“Genetic and environmental changes can produce identical outcomes. If you wanted to rear a human child to win a body-building contest and you had a few centuries to spare, you could start by genetic manipulation, engineering exactly the same freak gene as characterizes Belgian Blue cattle and Black Exotic pigs. Indeed, there are some humans known to have deletions of the myostatin gene, and they tend to be abnormally well muscled. If you started with a mutant child and made it pump iron as well (presumably the cattle and pigs could not be cajoled into this), you could probably end with something more grotesque than Mr Universe.

Political opposition to eugenic breeding of humans sometimes spills over into the almost certainly false assertion that it is impossible. Not only is it immoral, you may hear it said, it wouldn’t work. Unfortunately, to say that something is morally wrong, or politically undesirable, is not to say that it wouldn’t work. I have no doubt that, if you set your mind to it and had enough time and enogh political power, you could breed a race of superior body-builders, or high-jumpers or shot-putters; pearl fishers, sumo wrestlers, or sprinters; or (I suspect, although now with less confidence because there are no animal precedents) superior musicians, poets, mathematicians or wine-tasters. The reason I am confident about selective breeding for athletic prowess is that the qualities needed are so similar to those that demonstrably work in the breeding of racehorses and carthorses, of greyhounds and sledge dogs. The reason I am still pretty confident about the practical feasibility (though not the moral or political desirability) of selective breeding for mental or otherwise uniquely human traits is that there are so few examples where an attempt at selective breeding in animals has ever failed, even for traits that might have thought surprising. Who would have thought, for example, that dogs could be bred for sheep-herding skills, or ‘pointing’, or bull-baiting?”

Dawkins R. The Greatest Show on Earth. The Evidence for Evolution. Bantam Press, London, 2009, p. 38-39.

Richard Dawkins´ website

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