Madness and Humanity’s Gene Pool


Written by Joseph Dunsay. After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. For more Jewrotica writing by Joseph, check out The Disadvantages of Polygyny Make Couples Choose Monogamy, The Scientific Opinion Regarding Gender Specific Brains is Mixed, The Roman Empire Left an Imprint on Jewish Genes, and Teledildonics May Help Jewish Husbands Travel.

Rated PG-13

A regulator in the UK is investigating Britain’s largest sperm bank after it was accused of practicing eugenics by allegedly refusing a sperm donation from a man on account of his dyslexia. The sperm bank has a policy of refusing donations from men with ADD, ADHD, and autism to prevent the conception of children who might have these conditions. Because dyslexia may be associated with improved spatial reasoning, pattern recognition, and lateral thinking, society might be poorer without dyslexic people. Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Winston Churchill had the condition.

Efforts to combat mental conditions through eugenics should worry Jews for a few reasons. First, during the 20th Century, European Jews suffered an attempt to systematically eliminate them. Second, continuing a lineage is so important to Jews that halacha obligates a Jewish man to procreate. Third, Jews are often stereotyped as mentally ill. As a case in point, a Times of Israel post responded to one doctor’s attempt to spread that stereotype.

Research on Jews and mental illness showed decades ago that the combined rates of psychiatric disorders among American Jews was the same as the rate among Catholics and Protestants. Although Jews were more likely than Christians to seek psychotherapy on their own and to recommend it to others, they were less likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric condition. Historically, the vast majority of Jewish psychiatrists emphasized psychoanalysis while the vast majority of Christian psychiatrists focused on biochemistry. In the late 20th Century, the biochemical model of mental illness dominated the field of psychiatry.

The pendulum has begun to swing back as more and more scientists realize that not every behavioral problem should be viewed as a biochemical imbalance and that psychiatric drugs are given too often. A recent UK study found that medical staff frequently misused antipsychotic drugs, giving them to mentally disabled people with no history of mental illness, because the staff wanted a quick and easily way to end behavioral problems. A shocking 71% of people receiving antipsychotic drugs in the survey were never diagnosed with a severe mental illness.

A growing movement looks beyond the disease-model of mental illness. Psychiatric diagnoses have become less reliable over the years, and researchers have yet to match those diagnoses with specific biological traits. Even the National Institute of Mental Health wants to replace the current diagnostic system. A more holistic approach to mental health considers how sociological factors and a person’s traumatic experiences, not just his genes, contribute to his emotional state. As the studies supporting psychological approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, accumulate, it is becoming clear that mental illness is not an immutable part of a person’s life.

Research into the environmental factors contributing to emotional distress goes back over a century. In 1897, Suicide, a book by French sociologist Emile Durkheim, documented how religion, family status, and other environmental factors affected a person’s suicide risk. Because factors other than genetics play such an important role in mental problems, efforts to make mental illness rarer by removing mentally ill people from the gene pool would probably be both ineffective and unnecessary.

A genetically average person will have emotional problems if he faces enough trauma, and the child of a mentally ill person can grow up normal if given enough support. Classifying mental illness as a genetic condition is a gross oversimplification. Considering the myriad factors that contribute to mental illness, policies designed to keep mentally ill men from donating sperm are hard to justify.

After earning a Masters of Science in Ecology and Evolution, Joseph Dunsay became a science writer for international audiences. His LGBT erotic e-book launched in the summer of 2015.