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Silicon Rose

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[Apr. 24th, 2008|07:47 pm]
Silicon Rose
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Hello, Gattaca.
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From: cloakedwraith
2008-04-25 07:51 am (UTC)
Yes, I had Gattaca flashbacks too when I learned of the legislation. Even though I loved the movie and its message, my initial reaction to the bill isn't favorable, though. Gattaca's VALID/INVALID genetic discrimination is clearly wrong because genes don't dictate a person's moral and intellectual capabilities, hence said genes are irrelevant in the work place.

That said, however, genetic information is highly relevant to insurance companies who base their entire industry on statistics and risk. If they had said information at their dispoal, rates would no doubt change accordingly to reflect the additional data, but I don't buy the argument that certain classes of people would suddenly be uninsurable on the basis of their DNA.
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[User Picture]From: pristis
2008-04-25 09:27 am (UTC)
Gattaca's VALID/INVALID genetic discrimination is clearly wrong because genes don't dictate a person's moral and intellectual capabilities, hence said genes are irrelevant in the work place.

Whether moral and intellectual capabilities are genetically determined or not isn't nearly as relevant as whether corporations believe that they are. As The Bell Curve, among others, has shown, the concept of genetic predestination possesses an undying popularity.

I think that large group of people will indeed become uninsurable due to revealed genetic information. Our knowledge of human genetics will only become more powerful as we learn more about genetic variation within human populations, gene function, and the regulatory networks that govern gene expression. I felt that Gattaca was actually rather conservative in this respect. Then again, this is all speculation, and human stuff really isn't what I do. I just have to hear about it, because practically everyone else does human stuff.

I do think that we don't know enough about human genetics for this sort of thing to be really feasible yet-- I feel like companies like 23andme are nearing fraud in the way that they advertise themselves. (At the very least, they're really annoyingly trendy; it's something like watching overhyped Web 2.0 companies sprout up.)
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2008-04-25 02:52 pm (UTC)
Alas, IQ (which may or may not correspond to the ill-defined "intelligence", but is an excellent predictor of academic success whether or not the subject's IQ is known prior to schooling) does have a fairly strong genetic component (depending on the study, heritability of 0.4-0.8). Weirdly, the genetic component grows stronger as families grow wealthier and individuals grow older.

The Gattaca Valid/Invalid thing is wrong because any attempt to rank the relative worth of humans is wrong. Necessarily it depends on the arbitrary assignment of value to some traits rather than others; valuing humans according to intelligence is no more or less arbitrary than valuing them according to height, wealth, skin color, or Quake deathmatch skills. Arbitrarily denying rights or causing suffering to individuals is, I would hope we can agree, very wrong.

As for the bill itself, my fear is not so much that people would be denied coverage as that *disorders* would be denied coverage. "Oh, you're genetically predisposed to that, so it's a pre-existing condition."

On the other hand, maybe genetic testing will be the final straw that breaks our phenomenally stupid healthcare system. In a system that weren't inherently opposed to preventative care, genetic testing would be phenomenally useful, but our current system makes it actually harmful to patients.
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From: cloakedwraith
2008-04-25 04:49 pm (UTC)
Alas, IQ (which may or may not correspond to the ill-defined "intelligence", but is an excellent predictor of academic success whether or not the subject's IQ is known prior to schooling) does have a fairly strong genetic component (depending on the study, heritability of 0.4-0.8). Weirdly, the genetic component grows stronger as families grow wealthier and individuals grow older.

The last sentence runs counter to the rest of the claim and betrays the fallacy here, which is substituting correlation for causation. Intelligent, successful parents will tend, on average, to put a greater value on the education of their children. They may also be able to afford better schooling and be more involved in that schooling from an early age. So it follows that their children would perform better on an IQ test and be more successful in school. Of course, there are no guarantees, because each child ultimately has to choose whether to apply himself.

The Gattaca Valid/Invalid thing is wrong because any attempt to rank the relative worth of humans is wrong.

In terms of inherited traits (which is what you were talking about), I completely agree with you. I'd say, though, that it is perfectly valid for individuals (note: not governments) to rank people according to the values they hold, however.

