Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Will Micro-genics(as opposed to Macro-genics, aka Eugenics) Be Morally Feasible in the Future?
Eugenics is passe, but the future will be belong to much the same thing. Think of it this way. Eugenics is macro-genics while bio-engineering is micro-genics. The goal and end-result of both are the same, but micro-genics won't face the same moral, political, and social stumbling blocks(or pariah status). This is because micro-genics is preventive, preemptive, and 'surgical'--precise and accurate--whereas macro-genics has been treatment-oriented-after-the-fact, crude, and industrial.
Chemotherapy/radiation and gene therapy seek to reverse the ravages of cancer, but why is the former dreaded while the latter is welcome(as a possibility)? Because chemo/radiation is ugly, painful, and destructive. You must half-kill the patient to save him. Eugenics has been like this. Without access to the core of the human genetics, eugenic policy could only manipulate the DNA through social selection--which entailed pressuring certain kinds of people to marry/mate while preventing others from mating through sterilization or even liquidation. This surely works in the long run but violates our principles of individual freedom and choice and the sanctity of human life.
Eugenics was like Nazism or Stalinism. It was carried out on an impersonal & industrial scale. It had to turn a blind eye to individual disaffection and/or the deaths of entire groups of people.
But now we may have micro-genics in the foreseeable future. Micro-genics is appealing because individuals get to choose what qualities they want for their kids(or possibly even themselves). With access to the genetic code, kids can be made to be intelligent, strong, healthy, emotionally stable, creative, etc. By fiddling with the DNA within the sperm and egg, a 'better' kind of human being will be created. In effect, a kind of 'murder' would take place but at a microscopic level. Just as we don't care about stem cells, we don't much care what is 'murdered' at the genetic level.
Suppose Hitler hadn't killed 6 million Jews but only tweaked their DNA so that Jews gave birth to 'Aryan' babies. Hitler would, in effect, have exterminated the Jewish gene but he wouldn't have 'industrially' and 'crudely' killed a single Jew. He would have precisely and 'surgically' altered the part of Jewish genes that disturbed him. Indeed, he could have taken credit for having 'saved' or genetically 'cured' the Jews. Indeed, sadly or otherwise, many Jews do utilize as yet crude means--plastic surgery--to 'murder' certain physical aspects of Jewishness such as the hooked nose. This is also prevalent among Asian women who have surgery on their eyes to make it more 'Aryan' looking. Some rich Asian and African women choose to be impregnated by Nordic sperm so that their children will look more Western. These are all crude forms or variations of Eugenics or Eugenic-mindedness.
Suppose retarded people are not sterilized but their sperm and egg are 'cured' of the dumbass DNA. Thus, the retarded elements of their DNA would effectively be 'murdered' and replaced by normal qualities; retarded parents would give birth to smart kids. So, as long as the 'murder' takes place at the micro-level and is at the request of individuals themselves, we may indeed be able to look forward to a brave new world.
Same thing goes for mining. We mine for gold and diamond, but think of all the pollution and myriad other headaches. Mining is industrial, messy, noisy, sweaty, dangerous, and even deadly. But, suppose the 'surgical' and precise(and elegant) nano-technology can turn carbon into diamond and lead into gold. That will be eureka x 1000.