• Rebecca Watson wrote a new post, Richard Dawkins Claims Eugenics Works. He's Wrong., on the site Skepchick 3 months, 2 weeks ago

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    Last week, Britain discovered that they had a eugenicist advising the prime […]

    • Sorry to rely on memory, but I recall once reading that NONE of the dogs in the Iditarod teams were actually Huskies, Samoyeds, or any other ‘purpose bred’ sled dogs. Mutts simply provided better pulling with fewer health and performance problems. Obviously not RANDOM mutts, but still.

    • I’d say Dawkins should stay in his lane, but he’s spent so much of his life careering all over the road, colliding with everything in his path, that I’m not sure what his lane even is any more. Maybe he should just park and let someone else drive.

    • My reading of Dawkins’ tweet is that he is equating eugenics with selective breeding, which you acknowledge would “work” (n the narrow sense that the selected trait would be more common, or more extreme, in the bred population than in the general population). I would be shocked if he disagreed with you regarding the potential for unintended consequences (sometimes quite harmful to the individuals) that can occur when we breed for a particular trait. In other words — my sense is that you and Dawkins are talking past each other, operating with different definitions of eugenics.

      • So you think Dawkins would agree with me that tweeting out an edgy, unscientific opinion about eugenics is ignorant and dangerous? Fascinating.

        • Really? That’s what you think I said? Interesting. I guess I didn’t make my point very clearly. Or — Cathy Newmanism. and QED Whichever it was — Have a good day.

          • Ha, I had to look up Cathy Newman and learned that she’s also had a hoard of alt-right men send her misogynistic threats so…sure, that I guess.

      • I don’t think it’s talking past someone to acknowledge that their opinion is uneducated and meant to grab headlines. Eugenics is terribly dangerous when even talked about regarding humans. I think the dog example is great actually, because guess what, Dawkins, pontificating and publicly allowing himself to be cited saying short-cited things, and unfortunately is still being cited as an expert. He is old, out of the loop and out of touch; shredding any semblance of reputation he may have had left. As Rebecca notes, there are unforeseen consequences.
        What is particularly dangerous is the average reader isn’t going to be skeptically minded and because he is being presented as an authority may accept his incredibly shortsighted opinion as fact.

    • Selecting for any trait will also select for any dysfunctional alleles which are associated with it in the gene grouping. That’s why harmful traits persist in a population. You would think that an evolutionary biologist would know that. So, then I ask, what was Dawkins’ purpose in posting such a tweet? He has to be aware of its bullshitness.

    • “The cocker spaniel was selectively bred to be a hunting dog: good senses to identify woodcocks and other birds, a soft mouth for retrieving the body, high energy to run around for an hour or two, and loyal. Considering all those traits are, in fact, hallmarks of the cocker spaniel breed today, can we say that “eugenics” in this case was a success?
      Dawkins says yes, but the cocker spaniel may beg to differ. ”

      This is inaccurate. While pedigree dogs like cocker spaniels have been selectively breed for hunting in the past. In modern times Cocker Spaniels and many other pedigree dog breeds have been breed mainly for looks at the expense of all else this is a major cause of many of the health problems in modern dog breeds.

    • This talk of dog-breeding reminds me of the “We’re ten and one” speech in Stripes, and the virtues of diversity in the form of the all-American mutt.