Science

Bioethics and the Progressive Neocons

Some progressives have progressed so far that they've become technophobic reactionaries.

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Let's play a game. Take a minute to guess the background political ideologies behind each of the quotes below dealing with the ethical implications of new biotechnologies:

(1) "The technologies are going to be accessible to affluent couples and would be used in ways that could increase inequality. The last thing we need now is a genetic elite."

(2) "Practically speaking, cloning is the opening wedge for a series of technologies that ultimately lead to designer babies. If cloning is allowed now, it will be harder to oppose germ-line engineering to enhance babies in the future."

(3) "Cloning represents a very clear, powerful, and immediate example in which we are in danger of turning procreation into manufacture."

(4) "Cloning of a human being is intuitively and properly viewed with almost uniform horror, because replication of a human by cloning would radically alter the very definition of what a human being is."

(5) "The single most portentous technological threshold in all of human history is close upon us: the ability of humans to deliberately modify the genes that get passed to our children."

(6) "Genetic engineering to create designer babies is the ultimate expression of the hubris that marks the loss of reverence for life as a gift."

(7) "The new biological technologies require the application of one of more important lessons of the environmental movement; the imperative to treat with caution power new technologies that may cause significant harm."

(8) "Given the enormous importance of what is at stake, we believe that the so-called 'precautionary principle' should be our guide in this arena. This principle would suggest that scientists, technologists, indeed, all of us should be modest in claiming to understand the many possible consequences of any profound alteration of human procreation."

While slight differences in emphasis and tone may give away the game in some cases, the central sentiment is astonishingly consistent. With regard to the bioethical issues I cherrypicked, it's hard to tell your prominent bioethical left-wingers from your right-wingers.

So who said what? The first statement is from Richard Hayes who is the executive director of the progressive Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, California. The second is from Francis Fukuyama, author of Our Posthuman Future and generally considered a neoconservative. The third is from Leon Kass, former head of President George W. Bush's Council on Bioethics. The fourth is by George Annas, a left-wing law professor at Boston University. The fifth one is Hayes again. The sixth assertion is from Michael Sandel, a liberal political scientist from Harvard University. The seventh contention was made by Marcy Darnovsky, another fierce progressive from the Center for Genetics and Society, and the last one from Human Cloning and Human Dignity, a volume issued by Bush's Council on Bioethics. 

This comparative exercise in bioethical pronunciamentos was provoked by the launch of the new book, Progress in Bioethics: Science, Policy, and Politics at a meeting at the Center for American Progress (CAP) last week. CAP is the Washington, D.C., think tank that has stocked the ranks of much of the Obama Administration. In choosing contributors to the volume, the editors—bioethicist Jonathan Moreno and former CAP researcher Sam Berger—are evidently attempting to promote a big tent progressive bioethics. Moreno and Berger intend that the volume display the wide varieties of "progressive" bioethics. The book is a challenge to the conservative/neoconservative bioethics that was ascendant in Washington, D.C., policy circles under the Bush Administration.

But a quick reading of the book suggests that the divide between some bioethical progressives and conservatives isn't particularly wide. With the notable exception of the abortion issue, the above list of quotations shows that there is considerable overlap between self-described conservatives and progressives when it comes to banning various proposed and actual biotechnological interventions. Both conservatives and progressives endorse the application of the so-called precautionary principle to bioethics. A profound attack on new technologies, the precautionary principle requires innovators to prove that their new technologies are totally safe before they are allowed to introduce them into the marketplace.

"Conservatives frequently default to reflexive opposition to new technologies, an opposition that is almost always overtaken by practical events," declare Moreno and Berger in their introductory chapter. But opposition to new technologies is nowadays also the default position of many ideological leftists. For example, a wide array of environmental groups wants to ban agricultural biotechnology and left-leaning advocacy groups want a moratorium on nanotechnology research and development.

The source of this progressive unease is their fear that the dynamic scientific and market competitive processes that engender and deploy new technologies will exacerbate social and economic inequalities. "It is not difficult to imagine biotechnological developments and social contexts that would help produce a world in which we have less and less commitment to one another as members of a single human community, in which the divide between the haves and have-nots increasingly and perhaps irreversibly deepens," argues Darnovsky in her chapter.

