domingo, 6 de noviembre de 2016

BioEdge: Is enhancement ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative”?

BioEdge: Is enhancement ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative”?

Bioedge

Is enhancement ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative”?
     


Human genetic modification (HGM) or human enhancement is normally portrayed as a liberal cause. Its advocates believe that they are progressives and inveigh against “bio-conservatives”. Christopher F. Goodey, of the University of Leicester, in the UK, tests this notion in a provocative article in the journal Laws, "Liberal or Conservative? Genetic Rhetoric, Disability, and Human Species Modification".

First of all, he points out that a broad spectrum of political philosophies favoured the forerunner of HGM, eugenics. “In relatively recent history Marxists (Trotsky), Fascists (Hitler), Liberals (Russell), Social Democrats (Keynes), and Conservatives (Churchill), all endorsed eugenics at some point.” So the “liberal” or “progressive” tags do not fit well, if they are meaningful at all.

Goodey then argues that “There is historical evidence to challenge the HGM movement’s claim to be part of liberalism”. He analyses the utilitarian argument in favour of HGM and discerns in it deeply Christian themes of redemption and eternal life. First, Bentham’s greatest happiness principle was a secularized interpretation of William Paley’s theology, in which “the fitness of things is their fitness to produce happiness” and avoid suffering. Second, the notion of future perfection reflects the Christian idea that we will have ideal bodies in Heaven, as Michelangelo testifies in the Sistine Chapel. Third, the transhumanist ideal of eternal bliss as software reflects a particular line of Christian thought which distrusts the body.

Then he questions the steely logic of bioethics. “A general climate has arisen in which people on policy-making bodies need to guard against the subliminal thought that turning ethics into an expert, professional, rule-governed discipline means it is capable of rules resembling the laws of gravity, the pressure and volume of gases, or evolution.”

One of these rules is that disability is bad. But is it? On what grounds can we say that Down syndrome children are “bad”? Goodey believes that this is essentially a phobia, a fear of contamination. “The moral absolutism behind HGM involves first having an unstated, consensual drive to get rid of something, then defining it as disease.” He concludes: “How does a fear of contamination, dogmatic and with tough historical roots, get to present itself to the public arena as liberal, progressive, and secular?”
- See more at: http://www.bioedge.org/bioethics/is-enhancement-liberal-or-conservative/12081#sthash.1UZK0DbX.dpuf

Bioedge

Bioedge



With the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Bysshe Shelley’s book on human enhancement approaching in 2018, it may be worth reviewing the dramatic bioethical challenge faced by Dr Frankenstein.
You may recall that Dr Victor Frankenstein assembled an eight-foot, highly intelligent, powerful male humanoid. His creation escaped but returned to plead for a female companion. With her he would emigrate to “the vast wilds of South America”. However, the good doctor fears that their progeny would compete with humankind. “A race of devils would be propagated upon earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror.”
So he destroys his female project. Did he make the right decision? Would these creatures really have destroyed the human race?
An article in the journal BioScience has crunched the numbers for us using “competitive exclusion” theory. It turns out that had the couple escaped to South America, they would have multiplied and spread, and eliminated us within 4000 years – 4,188 years to be exact. So, at least within a framework of utilitarian ethics, Frankenstein was right. He deserves the gratitude of BioEdge readers


Michael Cook
Editor
BioEdge

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