Two Cheers for Ronald Bailey's Liberation Biology

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Tech Central Station gives Reason Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey's Liberation Biology a thumbs up. A snippet:

Bailey argues, rightly, that it is crucial to keep government out of decisions as to who gets enhanced and how. But individual decisions empowered by technology can also have troublesome wider consequences, as evidenced by some current-day biomedical methods. In China and India, ultrasound and other techniques have facilitated selecting infants on the basis of sex, such that far more boys are born than girls. Bailey notes that this particular problem has not arisen in the United States. But it is the principle of such unintended effects, rather than the specifics in this case, that should concern us….

Liberation Biology makes a strong case for the likelihood of better living through biotechnology in the coming decades. The book adds some balance to a debate that has been dominated in recent times by exaggerated risks and overblown fears.

Whole thing here.

To read excerpts, get a full table of contents, and buy Liberation Biology, go here.

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  1. Dude, I know they match you ideologically, but seriously. Tech Central Station? Can you get any more shill?

  2. From this I can assume that Ronald Bailey’s thesis supports the interests of Tech Central Station’s corporate contributors.

  3. Why is having more boys than girls such a major problem? I don’t know if Mr Bailey holds this view, and it certainly qualifies as an “unintended consequence”, but isn’t picking the sex of your offspring just another personal choice?

    And don’t give me any we-need-women-to-prop-up-the-status-quo-state/family reasons either.

  4. Ironchef, no women, no children.

    No women, lots of horny, angry, frustrated men running around.

  5. Lots of horny, angry, frustrated men running around -> Islamic terrorists.

    Seriously.

  6. From this I can assume that Ronald Bailey’s thesis supports the interests of Tech Central Station’s corporate contributors.

    Which, even if true, tells you absolutely nothing about the validity of said thesis.

  7. So TCS is running an advertorial in the form of a book review… and the book was written by a Reason writer who himself moonlights as a TCS advertorial writer!

    That’s an ethically-challenged-logrolling trifecta right there!

  8. Note to Ron:

    The book made the Left Handed DNA hall of shame. Here: http://www.lecb.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/LeftHanded.DNA.html , scroll down. Ouch. Fire the illustrator and keep up the good work.

  9. this is china we’re talking about. i don’t think their main problem is that they need more children.

  10. “Which, even if true, tells you absolutely nothing about the validity of said thesis.”

    That was, exactly, the point. A Tech Central Station endorsement means absolutely nothing either way, because their integrity is corrupted.

  11. But it is the principle of such unintended effects…

    Ahh, the good old “revenge effect.” You’d think Bailey could come up with something more original than what has already been written.

  12. Well, the scarcity of women in such situations could lead to the effect of dowries becoming less important and men becoming more willing to settle for marriage without a dowry. The lack of a historical society to compare it against makes it an experiment worth following. Considering we know not the consequences of such actions, isn’t it a bit early to even begin condeming the principles unintended effects of the situation? After all, if it leads to the liberation of women in such societies due to their scarcity, would the end justify the means?

  13. I’m reminded of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The lunar society in the book had a lack of women, which basically meant that they held a lot of power. It also meant that various forms of polygamy were the norm. But, of course, this took place in a survival-type situation which changes things quite a bit.

  14. I’m surprised women aren’t in favor of fewer girl births. A limited supply increases the value of the resource. But then, I never expect humans to be rational. If we were, then straight men would not only not dislike gay men, they would encourage their proliferation (gay men have voluntarily left the market for women, freeing up the supply for straight men).

    If economists ruled the world, we would have paradise!

  15. JMoore, didn’t you hear? Gay guys still get all the chicks.

  16. True, Stretch, but seldom for biological purposes 🙂

  17. Must have something to do with the scented products.

  18. Why is having more boys than girls such a major problem?

    I think winding up with more boys than girls may actually turn out favorably for women, especially in countries like China. If women become a scarce resource they’re value will increase.

    As for sex-selection in say, the United States, I don’t have any major qualms with it. Some people will want girls, some people will want boys. It will balance out.

  19. “JMoore, didn’t you hear? Gay guys still get all the chicks.”

    And all the guys! Greedy bastards.

  20. I can see one possibly bad outcome in limiting the supply of women, though. If they become rare enough, they might wind up being treated like Ming vases: treasured and loved, yet kept under tight security.

    Still, that’s better than being treated like the other extreme of supply.

  21. wsdave

    “All the guys”? Something you wish to confess?

  22. Gravity works, and momentum can swing things both ways…

  23. O dear god. TMI!

  24. Anyone watch the “This Week” roundtable discussion on embryonic stem cell research? Cokie Roberts pulled out the old canard about “cop killer” bullets as a way of illustrating why we need regulation this area. 🙂

  25. Cokie Roberts : Beltway Conventional Wisdom :: Cokiehead : Big Old Pile of Cokiecaine

  26. Coke-heads forever!

    Cokie-heads must die!

  27. So, wait a second, which part of gender selection via abortion does Bailey have a problem with, the determination of gender, or the aborting of a fetus which has the undesired gender?

    I can’t believe he’d be luddite enough to oppose technological determination of gender. So have we at long last discovered an abortion that Ron Bailey is uncomfortable with?

  28. I haven’t read much from TCS so I’m not that familiar with them, but I’m curious why their “integrity is corrupted” as theCoach says. Do you have evidence of something specific they did or is it simply the fact they have “corporate contributors” that corrupts their integrity? And if so, do you feel left-leaning sites with, say, environmentalist group contributors also suffer from corrupted integrity?

    I guess I thought what corrupted integrity was conducting yourself in a dishonest manner, not having opinions that happen to be supported by some corporate interests which might induce them to contributes to your site. Anyway, as I said, this is no defense of TCS; I have no knowledge of their integrity one way or the other, just a general question.

  29. crimethink,

    Do you suppose that someone who feels abortion should not be illegal cannot still be “uncomfortable” with them?

  30. Brian Courts,

    Well, tbh, such a view suffers from the same problem as the “I’m personally against abortion, but I support a woman’s right to choose” weaselry. What is it about abortion that such a person is “personally against”?

    There’s little reason to be personally against a woman terminating an unwanted pregnancy, unless one believes that the entity developing in her womb has interests which must be considered. And from his writings, I highly doubt that Mr. Bailey is of that opinion, at least consciously.

  31. crimethink,

    You can think the fetus is a human life, has interests worth considering, and still come down on the side that feels abortion should not be illegal. If so you may well have trouble with it.

  32. All this reminds me of that joke where the one girl tells here friends that she has two boyfriends.

    She says; One of them is caring sensitive, dresses so fashionably, is attentive, understands me, and is wonderfull.

    Her friend asks; so why do you have the other one for then.?

    And she replies; The other one is straight.

  33. You can think the fetus is a human life, has interests worth considering, and still come down on the side that feels abortion should not be illegal.

    Tell me, what interests of the fetus are served by its destruction? I would think the primary interest of any human life would be its continued existence, yet one who supports the legality of abortion on demand is giving that interest essentially zero consideration.

  34. Crimethink: I, at least, think the fetus probably has interests worth respecting, but so does the mother. I don’t think the issue is as clear-cut as most people do, but I think the mother’s interests generally trump the fetus’s, just as my interests in not having hostile trespassers in my house trump the trespassers’ interests in not getting shot in the head. I certainly don’t expect that argument to convince you that abortion is okay, but I’m hoping you can see it as a reasonable judgment. I find abortion something to be avoided, because I do believe the fetus has interests, but those interests aren’t always the most important.

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