The more sophisticated version of this argument is an appeal to the Efficient Market Hypothesis with respect to natural selection: "If trait X is so great, why hasn't natural selection already maximized it? There must be negative second-order effects to increasing it!"

This argument isn't so silly. If I told you that there was a pill that could increase your IQ by fifteen points, would you believe me? What if I showed you a fancy-schmancy table filled with computed Hedge's g's, pristine p-values, and large N sample sizes? How about then? Still probably no. There is no trait more economically valuable than intelligence. If something like a magic intelligence pill existed--at no cost--you wouldn't be hearing about it from me.

You could argue that the same logic applies to increasing intelligence using genetics. Natural selection can be ruthless if lacking a trait proves to be a big enough disadvantage. For example, the trait "having two eyes" shows little variation among humans. And humans who do have fewer than two eyes tend to have them for reasons that aren't terribly heritable (e.g running with scissors in Kindergarten). So we have a case where an obviously beneficial trait is maximized.

But ultimately, the above argument does not go through. The sleight of hand here is a conflation between what's *natural* and what's *good*. There are traits that have only a so-so impact on fitness, but are highly esteemed based on our society's values. Intelligence is arguably one of those traits. The hubris of man be damned: We can do better than natural selection.

(I've been told that intelligence was a boon in the ancestral environment, but that the reason that intelligence isn't maximized is due to an "entropic force" due the brain having such a large mutational target, resulting in our current equilibrium distribution of the trait.)

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I like your thinking. If I understand your comment, it seems that there is usefulness in speeding up evolution. One could believe that a trait that is beneficial has not *yet* fixated in the population as such takes time and that time is slower than the current process of technical advancement would find useful. There are wisdom writings now current that discuss the need for high IQ individuals and bemoans the current decline thereof. But I’m a novice here, so corrections/extensions welcome

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Haha, I shouldn't speak in such an authoritative tone considering how far I am from an expert.

But yeah: I agree with what you said. We are optimized for the ancestral environment, not for life in a modern, technological civilization. We can assume that if we stayed at this level of technology for thousands of years, humans would evolve to better fit the environment (though in what ways we would evolve is quite unclear and probably a bit path-dependent). If we could speed up the sort of phenotype changes that would naturally occur anyway given enough time, then that would be desirable.

But I wanted to make the additional point that what's natural is not the same as what's good. You can think of genetic engineering as speeding up natural selection, but it's really more powerful than that. It's the next step in our journey to free ourselves from nature--the same journey that features the invention of agriculture or the steam engine. I believe in the story of human progress in the same way that Christians believe in the god of Abraham. Why not take our destiny into our own hands?

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Nature vs Good. The stuff a good sci-fi novel is made of. ;-) I can accept/understand that distinction. Thanks for the response.

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