Remember the left/liberal panic over the "digital divide"? Rich educated white people and their children would have access to new information technologies that would give them a permanent head start over the poor minorities. While it is certainly true that the rich and educated generally gain access to new technologies first, markets quickly democratized technologies like computers and cellular phones.

Many self-described progressives oppose genetically enhanced crops, yet the pest and weed control technologies built into biotech varieties works just as well on small farms as they do for massive agribusiness. And resource-poor farmers are likely to see more dramatic improvements in yields than already well-off farmers.

The tension between progressive commitments to democracy and individual rights runs throughout Progress in Bioethics. In some cases, democracy trumps rights. Darnovsky, a proponent of the democratic approach, asks in her essay, "How can progressive biopolitics encourage democratic deliberation about and civil-society involvement in decisions about powerful new biotechnologies?" (Note: In this context, "civil-society" is the term for the special interest groups preferred by progressives.) As an answer to her own question, Darnovsky points to Canada's Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRA). The AHRA was adopted in 2004 after a series of public meetings and hearings involving thousands of citizens. The process was also guided by a network of Canadian feminists.

Darnovsky is pleased that the democratic process that resulted in the AHRA prohibits "the creation of human embryos solely for research [to produce stem cells for tranplant], inheritable genetic modification and reproductive cloning, sex selection (except to prevent the birth of children with certain sex-linked conditions), and commercial surrogacy and gamete retrieval." None of these technologies have been comprehensively banned in the United States. After being careful to note that Fukuyama has "broken" with his fellow neoconservatives, although largely over the Iraq war, Darnovsky goes on to praise the neoconservative's proposal to establish a powerful federal biotechnology control agency that would regulate biotechnologies and treatments not only on the grounds of safety and efficacy, but on the basis of social values.

To their great credit, Moreno and Berger assert, "progressive bioethicists do not insist on one vision of the good life, or impose a single moral belief system on everyone. Rather, they protect and promote the ability of individuals to pursue their own ends, provided they do not impede the ability of others to do the same." By itself, this principle would ground a liberal, or even libertarian bioethics.

Of course, being on the political left, Moreno and Berger are fond of equality and want that to be part of progressive bioethical visions as well. Although having the government intervene extensively in reproductive and medical decisions is not the way I would go, their progressive commitment to equality could be met by the government supplying access to the benefits of new biotechnological treatments and enhancements to the poor. As dangerous as this is, it is much preferable to Darnovsky's technophobic version of progressive bioethics that bans new technologies in order to make sure that the rich and the poor remain equally diseased, disabled, and dead.

Bioethicist James Hughes, another contributor to Progress in Bioethics, is correct when he identifies Darnovsky, Hayes, Annas, and others as "leftwing bioconservatives," Ultimately, when it comes to bioethics some progressives have progressed so far across the ideological spectrum that they are, in policy terms, not much different from the neoconservatives and conservatives they affect to despise.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is available from Prometheus Books.

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  1. Ron Bailey on Technophobic Bioethical Progressive Neocons.

    Wait – you mean there are OTHER kinds? Gosh!

  2. Both conservatives and progressives endorse the application of the so-called precautionary principle to bioethics.

    Why abandon a good fallacy?

  3. The basic difference is that neoconservative bioethicists tend to be averse to risks, while progressive bioethicists, by contrast, are risk averse.

  4. Ron,

    This is a really sorry attempt. I think the Left is right to raise concerns that there could develop a genetic elite. I am not saying it is going to come to pass, but it is something worth considering. And the “digital divide” is a pretty stupid analogy. The effect of poor kids not having computers is a little less profound than some people being genetically engineered into what amounts to a new species.

    1. “if we have there could develop a elite” because rich people can afford more, and there is only so much pie to go around.

      If freedom works, it works.

      1. well the editor ate my post.

        The surest way to guarantee a genetic elite is to put government controls, guaranteeing the “right” sort of person only can get them, or ensuring shortages so only the rich can get them, etc..

        The surest way to guarantee too many people have the same modification resulting in lowered genetic diversity, is to have controls. The FDA or any government agency won’t be able to approve changes to keep up with demand. And we’ll all end up with the same ones.

        1. I’m pretty sure the surest way to guarantee a genetic elite is to let bioengineering companies do whatever they want and rich people buy whatever they want.

