March 22, 2005

Abiola Lapite's "Minimal Set"

Abiola Lapite writes that if we were to send 100 humans to a distant planet, we should choose a group with high genetic diversity, consisting (in his opinion) of 70% Africans.

But, what does "genetic diversity" have to do with the ability to establish (or re-establish) civilization? Many human groups with low genetic diversity (compared to Africans), e.g., Amerindians, or East Asians, were able to create civilization.

In fact, given Lapite's assumption that individuals can be screened for a long list of genetic diseases, then one could just as well send 50 male and 50 female clones. After all, inbreeding has ill iffects only in the presence of deleterious predispositions, and these could be culled by the genetic screening.

So, sending 50 male and 50 female clones with optimal genetic aptitudes (either most generic, or most adapted to the local conditions, if such information was available) would be much better than sending a "high diversity" group.

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