November 27, 2011
Breeding Has Created Bulldog Monstrosities

The bulldog has more health problems than just about any breed. An excellent New York Times piece entitled "Can the Bulldog be Saved?" looks at why humans created and continue to perpetuate this suffering and short-lived breed and just how many health problems it suffers.

“We have, to some extent, accentuated physical characteristics of the breed to make it look more human, although essentially more like caricatures of humans, and specifically of children,” he told me. “We’ve bred bulldogs for their flat face, big eyes, huge mouth in relation to head size and huge smiling face.” (Advertisers and animators have long recognized that giving an animal big eyes and a big head is a surefire way to endear it to humans. When Walt Disney created Bambi, the studio wanted the character to be an accurate depiction of a deer. But when the original Bambi sketches were deemed not “cute” enough, Disney shortened Bambi’s muzzle and made his head and eyes bigger.)

In an essay in the anthology “Thinking With Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism,” Serpell wrote that “if bulldogs were the product of genetic engineering by agripharmaceutical corporations, there would be protest demonstrations throughout the Western world, and rightly so. But because they have been generated by anthropomorphic selection, their handicaps are not only overlooked but even, in some quarters, applauded.”

Read the full article and appreciate what human-guided selection has wrought. Most bulldogs can't have sex on their own or give birth unassisted. They are that messed up. Their live expectancy averages just 6 years. How sad. They suffer more than their owners recognize. The article quotes breeders who are in total denial. My advice: Override your instincts and choose a very healthy breed that hasn't been severely damaged by the show breeders. In the 19th century Charles Darwin called the bulldog a monstrosity. It has gotten worse since then. Don't contribute to the creation of monstrosities.

The tragedy of the bulldog and the denial of its breeders makes me wonder what humans will do when they gain the ability to choose offspring genetic variants. Obviously the potential benefits are huge. But I'm reminded of the parents who dress up their 6 year old daughters for fashion shows. Will they opt for genes that maximize cuteness? Will they even go for genes that delay puberty and keep the kids looking very young into adulthood?

How about the parents who want their kids to become various kinds of athletic stars? How extreme will they go? I think we'll witness something akin to a series of arms races. Imagine lots of parents going for genes to make 7 foot tall basketball players. I even expect the genes of the best basketball players will be stolen for procreative purposes. Ditto football players and athletes for other games.

Will parents choose genes that create more extremes in personality? One can imagine some parents aiming for offspring minds that are perfect to become a calculating, driven, domineering, and charismatic CEO while other parents aim for cognitive attributes that make a great scientist or iconoclastic inventor or musician. Will psychopathy become more or less common as a result of parental control of offspring brain genes? Will genetically engineered women be more or less feminine?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 November 27 03:45 PM  Bioethics Reproduction


Comments
Mthson said at November 27, 2011 5:43 PM:

Interesting points. As our technology gets closer, I think societies will likely regulate human engineering, restricting it to reasonable forms.

Most people are already extremely alarmed at the societal changes posed by human engineering.

People motivated to go abroad to get around reasonable regulations will be outliers.

JP Straley said at November 27, 2011 6:27 PM:

A bulldog is not a pit bull. Pit bulls are quite fit, and pretty much the archetypal dog except more aggressive (they're mean as hell and won't ever give up) and more heavily muscled. They are bred to fight, and if that's not a selective pressure for fitness I don't know what is.

PacRim Jim said at November 27, 2011 8:41 PM:

Instead of genetically engineering women to be more attractive, wouldn't it be simpler to modify men to think all women more attractive, since it all happens in the brain?

Randall Parker said at November 27, 2011 8:47 PM:

JP,

Sorry about that. I slipped a mental cog when writing the subject. I've since fixed it.

Fat Man said at November 27, 2011 9:19 PM:

Dog fanciers, like thoroughbred horse racers, are still in the grip of 19th century ideology based on "purity of blood". Scientific genetics, developed mostly in the 20th century demonstrates those ideas are nonsense, and that most often increasing genetic diversity increases the health and vigor of individual specimens. Unfortunately, the ideology still has a large following especially among so called "environmentalists". Here is just another example:

"Wondering if That's a Genuine Bison? Try Pulling Its Tail: Annual DNA Harvest to Ensure Species Purity Kicks Up Controversy" By Stephanie Simon in the Wall Street Journal on 26 NOV 2011
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204630904577056150237421304.html

Tail-pulling day here on a prairie preserve run by the nonprofit Nature Conservancy has been a fall tradition since 2004. The follicles on the tip of each tail hair contain enough tissue to run a DNA test designed to determine whether these critters are pure bison—or whether, generations back, their ancestors were bred with ordinary domestic cattle.

... Those that turn out to have remnants of cattle DNA are typically sold off for steaks.