          1. Yes, because we all know that when companies go unregulated, they only sell to the rich. Just think of all the luxury items us poor folks wouldn’t have if the government didn’t make companies sell us TVs, cars, microwave ovens…

    2. Wait, using the rich as guinea pigs isn’t progressive?

    3. Why? Because it would replace them?

    4. I think the Left is right to raise concerns that there could develop a genetic elite.

      Evolution would have it that there already is, and always will be, a genetic elite.

  5. DAR lol :-0

  6. John: why do you think biotech/nanotech interventions will remain expensive relative to average wealth over the coming century?

    1. Ron,

      John is wrong on this one and so are the people you quote. Any good entrepreneur knows that the path to CONSTANT riches is to make and sell cheap stuff to most people, rather than a few expensive things to rich people.

      The quoted nitwits are just a sample of the economics-illiterate intelligentsia. They somehow must think that the fact people have cars, computers and television sets (luxury goods just 80 years ago) must be some kind of fluke, and that new breakthroughs will always be “inneccessible” to the peasants. This is obviously absurd, but tells you much about their arrogance.

      1. Sorry, it was supposed to be “inaccessible”

      2. Any good entrepreneur knows that the path to CONSTANT riches is to make and sell cheap stuff to most people, rather than a few expensive things to rich people.

        Tell that to any German automaker!

        1. they all own cheap car lines.

          The innovations start out expensive, such as airbags. But after enough early adopters buy them the costs can be lowered so anyone can get them.

          but yes in the beginning it will be expensive and the rich early adopters will do the financing of further research. but that will ONLY happen if we allow them to. if we block it in the name of “equality” we guarantee that financing never happens and is not market directed, and costs will never go down.

        2. You mean like Volkswagen? It’s right there in the name.

    2. there is a good chance that bionic organs just become the nect dvd player

    3. Maybe they wouldn’t Ron. I am not sure. And neither are you. But even if they did become cheap. Their widespread use could have some pretty profound effects on society.

      I divide these things in to two categories, pre-birth engineering and afterbirth engineering. Both create some problems. If we start engineering kids to be this or that, what do we do with the failures? What if my parents engineer me to be a great athlete and it doesn’t take? Do I have a value beyond my ability to do sports? Am I just thrown aside? Further, if we start engineering people to do certain things, we are basically deciding their fates at birth. In a world of custom children, you could never be an athlete or a engineer or anything else unless you were breed to be. And worse still, whatever you were bread to be would pretty much be your horizon. Yeah, it would be nice to be a virtuoso pianist. But it is better to be one by choice not by design and birth.

      On the post birth side, let’s say singularity or something approaching it is reached. And lets say it is really cheap like you say. How are we going to support that many people? You had a post here a few months ago talking about singularity and some expert said something to the effect, “life will have to change but we can do it.” Yeah life will change, we won’t be able to have as many kids or any kids at all in that world. And how do we prevent that without creating some kind of horrible totalitarian form of coerced birth control?

      I would rather live a short life and die than live a long life in bondage.

      1. Why are you looking at the effects of pre/after-birth engineering separately? If one is perfected, isn’t it almost certain the other won’t be far behind? So fate still won’t be decided at birth. If I’m not originally designed for a certain ability, there is no reason to assume I can’t augment myself later.

        As for the “failures”, whether they have intrinsic value beyond the intentions of their parents… we have rudimentary control over the genes of our children already. For eons we’ve been chosing whom to have sex with for that very purpose. It hasn’t stopped us from evolving a widespread moral code to protect the rights of such children. Why would that change?

        1. Choosing who to have sex with is not the same as designing your kid to be this or that. The genetic engineering has to be effective or no one will do it. No one will go to the expense of designing a kid who turn out to be average. You will only do it if you can design a kid that has some chance of being truly exceptional at whatever trait you value.

          1. How about those people who marry an athlete hoping their children will be sports stars? The odds are still against them, but are at least better than average. They’ve just used a relatively cheap and marginally effective means of engineering. Admittedly, they’d probably be willing to go to greater lengths for a more effective means. But it is a difference of degrees rather than a categorical one. If you’re worried that available genetic engineering would strip children of any value save as a tool for the exploitation of their parents, shouldn’t such pre-existing behavior also be a concern? Yet I see no serious call to regulate sexual selection due to such fears.

