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Letter from Joshua Lederberg to John Totter, United States Atomic Energy Commission

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Disciplines
  • Biology
  • Economics
  • Medicine

Abstract

MEMO FROM To: TX J.LEDERBERG RC GENETICS DEPARTMENT’ RO ’ STANFORD UNIVERSITY STANFORD, CALIFORNIA Uear John en 1u I don't pretend any great precision, but I would put the genetic component of the cost of disease at closer to 50 than 25;/0. 1 would not say that we overtly spend a quarter of our GNP on health. But I do think that we 1OSe that proportion of our economic and per- sonal productivity to ill-health, which I would define as the margin between our actual biological performance, and that available to the somatically fittest genotypes. At that I may still have left out costs at- tributable to the genctic'components of non- medically calculatied social failure. Yiihat is the cost of.a 5,/o decrement in IQ? Of so- cial pathology related to crime, etc.? You have stripped my argument down to its fundamentals. Vthat you should criticise me for is the untested assumption that milch of the genetic load is mutational rather than l polymor#ic (hcterozygous advantage). It would bc interesting to m-sure the effe: of consanguinity on economic performance as some objective approach'to my calculations. Has tlids come out of the Iceland pedigrees? e-w I do not associate myself with G&T's Kalcy- lations, and have made no reference to them since my articlke of Jan. 3. .l'he Star's allu- sion to Vsupport is misleading at point 1, but correctly amplified at point ZL, so 1 don't think t:ley would respond to a complaint. 1 probably should write about it again. I don't think my recent Post article exaggerated the costs of radiation exposure, nor are they in- herently intolerable, but we can hardly dis- miss them as is implied by the retrenchment of research. Sinccre'ly,

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