Necessary pedantry: Human genetic engineering is not eugenics.

(Late-breaking epistemic status: I still stand behind the definitional claim in the title, but my attempt to draw connections between the definitional claim and the moral argument were not very coherent.  Also, many people reading this clearly think that “population” just means the sum of individuals, so I’ve clearly got more work to do in that area of the argument as well.)

I’ve recently noticed some advocates of human genetic engineering claim that eugenics is actually a good thing. I’m pretty sure the majority of these people are not in favor of of “eugenics” as the term has historically been used, and I think misusing the word in this way has bad consequences. The distinction I’m about to draw is often ignored in public debate, but it is both pragmatic and morally necessary.

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What kinds of genetic differences should we expect between populations?

Epistemological Status: A little out of my depth.

Kevin Mitchell’s blog came to my attention because of his skeptical posts on epigenetic inheritance in humans. Even more interesting is his recent post on race and IQ, and the likely lack of genetic differences between races.

I think this is an extremely important argument. The strongest arguments for innate racial IQ differences generally run like so:

  1. We observe large differences in IQ between racial groups in the human population.
  2. No known environmental factor could explain such large differences.
  3. Genetic differences between races are large enough to explain the differences.
  4. Therefore, we should assume that most racial IQ differences are due to genetics.

In my posts on the Flynn Effect, I showed that Flynn and Sowell have disproved premise (2) – it’s true that no family-level environmental factors can explain such large differences, but that environmental factors at the level of culture and subculture have demonstrably explained large differences in the past.

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