Shock of the New


New at Reason: Vaccination? Heart transplants? In-vitro fertilization? All these crimes against humanity shocked the public when they were first introduced. Ron Bailey demonstrates how closely the current biotech battle resembles the quaint controversies of the past.

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  1. Meanwhile, eugenics still pisses off everyone but hardcore third reichers.

  2. Russ D.,

    Depends on the variety of eugenics; positive or negative. The latter neccessarily entails the “culling” of the species; the former entails, well, species enhancement, or the negation of various in vitro issues that lead to birth defects, etc.

  3. It’s the etc. that pisses people off.

  4. Russ D.,

    You mean, hmm, things like enhanced auditory abilities? That is hearing far beyond the normal human range? 🙂

  5. JB,

    Huh? Whazzat?

    Seriously, I don’t have anything against biotech. Except where government biases the research, because then it leaves the realm of biotech and becomes the realm of eugenics. The bias starts with government funding.

  6. Jean Bart,

    My online dictionary defines “eugenics” as:

    The study of hereditary improvement of the human race by controlled selective breeding.

    I believe that’s the definition most of us would use.

    Russ D,

    I think the objectionable part of that is the bit about “controlled.” Surely such control is an independent issue from the science itself?

  7. fyodor,

    Well its an incomplete definition.

  8. Actually, there’s more of the opposite going on today. People are surviving to bear children, who would have never lived to reproduce just 50 years ago.

    This will have long term ramifications.

  9. They have been doing that (eugenics)for years
    in Arkansas. The family tree grows fast when
    planted near by the gene pool.

  10. ‘Surely such control is an independent issue from the science itself?’

    fyodor, I suppose you were being sarcastic. It’s been a long day. If not… it depends on who’s controlling. If it’s the market, maybe. If it’s the government, definitely NO.

  11. Kate,

    Like what?

    Russ D,

    I think you misunderstood me. The science of biotech is one thing, how it’s controlled is another, that’s my point. Naturally I agree that it should be controlled by the market, not the government.

    Jean Bart,

    You’re a gas!

  12. Ugly people practice reverse eugenics every time they reproduce. That is their right. We, the beautiful, can only hope to educate them, and maybe start a free-condom fund for the incorrigible.

  13. Although I am doubtless largely in agreement with Bailey on the underlying issue, I have two caveats.

    First, I don’t remember heart transplants ever having much opposition, though no doubt the media of the time found someone to quote.

    Second, the overall form of his argument is similar to an old vaudeville gag.

    “They said Galileo was crazy! They said Einstein was crazy! They said my Uncle Hymie was crazy!”

    “Who was your Uncle Hymie?”

    “Oh, nobody, he really was crazy.”

    In other words, the earlier cases don’t really determine the present case.

  14. Maybe not. But Leon Kass, for instance, who was against in-vitro & … umm … everything back when that debate mattered & now has found cool new stuff to oppose, has been handsomely rewarded for his 100 % record of wrongheadedness by appointment to the head of the Council for the Prevention of Biotech and Promotion of Repugnance. Makes your caveat look less likely.
    Also, continuing your argument, just because nationalized health care is bad for Europe doesn’t mean it won’t work here, right ?

  15. SM, your analogy isn’t quite right. To determine whether or not a government program will work, it’s sensible to look at other examples to see how well they worked. But with a moral question, history may be informative, but I don’t think it’s logical or convincing to go from “at first people objected to things in this category but later accepted them” to “therefore all objections to similar things are silly.”

  16. PapayaSF,
    You must be “crazy” to make so much sense on here,
    and not even come across as superior or nasty tempered.

  17. I see your point. But i dont think i agree. Seems to me that history can serve as a guide in both cases. Oh well …

  18. Snark, eh ? Now do you think Jesus would approve, dj ?

  19. Ron is on his home field. I totally agree, cloning is just the latest luddite dystopian delusion. Advances in biotech are inevitable, and will be accepted by even its harshest critics. The problem is, the damage done by the chicken-littles in the meantime. I don’t mind ‘no government funding for cloning’. I’d like to see no government funding for medicine period. However bans on private research will have serious consequences.

  20. WASHINGTON: Soon the two leading health risks in the United States, obesity and smoking, could be tackled by the drug Rimonabant delivered in a single pill, according to two university studies.

    Under development by the French firm Sanofi-Synthelabo, the drug is undergoing human tests by the company?s drug development arm in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and could be ready for marketing approval next year, the firm?s vice president Douglas Green said.

    As a weight control drug, Rimonabant helped overweight people lose nine kilograms (20 pounds) in one year, improving levels of good cholesterol and reducing triglycerides -fatty substances in the bloodstream, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania. “It is an exciting breakthrough in basic science about body weight and appetite,” said Tom Wadden, head of the university?s Weight and Eating Disorders Programme who led the research.

    Rimonabant was also found to help smokers almost double their odds of kicking the habit in 10 weeks, with overweight smokers losing half a kilo (one pound) of fat at the same time, according to another study by the University of Cincinnati.

  21. This French pill is good. It may allow us to slop more brie onto our cheeseburgers — oo la la.

    Which can only help French farmers, god bless their whiney souls.

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