Many dogs, as well as other animals, were bred to the point of becoming nothing but mere tools or toys.

For example, wolves certainly were already strong, fast, or intelligent creatures but some were bred to the point of being able to surpass the original version in either of those aspects, either as tools for self defense or sometimes just for company.

Now, imagine it's 1647 in Germany, and a strong religious sentiment of eugenics has overwhelmed central Europe. Everyone believes humans used to be perfect when they were first created by God and they want to reach their lost perfection and have their sins forgiven.

How would humans look and behave if they were bred in order to reflect religious perfection by 16th century's standards in central Europe or "Germania"?

  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't they look and behave close to whatever religious perfection was in the 16th century? $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Jan 29 '19 at 1:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadowzee Assuming humans were bred just like wolves were bred into pugs, which was not the case as apparently people have always been consistent anatomically for so much time. $\endgroup$
    – user60899
    Jan 29 '19 at 1:24
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    – Gryphon
    Jan 29 '19 at 1:25
  • $\begingroup$ It should be pretty simple to only have humans with the desired traits have children. If you want blonde hair and white skin, only let people who are blonde haired and white skin breed. The question is confusing because the end result of breeding anything to look a certain way is that they will end up appearing like that. Is it possible to clarify the question? Are you trying to make all humans, Asian, Black, Latino and so on into white blonde people? $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Jan 29 '19 at 1:32
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    $\begingroup$ There isn't a clear definition of what the perfect appearance is according to 16th Century religion. You have to provide this in order for your question to work $\endgroup$ Jan 29 '19 at 2:42

[...] in order to reflect religious perfection by 16th century's standards in central Europe [...]

Appearance of man was nowhere to be found in the religious standards. Those standards required only the man to be pious, modest, hard worker. Physical appearance and vanity were frowned upon.

In the medieval times there were some thinking that, since the time Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, mankind had gone an involution, from beautiful and long lived creatures, images of the god who created them, to crippled and short lived beings rolling in the mud of daily existence. But also back then, physical appearance was not a valued asset, more important being the spiritual beauty.

Long story short: for a religion believing that each man with his actions determines his religious destiny, selective breeding seems the most remote option for "improvement" of any sort, as it boils down to what the parents transmitted and not on what the individual did during his life.

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    $\begingroup$ Great answer, Dutch! $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 29 '19 at 2:20
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    $\begingroup$ But we know that personality, and thus what actions you're likely to take, are at least partially heritable. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Jan 29 '19 at 2:31

Physical traits are likely to change in unpredictable ways. The Bible doesn't really specify what a good Christian looks like, just what they act like. If your breeding program is focused on maximizing a small set of traits, the other traits will go crazy. You can see this with dog breeds; they have been bred for so long to achieve perfect aesthetics according to what dog shows think a breed should look like that many now have a whole host of health problems. Pugs and other bracycephalic dogs have breathing problems, Rottweilers have heart problems, Great Danes have seizures, Huskies have hip and arthritis issue. Similar things will happen to people. If you circumvent natural selection, the maladies it prevented will come back.

We don't really know how heritable a lot of personality traits are. It's really difficult to separate learned from inherited traits in this case, because the culture you were raised in influences your personality.

There's scant few facets of a person's personality that we know are heavily influenced by genetics. The people in the society you described would be unlikely to become alcoholics, since addictive tendencies are highly heritable. They're also likely to be docile.

There's likely many more personality traits influenced by genetics, but we just don't know enough about the brain to say much more.


The problem with this question as I see it is the assumption that the flaws in humanity are genetic, not a matter of character. At least, in the form that they are perceived by the Christian God. This may actually be possible. In Genesis, God clearly tells Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, then bars them access to the fruit of the tree of eternal life for doing so.

From that, we can infer that;
1) Mankind was made with in inherent flaw that caused them to age and die
2) If we'd been good for a set period of time, we'd have had that flaw reversed by some form of fruit containing a beneficial mutagen, that we'd have been given access to

So, from a philosophical perspective, we are genetically imperfect because of a character flaw that (after a given period of obedience) would have been corrected. Of course, this then brings forward the ultimate question;

Would correcting the character flaws to make us 'perfect' make us physically perfect according to biblical definitions (the wages of sin is death and all that)?

Religious perfection, particularly Christian religious perfection, is a matter of character, not genetics and cannot be otherwise. As such, it's not a selective breeding program you need; it's a selective training program. As such, there are plenty of fictional resources you can look to in order to understand such programs, but if we agree to stick with the classics for a moment, check out 1984 by George Orwell.

Humans are adaptable, curious, and loyal to causes that they believe deep down protect themselves and their interests. All you really have to do is give humans the right outlets for their curiosity (shape their environment), train them in the proper way to be (shape their adaptation to that environment) and then give them a suitable carrot (already built into Christian faith called Heaven) and you'd be amazed how quickly the 'perfect' human evolves.

It is important to note that the whole point of evolution developing the cerebral cortex was to allow intelligent animals, especially humans, to adapt to new situations within a single lifespan; not over millennia as the correct responses get encoded through trial and error into DNA. Your religious eugenics program is literally taking the most inefficient route to perfection possible.

You don't breed religious perfection; you inculcate it.

  • $\begingroup$ Character is at least partially heritable. Of course a person's upbringing is important, but so are genetics. Of course you should inculcate religious perfection, but why not ALSO breed it? You teach a dog to be loyal and obedient, but you also breed them to be loyal and obedient. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Jan 29 '19 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Ryan_L these are good points you make, and certainly no amount of training is ever going to make a psychopath (for example) the epitome of religious perfection. That said, I always thought that the 'shoot your dog if it bites you' theory of animal training was based on misconceptions. That said, the (old) research I've read seems to imply that dogs are dumber (but longer lived) than wolves; that we've essentially bred wolves into friendly dogs through lower intellectual and social intelligence; would we be willing to sacrifice our intellect and curiosity for religious adherence? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Jan 29 '19 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ The ruling class would certainly be willing to sacrifice everyone else's intellect and curiosity. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Jan 29 '19 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Ryan_L good point; I suspect they're already doing it. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Jan 29 '19 at 4:20