Friday, February 12, 2010

Terrible Beauty.... Across the World Cont'

After reading the recent posts on Structure, Construction, Behavior and Two Dogs One World, one of our clients Barb Watts, Sage's mum, shared with me a short section from a master's thesis she is writing on Genetic Selection of Human Children.

Before I go on to sharing it with all of you, when she sent this to me, I must admit that my jaw dropped literally to the floor, when I read the title of her thesis. DAMN! Is about the only word that came out of my mouth, because I just can not fathom our involvement and interference with this issue. Humans by far are the most creative animals on earth and I do very much appreciate creativity. We are also by far the most invasive animals on earth...

Here it is: (thank you Barb)

"As far back as 8000 BC, farmers crossbred desired traits in plants and animals. Since these early days, animals have been selected for color and color patterns, shapes and sizes of horns, dwarfism, greater weight, speed, meat and fat, milk, and wool. By the 1850s, domesticated animals and cultivated plants provided Charles Darwin with significant evidence about selection, hybridization, variation and inbreeding. Crossbreeding of plants and animals during that time in England was very popular. Modern breeds of cattle, sheep, chickens, dogs and pigeons were created then. Species of plants from all over the world were being combined to create unusual new forms. Today, the average laying hen produces 262 eggs per year in the U.S. (2006 data). Thousands of years ago, they produced about two dozen eggs a year. Then, cows produced enough milk for one calf. In 2005, the average cow in the United States produced 19,576 pounds of milk – not counting the milk produced for suckling calves.
It may seem as if humans’ domestication of animals and the creation of attributes they desire has been beneficial, but there the negatives associated with these practices. The case of pure-bred dogs is a clear example. Ever since kennel clubs began to specify physical rather than behavioral or health characteristics for breed standards during the nineteenth century, breeds have become known for specific illnesses. For example, Yorkshire terriers are especially apt to have hypoglycemia, liver failure, dental problems and other genetic illnesses. Boston terriers are plagued with deafness, heart defects, cataracts, mange, breathing problems and other genetic illnesses. Boxers are more apt to have tumors, hypothyroidism, heart disease, colitis, corneal ulcers, deafness, and more. German shepherds are prone to aggression problems, elbow and hip dysplasia, hard-to-treat diarrhea, and more.
The case of humans breeding dogs is one of unnatural selection. Arbitrary physical characteristics have been selected as reasons to breed while unhealthy, even fatal, conditions have been allowed to be passed from generation to generation. This is counter to the basic concepts of evolution: natural selection and survival of the fittest.
The idea of natural selection is the core of Darwin’s theory of evolutionary. Natural selection is a process of elimination, one that results in survival of offspring based on chance or adaptation to the environment. For the process of natural selection to occur, there must be variation among individuals. Chance is important here. In addition to changes that occur by chance, there also must be non-random factors that lead to the survival and reproductive success of some individuals and to the death or reproductive failure of others. When people rather than nature are doing the selecting, the result may be Yorkshire terriers with a flat-topped head, a glossy and silky coat, and lethal liver failure.
The list of kennel club qualifications for each breed is long, but not one of the standards has to do with temperament, behavior, or health. The result has been breeds with predictable disabilities and diseases as the result of unnatural rather than natural selection. These mutations enter genome of these dogs by chance and stay there by chance because there are no forces to select for healthier dogs when appearance is the key to selection criteria. Indeed, some of the undesirable traits may be genetically linked to the arbitrarily desirable traits and remain for that reason.
This is not a thesis about dog breeding, of course, nor cows’ milk production. It is an examination of the genetic selection of human children as it exists today, primarily in the United States. The law of unintended consequences – actions always have effects that are not anticipated or not intended – is evident in both. Select for one desired attribute, and you might get others, including undesirable ones, whether in dogs or in children."

Can you imagine having the choice of creating your perfect child and what you would want? Don't even shun to this thought, because sadly, that figment of imagination is not to far of a reality away from us.

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