Have stopped regularly reading the New York Times as it is a sinkhole of propaganda but an occasional glance at the front page yields an article outraged bloggers haven't already excoriated.
Yesterday's find was a subtle eugenicist argument about "the feel good gene" by a professor of clinical psychiatry. He claims some people are just naturally anxious, while others have a gene that allows them to shrug off fears and look on the bright side. This was tested by some Frankenscience where a human feelgood gene was "inserted" into mice, causing them to hang out, carefree, in the open center of a maze, while their un-gened fellows cowered fearfully in the dark, back alleyways. It's easy to see where this is going -- another drug to make people feel better when they should be rebelling against the toxic social conditions that are making them anxious (income inequality, lousy labor practices, lack of adequate health care, corruption, surveillance, and police harassment, to name a few).
The Times opens comments just long enough to allow a flood of kneejerk reactions (second thoughts? too late, send a letter). The feelgood gene article received 206 of these, with ten "editor's picks" that were almost entirely supportive. A few dissenters took issue with the pharmacological slant of the article, but from an herbalist or "meditationalist" perspective, not because of its lack of consideration of social causes. One comment in particular caught the article's whiff of eugenics:
Providence, RI 17 hours ago
This article is a superb example of scientific data gone awry through faulty interpretation and application. To wit: 1) The growing field of epigenetics has demonstrated that the environmental factors that turn on or off genes are as important as the genes themselves. 2) A vast body of scientific evidence shows that genes can be turned on or off by therapeutic interventions, which are usually not pharmaceutical agents, but include many alternative medical treatments which Dr. Friedman is unlikely to be aware of because of his specialty in medicine (e.g., yoga, meditation). 3) After all the experience with psychotropic medications' side effects, which research shows occur in the majority of patients, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, decreased sex drive, addiction, tardive dyskinesia, and many others, it would take a supreme degree of naivete to believe that a drug that "boosts anandamide" would be more safe and free of side effects than any other psychotropic medication. 4) In describing the anxious as "genetically disadvantaged" Dr. Friedman, though meaning well, sounds a note of moral judgment reflective of the eugenics movement. Though motivated by compassion, I'm sure, Friedman unwittingly suggests that those with anxiety are somehow genetically defective, rather than seeing anxiety's evolutionary value. The analogous situation is sickle cell anemia, which confers a protective effect on those affected against malaria.