugenics=Nazis" conventional wisdom doesn't apply to them.

    Replies: @Lagertha, @Lagertha, @Massimo Heitor

    There’s another high tech country besides China and Russia that doesn’t care all that much about international opinion, and assumes the “eugenics=Nazis” conventional wisdom doesn’t apply to them.

    Israel?

    Sailer and crowd are absolutely wrong to focus completely on the political climate and social taboos and just ignore where the actual technical progress and breakthroughs are happening.

    Some of the biggest CRISPR/Cas genetic engineering research breakthroughs have come out of Berkeley, California. Some of the most promising biotechs doing real life human genetic engineering like Editas are in Cambridge, MA.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    @Massimo Heitor

    The question is where in the future the climate will be most propitious for human genetic engineering as this call for a moratorium picks up momentum. For example, the Germans aren't going to defy most of the world and push hard on human genetic engineering.

  85. @Massimo Heitor
    @Steve Sailer


    There’s another high tech country besides China and Russia that doesn’t care all that much about international opinion, and assumes the “eugenics=Nazis” conventional wisdom doesn’t apply to them.
     
    Israel?

    Sailer and crowd are absolutely wrong to focus completely on the political climate and social taboos and just ignore where the actual technical progress and breakthroughs are happening.

    Some of the biggest CRISPR/Cas genetic engineering research breakthroughs have come out of Berkeley, California. Some of the most promising biotechs doing real life human genetic engineering like Editas are in Cambridge, MA.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer

    The question is where in the future the climate will be most propitious for human genetic engineering as this call for a moratorium picks up momentum. For example, the Germans aren’t going to defy most of the world and push hard on human genetic engineering.

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