A 1969 interview with Frank Herbert breaks down DUNE's white savior complex

Also about the Russo-Turkish War (and referenced several times in Star Trek canon)…

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One of the things people forget about selective breeding is that you sometimes find out that traits are linked in weird non-obvious ways because groups of genes come bundled together. For example, the first domesticated dogs weren’t intentionally bred for floppy ears and colored patches in their fur but it turns out that when you select for traits like “reduced fight or flight response” the same genes that affect the adrenal glands also affect other aspects of physiology.

So we probably could breed (say) a human being whose legs and cardiovascular system were optimized for sprinting, but the process might also create hard-to-predict side effects like purple eyes or a vestigial tail or something.

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The only thing that people really need to remember about it is that it’s racist pseudo-science. the only reason eugenics existed in the real world was as an excuse for violent imposition of segregation and genocidal policies.

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I agree with 100% of that. I just also think eugenics is a good reminder that racism is always about inbreeding (it literally is).

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Only sort of relevant in the “things about Russia in the 19th century” category: My g’g’g’grandfather was the Paymaster of the Light Brigade (and therefore didn’t die in the said Charge of)

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Oh, it’s absolutely racist AF. I just think it’s amusing to imagine that if the bigots actually got their Übermensch breeding program to work they’d probably get freaked out by the results.

“So it turns out that when you breed humans specifically for higher muscle density you also get polydactylism, colorblindness and a newly documented condition we’re dubbing ‘colonic reversal.’”

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No, it wouldn’t work. And their goal is not really to make a superman, it’s to destroy those they deem unfit.

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Ditto; Arrakis always just screamed “Welcome to planet Afghanistan, where the natives are tough, the drugs are serious business; and there’s a proxy war on between the industrial-might bad guys and the air-power guys who are pretty convinced they are the good guys because nobody wants this to go nuclear” to me.

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Humans are not anything special, genetically speaking. The same rules that apply to selective breeding of other animals could be applied to humans if you put an ethically challenged group of scientists in charge of human reproduction.*

So if you had a centuries-long breeding program to make, say, a really tall population of humans it would probably work. But you couldn’t create an all-around Übermensch like Paul Atreides or the post-serum Steve Rogers, because when you select for any one trait you get other stuff that comes along with it.

*Note: no one should ever ever do this.

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Literally the last line of the first book (not counting the appendices):

The princess will have the name, yet she’ll live as less than a concubine - never to know a moment of tenderness from the man to whom she’s bound. While we, Chani, we who carry the name of concubine - history will call us wives.

What a weird fuckin note to end that journey on…

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within the dune universe the question would be is 500 ± 25 generations spread over 10,000 years be enough to create anything like the dramatic shifts in human potential they act like they have? or is some (most?) of this just hand-waving to create a semiplausible pseudological scaffolding to hang everything else on?

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I’ve been listening to an audio book version of Dune. I think the BG breeding program is definitely a jab at the sci-fi trope of eugenics. Hell, I’d say the fact that the imperial conditioning and Mentat school are another jab at that kind of thing which oddly that western countries are proudly marching into. It’s wild that no one thinks of these things as bad when it comes down to it.

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Humanity needs to rise to the role of being stewards of life on Earth. We’re horrendously unqualified to be architects of life of Earth.

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i’m not really sure about stewardship either unless the bg breeding program could give baseline humans the intellectual capacity to internalize and deal effectively with high probability/long time-horizon existential threats.

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We’ll never know unless/until we get a Serena Butler to get rid of our thinking machines.

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Short answer: there’s not even a theoretical framework for the kinds of stuff the Bene Gesserit do with selective breeding, such as creating human beings who can access the memories of their genetic ancestors. It’s basically just Frank Herbert’s version of The Force.

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It can not. The only way to deal with our collective problems is to treat our problems as something we have to tackle together, using our own specialized skills to bring to bear on our collection of problems. There is no savior, that’s the point, no single person, no matter how “well bred” will save our collective asses. We need to think of intelligence as collective not individualistic. This more than anything else is why eugenics is complete fucking bullshit from the ground up. Because it was never a single person who made innovations, but it was groups of people sharing their knowledge together to solve problems.

Or I think more correctly, the Force is George Lucas’ version of Herbert’s ideas, having come nearly a decade later than Dune… or probably, just warmed over ideas about some collective unconsciousness theories.

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so in other words–

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There are arguably limited exceptions; but they tend to be carefully tailored and focused on relatively well-behaved genetic objectives. Something like Dor Yeshorim was crafted with some care in terms of patient interaction(understandable given that what is ultimately a eugenics program was probably a tricky sell to post-WWII Jews); and it is aimed at preventing a fairly short list of well characterized recessive disorders, which is probably a best case in terms of knowing what genes will produce what outcomes.

Yeah that one.

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