          2. John what you have just described is basically the same thing we have today. If I can choose who to have a child with, I have some control over the probability that my kid will have this or that trait. People don’t just create kids that are exactly the same, they all have different traits inherited from their parents. We are already trying to create an “above-average” kid whenever we choose to mate with someone, why wouldn’t we spend time and effort to increase the odds?

          3. Full disclosure: I am a “test-tube baby” and I am planning a career in genetics research.

      2. “we are basically deciding their fates at birth”

        IOW, the East German and Chinese models used to create Olympic athletes.

        On the plus side, it worked for a few people. For the rest, not so much

  7. Dear Mister Bailey,

    Please define “neoconservative”. Thanks.

  8. I think a pretty convincing argument can be made that prenatal nutrition is an existing form of genetic manipulation. In that case there are differences between the access to nutritious meals between rich and poor and that would mean the genetic divide has been around since the dawn of time. The epigenetic effects of prenatal nutrition have been found to be linked to schizophrenia and schizophrenia is more prominent in lower economic classes as is poor nutrition. That however has not caused Brave New World.

  9. John: To the extent that specific genes bind you, you are already bound. You just do not know how the relatively random set of genes your parents conferred on you now bind you. With advent of cheap genetic testing that will soon change. Ignorance of your genes should not be confused with some kind of freedom from their constraints.

    1. Ron,

      We are not talking about testing. Testing is different than engineering. It is engineering babies to be certain things that is the problem.

      1. Why is it any of your business whether someone else engineer’s their baby or not?

        1. I believe the parent(s) should for the most part be allowed to make decisions for their children and allowed to regulate their child’s behavior. There are obvious exceptions. For example, I don’t believe a parent should be legally allowed to rape their child. This would be violating rights that the child has. So what’s to say that certain forms of baby engineering are unacceptable aggression that OUR laws should address?

          1. Last time I checked, there is no genetic engineering equivalent to rape or assault…

            1. So you’d be fine with allowing parents to engineer their children to be in pain or perhaps having three arms?

              Would you be fine with allowing parents to harm their children by forcing them to ingest dangerous chemicals?

              Sure, such parents would be quite twisted, but hey, rapists are pretty twisted in my opinion.

              1. Why would they go through the trouble of genentic engineering them to in pain, when they could just abuse them normally? Also, I want a third arm.

                1. Humans can be quite twisted. What difference does the time of aggression make? Sure, my examples might be a little outlandish, but I don’t understand why many abuses are carried out.

                  Also, just because you want a 3rd arm doesn’t mean another person does.

                  1. Whatever, I don’t think that someone gentetically engineering a child in order to cause it pain is realistic at all. I don’t think there are any mad scientists out there that would comply with that. And I meant that a third arm isn’t necessarily a torturous feature.

      2. What Ron said is right. Choosing the genes that will be inherited is no more enslaving than having them chosen at random.

        1. That’s right son!

            1. Heller, do you find yourself pressing your face against a window pane and thinking smells like home?

              1. Heller, don’t talk to your mother that way!

                1. You’re just jealous.

                  1. Heller, did your mommy have your test tube bronzed?

                  2. Heller, did your mommy have your test tube bronzed?

                    1. Did you have your father’s cock bronzed? Oh wait, you’d have to find him first.

                    2. Heller, you’re back! Did you have a big exam or did this happen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd1_ddKXAGw

                    3. My member has been inhaled by RCTL!

                    4. Heller, I will pick-up your book Atlas Shrugged. What chapter tells the story between Ayn & Peter?

                    5. RCTL – my member awaits! Put the book down and breath deep.

                    6. You have to admit the fish in the barrel video was funny.

                    7. RCTL: You have to admit you like my member.

                    8. You seem a little obsessed with it.

                    9. Obsessed that you don’t bite when you inhale it.

                    10. You need to be here: https://reason.com/archives/201…..petence-of

      3. Besides, no one is going to design ditch-diggers or libertarian bloggers so the chances of species improvement are very high.

        1. But I would like to ask Mr. Ron a serious one that slipped by: What is to be done with the failures? What if someones going for a body-building physicist and ends up with something with flippers and a missing jaw? Kill it right away? Hope a charity takes it? Whats the solution?

