On Tuesday, Dr. Fritz finished up the segment on eugenics, which is the belief and practice that humans can improve the gene pool by advocating reproduction with those of “higher” traits and suppressing reproduction of those with “lower” traits.
It was fascinating to listen to Dr. Fritz condemn eugenics because how he approached the subject was quite different from how I would have coming from the Humanities. Whereas I might lead the discussion with emotional appeals for common decency and logical concerns about how one determines what is “better” or what “better” even means, Dr. Fritz condemned eugenics with a mathematical formula. That’s right: math.
He had the class imagine that we, as a country, were going to practice eugenics and kill anyone with PKU, which is one of the most common inherited diseases. Upon birth in a hospital, every newborn’s heel is pricked and tested for this disease.
To understand the mathematic formula, one needs to remember that it takes two genes for genetic diseases to manifest. In other words, you may have a recessive gene for PKU, but the recessive gene alone doesn’t give you symptoms. One in 12,000 people will have this disease, which is a frequency of .0000833. Dr. Fritz did the numbers and showed that if we kept killing the people who have the disease, it would take 1,000 generations to wipe it out.
So, set outside issues of morality. Set aside issues of feasibility such as who does the rounding up and how. Just logically, eugenics is not a feasible method to “improve” the population because of how recessive genes work. Everyone, absolutely everyone, has a predisposition for something. We have 25,000 pairs of genes in a single body. All of us have some mutations within that 25,000. In other words, as Dr. Fritz pointed out, if you want to suggest killing off the imperfect people, start with yourself.