But new research suggests this purification drive may be doing more harm than good. At a conference in Tulsa earlier this year, geneticists issued a plea that rattled bison buffs: Stop the testing.

"They basically said, 'Bison have cattle genes in them. Get over it,'" says Kent Redford, who serves on the advisory council of the American Bison Society, a preservation group.

... As DNA tests grow ever more sophisticated, they are identifying more and more bison that have bovine ancestry. Turning all those animals into buffalo burgers would deplete the genetic diversity of wild herds, says Greg Wilson, a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service.

* * *

The genetic jumble traces to the late 19th century, when ranchers seeking to save bison from extinction—and create a hardier strain of cattle—experimented with cross breeding.

Today, the Department of Agriculture recognizes "beefalo" as a distinct type of meat (it comes from hybrids that are mostly bovine, with the bison's genetic contribution ranging from 17% to 37.5%). Beefalo vary in appearance; some have cow faces and bison humps, while others look like typical feedlot cattle except for their curly, shaggy hides. ...

The wild bison that roam the West are far closer to authentic bison than farm-raised beefalo; if they contain cattle DNA, it amounts to at most 2% of their genetic makeup.

spindizzy said at November 28, 2011 9:16 AM:

If bulldogs could talk, they would probably tell us how happy they are and how they wouldn't want to be any other breed.

If you don't believe me, listen to just about anyone who has lived a long time with a disability.

LarryD said at November 28, 2011 9:23 AM:

Ill considered genetic modification of offspring is a self-limiting problem. Eventually. No guarantee that society or civilization will survive it, however. Not that many of the self-centered care about that, which is the root of the problem.

Jehu said at November 28, 2011 10:55 AM:

Well, one of my big priorities is grandchildren and great grandchildren. So I'd be inclined to load the dice on their ability and inclination to marry and have lots of children. A moment's reflection will show why my priorities will trump most others in the long term.

David A. Young said at November 28, 2011 12:37 PM:

Yes. All of the above. All kinds of people will make all kinds of stupid/inappropriate choices. But most won't. Most will make reasonable choices for their offspring, given the available state of knowledge. The greatest danger to the genetic health of the species will be if we let some centralized authority (i.e., the government) decide which choices are acceptable. The real danger is not which options would be forbidden (common-sense criteria of child abuse should apply here), but rather which changes might come to be deemed "mandatory" by the Genocracy. That's where we could get funneled down into bad choices universally applied.

And "Spindizzy," as someone who's lived with significant physical disability since I was two years old, I can assure you I would change my condition in a heartbeat, should the technology arrive to do so. I was born a white male, but if the price of a healthy, whole body required me to become a black female (for example)...well, sign me up. Which would be kind of intriguing, actually. A different species entirely? Well, that would depend on the details.

Rob said at November 28, 2011 2:30 PM:

On the other hand, bulldogs are a pretty good refutation of Intelligent Design:

http://roborant42.appspot.com/show/entry/4007

BA said at November 28, 2011 4:55 PM:

"The tragedy of the bulldog and the denial of its breeders makes me wonder what humans will do when they gain the ability to choose offspring genetic variants."

You could engineer genuine trannies. Gorgeous face and big tits with a huge horse cock.

Randall Parker said at November 28, 2011 7:06 PM:

Jehu,

I agree the breeders will make even bigger breeder offspring. For this and other reasons I think a return to the Malthusian Trap is inevitable absent the force of a world government (or shared Borg consciousness) to stop it.

Natural selection isn't going to stop. Biotechnology will accelerate natural selection. People with genes which cause them to love children will select for even stronger versions of those genes for their offspring.

The Malthusian Trap is one of my biggest fears for the future. Though dying before rejuvenation therapies mature is a bigger fear. I'd like the chance to live long enough to have to navigate the Malthusian Trap. I'm thinking at some point it leads to war in some form. I want to survive that war and live much longer.

Jehu said at November 28, 2011 9:23 PM:

Randall,
I find it terribly amusing that my wife and I, and many of our more hardcore fundamentalist friends and allies are truly the favored of Darwin. As to the Malthusian trap, yes, eventually we'll get there again, either by Peak Cheap Energy (guaranteed if no rabbit from a hat emerges, like cheap and efficient long term energy storage making most alternative energy sources actually grid-friendly, or perhaps a useful fusion, cold or hot) or by a bright future. I've written on this topic on my blog. Selection is operating on the human race, filtering it so that those who are resistant to birth control will predominate. You're correct that one day there will be a governmental reaction provoked, which is why in my previous postings I've encouraged my allies and fellow travellers to get your descendants locked in now. A moment's consideration will show how important this sort of thing is when you bring radical life extension into the equation.

Randall Parker said at November 28, 2011 10:08 PM:

Jehu,

Yes, I agree. We might see political and cultural factions forming to make lots of babies for their faction. Choose the attributes, make lots of babies, build up your faction before reproduction becomes very restricted.