          1. The embryo you are describing never gets implanted.

            1. What do we do with babies that are mentally retarded or have Down syndrome? Oh yeah, we chuck them in the garbage…

              Why is this an issue at all?

  10. I think the dangers of genetic manipulation do not lie in the domain of the enhanced Homo sapiens but on neighboring branches of the phylogenetic tree. After all, the argument that an enhanced human is still human does carry some weight. So, initially, when improvements are modest there won’t be much of a problem with identifying who we are and where we belong.

    On the other hand, research into the enhancement of other species (say bonobos, or chimps or gorillas) will be carried on without the oversight of human ethics committees and will progress quickly, so we are almost certain to see human-smart bonobos before we see big-headed human geniuses with throbbing brains.

    So what do we do with these smart bonobos? Do we give them human rank because they are smart enough to deserve it? Or do we leave them as chattels? What about retarded people? Do they get demoted or will there be two entrances to the human tent, one based on ancestry and another based on intelligence?

    Eventually, we will have to decide who gets in, and it may not be a great ape but something much further away genetically. Maybe we discover and insert a “smart” cluster of genes into a dog, or a parrot, or a frog or even a cockroach. Do we let them in on the same basis as the bonobo? If the answer is yes will there be anything left that is not potentially human? If the answer is no, on what basis can we reject the smart cockroach who might even be seen to shed a few tears when told he can’t register to vote?

    It may be the case that both progressives and neocons see significant danger on this slippery slope. Neither group is philosophically opposed to large state intrusions so the fact that they agree that a state intrusion is necessary doesn’t seem at all paradoxical to me.

    1. “On the other hand, research into the enhancement of other species (say bonobos, or chimps or gorillas) will be carried on without the oversight of human ethics committees and will progress quickly”

      You would think that their would be a lot less ethical regulations on animal research but there really isn’t. Whenever someone want to engineer an animal’s genes, they have to get permission from a government bureau.

      1. Such research will be done where regulation is lax. Maybe even human research will be done, but it is always easier to dispose of a couple of dozen ape carcasses than a couple of dozen human bodies. So I expect breeding a race of slave bonobos is a perfectly reasonable prediction.

        1. Regulation isn’t lax anywhere, least of all on human research.

        2. Basically, you have to clearly predict what the genetic changes are going to do the research animal, show that it is not cruel or highly unusual, and then demonstrate some kind of clear medical benefit to humans in order to get permission to go ahead. I don’t see the “slave bonobo” getting past the committees anytime soon.

    2. “So what do we do with these smart bonobos? Do we give them human rank because they are smart enough to deserve it?”

      Why would we call it a human just because it is smart? I’m all for giving it rights once it is smart enough to understand the concept, but we don’t just call ourselves human because we are smart. Yours is a question of taxonomy, not human rights, which I don’t see as a really big issue here.

      1. I said “human rank.” And the question I’m asking is larger than a human rights issue. I asked two questions actually: do we let them in because they’re smart? and the second I will re-phrase: what consequences are there to allowing the bonobos in if we’re now talking about cockroaches.

        You seem to think that if an individual if smart enough, he can be welcomed into the club. But an organism (including a human organism) has more properties than simply intelligence. Our cockroach also has instincts. And there are consequences that are not described by appealing to a single factor such as intelligence.

        Would he feel, for example, that your reluctance to become his dinner somehow infringed his civil rights? Now, a standard libertarian rejoinder might be, “His rights end at the tip of my nose.” But the thing is a cockroach and if the majority of voters in the county were cockroaches you might find yourself on the menu.

        1. I don’t know what you are referring to when you say “let them in.” Into what?

          My opinion is that animals should be given rights when they demonstrate high enough faculties of reason to understand and act according to the concept of basic rights. Considering that alot of humans can’t even do this, though, this standard might be a bit too high.

  11. First, I am a technophile. I am all aboard on technologies that would lead us towards producing better humans.

    Second, if good enough and cheap enough, this should be provided to everyone, not only out of fairness, but because it would turn a lot of probable tax leeches into probable tax-payers. It would be a great investment for the government. Errr…wait…is that socialism or not?

