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Deferred breeding

Reduce age-related diseases through deferred breeding
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Evolutionary biologists have pointed out that one reason for diseases of old age is that, in the evolutionary environment, there was no selection against them. Since people tended to die young from violence, bacterial and viral infections, and starvation, and because people were chosen as mates while young, there was no selective pressure against diseases that strike later in life, such as Alzheimer's disease and, to a large extent, heart disease.

We can fix this problem and permanently improve the human race by applying this observation to test-tube babies. Specifically, an individual needn't decide whether to reproduce his or her genes while young. Instead, they could store their eggs or sperm when they are young. When they are ready to have children, they would use the stored gametes of their now elderly relations or other individuals they admire.

For example, one of my grandparents is still alive, alert, and relatively healthy at age 104. He also has many traits that I admire. If I wanted to become a parent, I would have sperm from my grandfather combined with an egg from a long-lived relative of my husband and implanted in my womb. My child (technically also my aunt or uncle) would be biologically related to me but likelier to be much healthier.

While many high-tech fertility techniques increase the medical needs of later generations (by allowing relatively infertile people to pass on their genes), my proposal would reduce future medical needs. After a few generations, enough bad genes may be weeded out for people to go back to having children the natural way, with the human gene pool permanently improved.

ellens, Oct 22 2005

Drawbacks http://www.schizoph...rchives/001273.html
Get 'em while they're hot [lurch, Oct 22 2005]

Old elephants. http://www.sciencen...s/20010421/fob1.asp
[bungston, Oct 23 2005]


       it would definitely work (selective breeding) ... but I'm not sure I'd want to tell a child that I'm raising that they are my own when in reality they are a child of my 101 year old granddad and my wife's 104 year old grandmom. Basically you would be adopting a child that is not your own ... so I don't think many people would go for it...
ixnaum, Oct 22 2005

       //there was no selection against them// I don't see how this idea changes anything.
po, Oct 22 2005

       I won't get an Academy nod for "best voiceover in a suspense film", so I'll just say it: Does anyone ever ask what the firm intends to do with its world's frozen eggs and sperm?
reensure, Oct 22 2005

       Make a really, really expensive omelette?   

       Maybe there is some selection against short-livedness. Families whose grandparents are around have an easier time raising children, because the grandparents (and even great-grandparents, these days) can help advise, babysit, and support the youngest families.
jutta, Oct 22 2005

       "Improving" the human race through breeding is called Eugenics, and has a long and unhappy history. Men are not dogs.
DrCurry, Oct 22 2005

       Generally in agreement with DrCurry's sentiment, though forms of this occur already, from IQ driven sperm banks to pre-natal genetic testing
theircompetitor, Oct 22 2005

       Dr. Curry:   

       I share your opposition to traditional eugenics, of which I am well aware. The advantages of my proposal are:   

       1. It would be voluntary, with choices made by the parent.   

       2. It would not be racist (unless prospective parents preferred relatives based on skin tone; with ozone depletion, dark skin is arguably preferable).   

       3. The offspring would be genetically related to their parents, unlike with sperm or egg donation from non-relatives.   

       "'Improving' the human race through breeeding" is not only called Eugenics, it is also called sexual selection. All sexual creatures try to find the mate with the most attractive traits. I am just suggesting that people have more knowledge when choosing the parents of their children: their life-long health.   

       I have some negative genetic characteristics, shared by my mother and my paternal grandmother. If I can avoid passing them on by having "my" genetic contribution come from my grandfather, shouldn't I do that?   

       (Of course, my question is hypothetical. Despite his general health, my grandfather is in no condition to produce sperm. Also, my husband does not subscribe to my theory.)
ellens, Oct 22 2005

       Jutta, you're right that grandparents improve their grandchildren's lives. However, that was less true over the hundreds of thousands of years of our evolution. Even now, grandparents' support, however appreciated, probably has little positive effect on their grandchildren's physical survival and number of living offspring, which is what matters for evolution. In fact, the effect could be in the opposite direction. The money my grandfather earned and shared in his long life helped pay for me to become highly educated, which is correlated with my having fewer children.
ellens, Oct 22 2005

       I remember reading somewhere that children fathered by men over 40 have a markedly increased risk of schizophrenia. I'm off to find a link.
lurch, Oct 22 2005

       I agree with jutta. grandparents have always been important in child-rearing and probably something to do with why we live so long. otherwise, we would not have much usefulness after the children are grown.
po, Oct 22 2005

       I'll take an old schizophrenic over a young one, for the easier approach and evolved self-understanding. Younger schizophrenics tend to be elated or manipulative as they become aware of their difference. Older schizophrenics seem to have passed their depressed phase, have realized their difference, and have taken what measure they could to fit in. The older ones seem to have a mellow anxiety about their symptoms that is socially acceptable, but they are not as driven to characterize themselves as 'different' or 'special'.   

       As for deferred breeding -- hey, they're your genes. If your family wills them to you, feel free to have a go at whatever rocks your world.
reensure, Oct 22 2005

       I like this idea. Its so crazy it just might work. The scifi-ish idea of selecting a mom and pop from the bank is sort of tired, but the idea of a synthetic mating of your own ancestors is a new one for me. Maybe the choice could have religious overtones; a sort of ancestor worship?   

       /However, that was less true over the hundreds of thousands of years of our evolution./ I disagree on this point. The fact that women live past menopause is not an accident. A parallel can be found in other social animals, like elephants. They are as long lived as we. The matriarchs serve as repositories of information and social learning. The existence of elders facilitates the development of culture.
bungston, Oct 23 2005


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