Compassion versus Pragmatism

So. I haven’t posted since July? Where does the time go?

Oh right.


It goes to Skyrim.

Well, I have a fun topic tonight. Iceland’s sort-of-ethnic-cleansing-but-not-technically-ethnic-cleansing of fetuses with Down Syndrome.


Super fun stuff (Lumi said facetiously).

Yes it’s horrible, and yes, we should probably condemn it, but on the other hand, the technique works. And it’s got a long history of doing so. It’s essentially the core of what Eugenics was all about: controlled breeding of humans the way we do with cats, dogs, sheep, geese, and all sorts of animals allowing us to prioritize stronger genetics and weeding out over multiple generations the most problematic genes, increasing the viability of the total stock as a whole. On paper, it makes sense. Logically, it makes sense. Theoretically, it’s all about making a better human race according to the oldest and most effective means we’ve ever devised.

Eugenics has a bum rap today, but when people like Margaret Sanger and Adolf Hitler are very vocal fans of something… yeah. Bad reputations will happen. And it deprives freedom of choice to those it culls or sterilizes, which is a big no-no in modern Western Society for damn good reasons. Worst of all, as Adolf Hitler showed, when your government puts Eugenics on a pedestal, things can go to shit with alarming speed. It’s no small wonder that people have been making Nazi comparisons during the run of this program from its inception.

So what’s the breakdown on this issue?

Playing the Devil’s Advocate: it’s a relatively low-cost solution of eliminating birth defects in future generations with the highest success rate of any sort of method of preventative measures in world history. This is absolutely not to say that it’s morally right, but the cold logic and math does work out. After all, one can hardly deny that you can’t have Down Syndrome anymore if there are no potential vectors to pass it on.

The moral question is: does one choose a world of mercy –in which these sorts of disorders will persist for the foreseeable future and have MASSIVE impacts on the afflicted that will affect them every day of their life– or, do we make the very ugly and cruel but a very pragmatic decision and eliminate it in the only way we currently can, and possibly snuff out future contributions that might change the world forever, and for the better?

How societies answer this question is important for a whole host of reasons, both economical and moral.

Iceland has come to the decision that individuals with Down Syndrome represent too great a risk to maintain, and they’ve done some serious math before coming to that conclusion. Ultimately, they’ve concluded that DS citizens are too big a drain on families and social support networks and have decided, essentially, to “cut the head off the snake”, as it were.

In America, most families would beg to differ with that approach. There are many cases that show that DS individuals can go on to become fully independent and lead very productive, satisfying, and dare I say it, HAPPY lives. Iceland would argue that these are exceptions in defiance of the math, in defiance of the “rule”. Mathematically, it is even likely they are correct. But just because a thing is mathematically correct does not equate to moral correctness.

Sadly, no proper cure exists, though I continue to hope that politicians and special interest groups will unfetter the Geneticists constantly searching for one. Perhaps a cure that does not equate to genetic cleansing, Spartan style, will emerge within our lifetimes. I hope it does, because that will finally mean the end of this ugly question of morals vs pragmatism… at least on this topic. We are finally at a point where “kill all the sick people” no longer needs to be our best option. The gods gave us these phenomenal minds and intellects. They also gave us unbelievable potential for compassion. So let’s put all that to good use. Let’s solve this problem in a way that moves everyone forward and doesn’t come at someone else’s expense.

And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, someone with Down Syndrome will be responsible for that cure. Maybe.

We can always hope.

This is a very deep topic, and there’s a lot of interesting and/or valuable opinions on it, so I am genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say on this. Drop a comment below, and I’d love to discuss the matter further. Is there a silver lining to this? Is it uniformly and altogether evil? History will make its own judgments as it always does, but I’m pretty sure we already know where we stand on this now, so let’s talk!


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