I always like to have my print copy of Reason Magazine in the car so that when I stop at a cafe to have breakfast on the way to the office, which I frequently do, I can read an article or two. The other day, I read this piece, which has to do with radical human enhancement and such. You know, humans improving upon God’s rather insipid creation, as they’ve always done and will continue to do–manipulative promoters of irrational fear, and parasitic prophesier’s of doom and judgment notwithstanding.
In principle, I often have a lot of problems with Reason Mag because they usually stand against effects rather than causes, which is what everyone does. Everyone is against this or that effect. Nobody, however, is against the common cause: government, i.e., the legitimized initiation of force. Nonetheless, their articles are often interesting, and after all, it’s not as though it’s a bad thing to know why certain things are "impractical" as well as being morally wrong.
In reading that article cited above, I was struck by the banality of it, particularly in the predictable cautions and admonishments from those who believe it their place to dictate my values in life and how I would pursue them. Let me state for the record, then, that Eric Cohen is one of the "typical and predictable."
It wasn’t until I got to the very end of the article that I rejoiced in a couple of interesting observations, one of which I’ve made before, and one of which is new to me.
Ronald Bailey: I’ve suggested to my wife that we’ll
have children when we’re younger. In any case, with regard to treasuring every
embryo, nature certainly doesn’t do that; 80 percent of all naturally conceived
embryos, as far as we know, are not implanted and never become people or babies
or anything else. In fact, the results of IVF are better than those of nature.
Questioner 3: In terms of consenting to genetic
treatments, do embryos—or children, for that matter—have the ability to give
Ronald Bailey: I want to remind everybody in the
audience that you did not give consent to be born. In fact, you did not give
consent to be born with any of the genes that you have. So any embryos that
parents decide to modify stand in exactly the same relation that all previous
embryos have stood in.
If you think about what people are apt to do, this isn’t
really an issue. Would you want the person-to-be to be smarter? Well, yeah,
that’d be good. Forty IQ points would be good too. Would they like to have a
good immune system? Yeah, they’d like that. What about athletic ability? Yeah,
OK. I think you can presume consent for most of the things that parents are
going to do for their children because they’re not going to try to make them worse.
They’re going to try to make them better.
So, the first observation is that Ronald Bailey’s mention of the observed fact that 80% of embryos are destroyed naturally puts the religious who believe that "embryos are babies" in a difficult predicament. Either God is the biggest murderer in all of human history by many, many factors over our most evil recitation, or, God is exempt from right and wrong. Neither seems to be an enviable position so far as I can tell.
The second observation is a new one for me. Ronald Bailey argues, correctly, that nobody gave consent for their current genetic makeup, or indeed, consent to having been born at all. What this really means is that you have no standing at all. For instance, had your father not furnished genetic material to your mother at roughly the exact moment it was furnished, you would not exist. Had he furnished it to someone other than your mother, or at a different time to your mother, then either there would be a different egg, or a different sperm with your mother’s egg. In either case, we might be dealing with someone smarter, better looking, more talented, or less of all those things, but we would most definitely not be dealing with you.
So, if you have no standing as to whether you will exist or not, at all, it’s difficult to see how you would have any standing if, once fertilized, parents decided to make enhancements of various kinds. In essence, they are making you into a different person with a different genetic makeup, and the only difference between that and the random way of getting to a different person described in the foregoing paragraph is that it’s not random. It is a conscious, deliberate process.
Just remember that when someone objects to what human beings do on the basis of interfering in the divine, that we’re talking about injecting human purpose, consciousness, value, thought, deliberation, and all those things that represent humanity, vs. a process by which 80% of potential is literally flushed down the toilet.
An interesting dilemma, eh? God disposes of inferior embryos by killing them outright. Humans intend to preserve inferior embryos and modify their genes to not only make them viable, but better. Enhanced. So, you tell me: who’s evil and who’s meciful and benevolent, huh?