    1. Yes it is. “should be provided to everyone” is what will kill it. It would take someone’s hard work that they want to charge rich people a lot for, and give it away. This will guarantee no more innovation past the first few advances, who would bother to fund research if they won’t recoup their investment?

      It is the same reeason that european pharamaceutical companies have been falling farther behind the past 20 years.

      Buy providing services to rich early adopters, their money can be used to fund research and perfect processes to drive the price down until it can be offered cheaply to everyone. By trying to skip past that step, you make sure the costs don’t come down but stay high.

      1. Of course! If the elite few have something that will give their offspring a superior physical and mental status they’ll gladly let everyone in on it eventually…right?

        1. So what? The wealthy shouldn’t spend more to give their children the best, healthy food because this might give them a physical advantage? If so, would that make the wealthy parents negligent or would the gubmint parent be at fault?

          One is better empowering the impoverished instead of worrying about what the elite may do with their resources.

          1. Sorry but there’s a big difference between a posh private school and being, effectively, a superior species.

            And they don’t have to lock up the geneticists, they just need not fund them unless they play ball. And drop a line to the congressmen they’ve got in their back pocket and create a welter of regulations against small scale operations. Ooops! I forgot only marxist liberals use government force and that all the rich are sweet angels. My bad!

            1. Yes, ComradeZero will decide what the rich can and can’t buy for their kids.

              Rich people don’t fund geneticists, the companies that will offer genetic engineering will. And the rich will have to pay for genetically engineered children, so they’ll get money anyway. It’s not like the rich will withhold payment until the companies promise not to sell to the middle class. If you don’t want the government to regulate GE, don’t give them the power to. Wow what a concept! No one here thinks the rich are “sweet angels,” we hate oligarchy and corporatism as much as you do. The only difference is that we want to solve the problem by eliminating the power hierarchy, instead of reducing people’s basic freedoms.

            2. Define superior species.

              Statistically speaking, doesn’t say a private education elevate one (i.e. make them more superior) in society?

              You should know that most people here don’t believe the gubmint should be funding geneticists’ research – well, unless they play ball (???) /s

            3. Since the definition of species means they cannot procreate outside of it, you should be happy. The rich will die out.

              In every single market and product and advancement that has bettered mankind throughout history, it has been achieved fastest and the middle class and poor advanced the most when they had freedom. Genetics is no different.

              In every free market costs are driven down.

              when are they not driven down? when government interferes and grants monopolies. This happens by letting pharaceutical companies “renew” patents by finding “new uses” for old drugs, by letting biotech firms patent genes themselves which are a fact of nature, instead of only treatments. Those are examples of government interference that is harmful to the market.

        2. What are the elite few going to do, lock all the geneticists in the world in a room?

          1. Yes, that’s how capitalism works, at least in Chad’s mind.

    2. The notion of producing “better” humans is based on the idea that we can rank human qualities. Most human qualities cannot be compared with one another (i.e. there is no partial ordering on the set of human qualities that allows us to say that x amount of smart is equal to y amount of pretty). So the idea that we will, in general, produce better humans by genetic engineering is a wild goose chase. We will change specific human qualities: higher IQs, straighter noses, blonder hair, longer fingers, greater resistance to infection. Whether these groups of traits will be valued as better (as in a smart, blond with a nice nose, who can play piano and not get sick) or worse (as in blonde idiot savant with a big nose and ghoulish fingers, who never gets sick) will be determined by a complex set of social and environmental factors. And if you think that resistance to infection is always a good thing, just consider the sickle cell trait.

      1. That should read: “x amount of smart is less than or equal to y amount of pretty”

    3. The problem is that as soon as government sees some tax revenue enhancement, they won’t just provide it, they’ll mandate it (or at least make it a mandatory condition of genetic aid). And probably slip in some genes for complacency and obedience while they’re at it. We probably won’t realize the existential risks until about two generations too late.

      At any rate, if the government has any sort of involvement in genetics that pushes genes in one direction or other, it’s basically eugenics again.

      I wouldn’t underestimate the way our culture values uniqueness and novelty, in terms of predicting how engineering would affect genetic diversity. At a minimum, we could see new hair, eye, and skin colors (and textures).

  12. Well, there’s always the immortal, supergenius, healthy option. I’ll take that.

    1. I’m not sharing my genes.

  13. Ron Bailey briefly notes the abortion issue, but only for the purpose of saying that this is the only area where liberals and neocons agree re bioethics. Other than this minor and trivial topic, the liberals and neocons agree!

    The implication is that abortion is some minor issue in bioethics.

    What an absurd assumption! How can we possibly avoid the issue if we’re talking about the genetic engineering of human beings? So long as abortion is legal, then genetically-engineered human beings who turn out not to have the ‘right’ genes can simply be destroyed, aka killed.

    Either it’s ethical to destroy living members of homo sapiens, or it’s not ethical. The issue can’t be ducked if you’re talking about genetic engineering, because the question of what to do with the ‘rejects’ will always be with us.

    We know that IVF clinics destroy many of the human embryos they create. How much more will this happen if they’re trying to engineer specific genes, and they create a human who is missing one or two genes?

    1. Not to get into an abortion war, but many people do not agree that abortion = killing a human being. Unless the mistake in the genes will cause some kind of disorder when the child is born, I doubt the parents will just scrap the product of a complex process that they paid for just because Billy will have black hair instead of blond…

      Plus, destroying an embryo is a lot more different than abortion or murder.

  14. I don’t think genetic engineering is something that can or should be stopped forever. How are you gonna tell the human species to stop making technologies to improve its life and lifespan?

    The only question is how the new technology is handled. Of course governments must have some control. But I don’t think they should try to ban it, only to work to reduce the inequality that could lead to major horrors. We could start with having an economy that allows a middle class to exist.

    1. “Of course governments must have some control.”

      Yeah, that’s obvious. We all agree here. No reason to even question that.

      “only to work to reduce the inequality that could lead to major horrors.”

      Tony’s idea of a major horror is a rich person having something before he can afford it.

      “We could start with having an economy that allows a middle class to exist.”

      Right, right, we don’t have a middle class, it’s the fat bankers vs. the proletariats, yada, yada…

      1. Can we ignore Chony for a while and see what happens? Had amusing results on south park w/ cartman…

      2. By major horror I mean a Brave New World scenario.

        We can avoid such future gross inequalities by lessening inequality now. If you think this country has a robust middle class then you’re an ignorant tool. It’s a much less scary proposition for the rich to get the technology first if the middle class is close behind.

        1. If I remember my highschool literature correctly, wasn’t the government creating genetic inequality? The best way to stop this is… not let the government control GE.

          If there isn’t a robust middle class, what do you call all the people who aren’t Bill Gates, but aren’t living in a trailer park either?

  15. “left-leaning advocacy groups want a moratorium on nanotechnology research and development”
    Tiny robots are the enemy of the proletariat!

    Seriously though, couldn’t cloning be used to create an unlimited supply of Obamas. Surely it’s unfair to non-Americans and future generations that there’s only one Obama to go around. Just picture it: Presidents, Chancellors and Prime Ministers Obamas for ever and ever and ever. Unstoppable, Infinite Hope & Change.

    1. I am not going to sleep well tonight. Fuck you very much, IHC.

    2. Why would anyone want to be cloned? It’s like having an identical twin as a son. But he won’t grow up to be very similar to you personality wise, because his experiences will be vastly different. And you’ll always be much older than him.

      1. Personally, I’ve always wanted to donate my dna for cloning research in the hopes that one day dozens of such clones will go about their own personal lives. If unforeseen events prevent alternate technologies from readily replacing failing organs, those clones will be the best source of compatible tissue for me. If any of the healthy young clones are at all like me in terms of personality, they’ll be willing to sell extra kidneys or slurps of bone marrow for the right price. I of course, richer but older, will be an eager buyer.

        1. Why would you want to grow whole expensive people, when we will be able to grow individual organs by then? It will likely be cheaper and easier to manage than convincing some teenage clones to give up a kidney.

          1. “If unforeseen events prevent alternate technologies from readily replacing failing organs”

            It’s not my ideal solution. Just a backup plan in case all else fails.

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  17. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on…the Bible’s books were written by people with very different mindsets…in order to really get the Books of the Bible, you have to cultivate such a mindset, it’s literally a labyrinth, that’s no joke.

  18. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I’m sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won’t get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there’s more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I’m not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It’s just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight…the Bible’s books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on

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