CMV: Modern medicine weakens the gene pool of the human race

The chosen response expresses the belief that humanity’s gene pool is being weakened due to modern medicine’s cures and treatments to otherwise fatal illnesses. The science used to “support” the argument is the elimination of weaker (illness carrying) genes should occur via the process of natural selection but is impeded due to the creation of modern medicines. Pseudoscientific theories are often driven by cognitive biases and heuristics, such as confirmation bias, representative heuristic, illusory causation, arguments from ignorance and pro-science thinking.

Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to seek out evidence that is consistent with one’s beliefs in order to strengthen their argument. In this case, natural selection has been used to act as evidence in support of the theory that modern medicines prevent the weaker genes to be eradicated. Whilst there is still evidence of natural selection occurring in current human populations (McRae, 2017), it would be fair to say modern-day humans are exposed to artificial selection. This is the process where mating partners are chosen based on the phenotypes that they will attribute to the offspring. Hence, using the basis of natural selection as an argument in favour of the gene pool being weakened by modern medicines is confirmation bias.

Representativeness heuristic refers to the degree to which an observed event is similar to its parent population, where people with “weak” genes are the observed event and the basis of evolution is the parent population. Whilst evolution has seen the gradual removal of weak genes and increased presence of stronger genes in animal populations, this cannot be directly compared to the evolution of humans. As stated before, humans are more exposed to artificial selection than natural selection, hence the observed event cannot be effectively compared to the parent population to draw a true conclusion. This is furthered by illusory causation, which refers to tendency to draw statistical relationships between objectively unrelated events.

An argument from ignorance occurs from beliefs based on a lack of refuting evidence. In this case, there is a lack of refuting and supporting evidence, creating difficulty in both proving and denying the argument. This allows for those in favour of the belief to dispute scepticism on the basis of little contesting evidence, which is evident in the chosen post. Therefore, the correlation between a weaker gene pool and modern medicine can be classified as an argument from ignorance.

Pro-science thinking refers to the confidence and trust within the scientific community that some individuals possess, which often acts as a benefit when trying to debunk pseudoscientific theories. However, a scientific theory has been used to support the pseudoscience in this case, increasing the difficulty to debunk this theory. The aforementioned exposure to artificial selection has not be considered in this argument, highlighting a lack of knowledge on the “supporting” evidence.

Hence, several cognitive biases and heuristics are prevalent in the presentation of the given argument, weakening the logic and “evidence” provided in favour of the belief.

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