As for the bill itself, my fear is not so much that people would be denied coverage as that *disorders* would be denied coverage. "Oh, you're genetically predisposed to that, so it's a pre-existing condition."

Why? Even with genetic predisposition, the odds typically won't be 100%, and often there are other factors (e.g. diet) that contribute to whether the disorder ultimately affects the person. There would be some improved, more accurate measure of risk, and the premiums would be set accordingly.
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[User Picture]From: froborr
2008-04-25 08:23 pm (UTC)
Studies have actually considered that point, and, among other methods, compared the IQ variance of fraternal twins to identical twins, which allows both pre- and post-uterine environment to be separated from genetic factors.

The last sentence also does not, actually, run counter to the rest of the claim. Consider, for example, the case where nutrition is a major factor in IQ (it actually is, but that doesn't matter for the sake of the example). Let's say (massive oversimplification here, but the principle is still applicable) Jane and Bob both come from poor families, but Jane's parents do a slightly better job of ensuring she gets as close to a healthy diet as they can manage. Jane gets a 10-point boost from her genes and a 5-point boost from her diet, for a 15-point advantage (ignoring other environmental effects here, obviously). Bob gets a 5-point boost from genes and a -5 loss from diet, for 0 points. Kevin and Lucy come from rich families, and both have easy access to all needed nutrients. Kevin gets a 10-point boost from genes and a 10-point boost from diet (20 points), and Lucy gets a 5-point boost from genes and a 10-point boost from diet (15 points).

As you can see, the variance between the rich kids is significantly less than that between the poor kids, even though the variance due to genetics is the same, because the variance due to nutrition is less. The result is that, as a percentage of overall variance (which is what heritability measures -- a heritability of .4 means that, on average, genetic variance accounts for 40% of total variance), heritability of IQ is greater in the richer family.

Similarly, if the rate at which IQ deteriorates with time (or its resistance to deterioration with time, which is almost but not quite the same thing) is strongly genetic, than the heritability of IQ will be greater in older populations. It's counterintuitive, but not actually contradictory.

I know. The notion that IQ has a strong genetic component is *extremely* distressing. Note, however, that it is not *entirely* genetic. Environment and, hopefully, personal effort do still count for something.

In terms of inherited traits (which is what you were talking about), I completely agree with you. I'd say, though, that it is perfectly valid for individuals (note: not governments) to rank people according to the values they hold, however.

I'm fine with that as long as said individuals remain aware that their ranking does not and should not matter to anyone but themselves, and do not try to extend it to a society-wide ranking.

Why? Even with genetic predisposition, the odds typically won't be 100%, and often there are other factors (e.g. diet) that contribute to whether the disorder ultimately affects the person. There would be some improved, more accurate measure of risk, and the premiums would be set accordingly.

There are really only three possible outcomes. Either the premiums will go up and the percentage of the populace that is able to get treatment will drop, or premiums will stay the same but coverage will be refused to certain people and the percentage of the populace that is able to get treatment will drop, or premiums will stay the same and coverage will still be extended to the same people but certain disorders will no longer be covered for people who have a genetic predisposition to them and the percentage of the populace that is able to get treatment will drop.

If your goal is to have healthcare be as close to universal as possible and of as high quality as possible -- the only sane goal a healthcare system can have -- allowing insurance companies to even look at patients' genetic test results is an all-around bad idea.
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[User Picture]From: pristis
2008-04-26 06:33 pm (UTC)
I've kind of forgotten what's here, but you might find it interesting.

A guy on /. also made an interesting point about the potential impact on the healthcare system as a whole, as well. I'm not sure I'm convinced, but I hadn't quite thought of it that way before.
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[User Picture]From: tlttlotd
2008-04-26 02:40 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, this also screws those of us who can't afford the care we need.
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[User Picture]From: siliconrose
2008-04-25 09:03 pm (UTC)
One thing -- you're all aware that discrimination on the basis of genes was illegal in Gattaca too?

I always saw part of the message of the movie being that there was little way to stop it from happening.
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[User Picture]From: pristis
2008-04-26 06:07 pm (UTC)
I should look into that. I don't know the method to many of these tests.
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