I also think we'll see migrations to allow a given faction to create a majority in a region. I'm wondering whether this will be done at the level of nations. For example, get your friends and allies to buy control of Uruguay with very affluent immigrants. Then keep making lots of babies there while other countries clamp down. Keep out non-allies. Build up a big genetic and cultural pool.

Charles said at November 28, 2011 11:52 PM:

"We might see political and cultural factions forming to make lots of babies for their faction. Choose the attributes, make lots of babies, build up your faction before reproduction becomes very restricted.

I also think we'll see migrations to allow a given faction to create a majority in a region. I'm wondering whether this will be done at the level of nations. For example, get your friends and allies to buy control of Uruguay with very affluent immigrants. Then keep making lots of babies there while other countries clamp down. Keep out non-allies. Build up a big genetic and cultural pool."

Won't this kind of competition create clone, genetically engineered slave, cyborg, etc. type colonies?

This could lead to a dramatic change. We could end up with just borg colonies and without any independent people, wills, or thoughts.

solaris said at November 29, 2011 11:18 AM:

>"The real danger is not which options would be forbidden (common-sense criteria of child abuse should apply here), but rather which changes might come to be deemed "mandatory" by the Genocracy."

Or we could simply skip both of those possibilities and prohibit both "mandatory" changes and "optional" ones. (The distinction exists only in your mind - everything which people choose to do is optional)

dave.s. said at November 29, 2011 2:56 PM:

on your '7 foot basketball players' point: Cameron Diaz in Bad Teacher - has visited the bars where the Chicago Bulls hang out and has encountered some success — but she bemoans the players' wisdom: "They all use condoms, and they take their condoms with them."

Doug said at November 29, 2011 8:21 PM:

What selective breeders of bulldogs have messed up, gene therapy may be able to remediate (somewhat). Other breeds have problems as well. Case in point: the fragile narrow hips of German Shepherds and various other breeds. It is too obvious not to get attention at some point.

anonyq said at November 30, 2011 3:52 PM:

The main point of the article was that unlike many other breeds it is not the inbreeding what makes bulldogs so sickly but the form of the dog. Gene therapy with changing the form of the dog simply wont fix its ills.

Randall Parker said at November 30, 2011 7:06 PM:

solaris,

Once the upper class can choose high IQ and high drive for their kids they'll go for it in a stampede. They'll use their money in politics to prevent regulation or move to where there's no regulation.

Doug,

Gotta agree with anonyq: In a breed like the bulldog the problems are there by design. Sure, some breeds will get fixed for some harmful recessives that went along for the ride when some physical traits were selected for (deafness in dalmatians comes to mind). But other breeds are defective by design.

In said at December 1, 2011 12:35 PM:

Seems to me the only way to avert atrocities (e.g. Malthusian trap) would be some sort of 'spiritual' change in people, meaning a psychological change in how people approach their lives/the world. Population wouldn't be a problem if everyone breeded intelligently. Of course it is dangerous to say that because statist wonks immediately suggest the solution is regulation which with regards to reproduction is potentially disastrous.

Consider that people psychologically are much different from past more barbaric times. Think of popular forms of entertainment in Rome. Our culture wouldn't tolerate that (thankfully). I think that is overlooked and gives hope to the possibility that people could get better. But I have no suggestions on how to make that happen. Cheap energy would be helpful.

solaris said at December 1, 2011 2:28 PM:

>"Once the upper class can choose high IQ and high drive for their kids they'll go for it in a stampede."


That's what guns are for.

Jehu said at December 1, 2011 3:57 PM:

Randall,
Your first human genetic engineering protocol is likely to be something like this:
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis on steroids---basically pick 1 of N potential offspring with a moderate amount of information about the statistical distribution of attributes for each, where N is a moderately large number.

Honestly there aren't too many technical obstacles to this right now, and the effectiveness increases as we learn more about what genes apply what modifiers on average to their possessor. I could see this being alpha and beta tested on people using fertility protocols already within no more than around 10-15 years, maybe sooner.

Randall Parker said at December 1, 2011 7:02 PM:

Jehu,

Agreed. The only thing holding back embryo selection is the lack of info about the functional significance of most genetic variants. But that knowledge is growing exponentially with the decline in DNA testing and sequencing costs. I agree on your time line.

What's going to happen if we know a bunch of IQ genetic variants in 5 years? The BGI-Shenzhen effort will probably identify a number of IQ influencing genetic variants by then. I expect other efforts will come out with discoveries on cognitive attributes and genetic variants by then.

There's an argument to be made for young fertile women to wait 5-7 years before popping out the babies because I think we are that close to identifying lots of genetic variants for intelligence at least.

Post a comment
Comments:
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
URL:
Remember info?

                       
Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright ©