A Real Scientist Agrees with ME (on the Designer Baby Dispute)!
Peter Lawler is Dana Professor of Government and former chair of the department of Government and International Studies at Berry College. He serves as executive editor of the journal Perspectives on Political Science, and has been chair of the politics and literature section of the American Political Science Association. He also served on the editorial board of the new bilingual critical edition of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has written or edited fifteen books and over 200 articles and chapters in a wide variety of venues. He was the 2007 winner of the Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters.\r\n\r\nLawler served on President Bush's Council on Bioethics from 2004 – 09. His most recent book, Modern and American Dignity, is available from ISI Books.\r\n\r\nFollow him on Twitter @peteralawler.
The blogging scientist Minerva agrees with ME against the transhumanist on the future pressure to design or enhance your offspring or else. She's surprised that it's possible to agree with someone who was on Bush's Bioethics Council, but that may be because nobody told her there were lots of prolific and highly respected scientists on that Council.
Minerva--so that I don't feel the love too much--begins by agreeing with my critic that the enhanced folks of the future won't necessarily be athests. But as I said before, I'm sorry if anyone misunderstood me on that point. Let me make it clear that, because I believe that studies show that very, very smart people can be religious, I believe religion has a bright future. It also has a future, of course, because it's far from clear that the genetically upgraded will necessarily be happier than we are. I'll have more to say on this soon.
But for now, let me give you a taste of the wisdom of Minerva:
He argues that there will be no mandate for enhancement by the state, so we won’t have “godless achievement machines,” but he fails to see the point that state pressure is not the only pressure that will be experienced by people in an age of genetic enhancement. Social pressure, Brad, tell me you’ve heard of it? It is dangerous to assume that governmental or economic pressures are the only ones that act upon parents in relation to decisions about their children. Cultural norms and beliefs about “what makes a good life” will make much more of an impact on the perceived necessity of “enhancement” than any governmental mandate could.
Also, he argues that “enhancement” will lead to a “flush of inventive, moral, empathetic, charming, attractive and beneficent people.” I’m sorry Kyle, but you also assume that those individuals who choose to have their children enhanced will value traits such as empathy and beneficence. Maybe they will, but that’s a big assumption, because arguments supporting “enhancements” have pretty much focused on physical capability and not moral character. Also, the opportunity to alter a relatively “simple” trait such as height will be available long before we figure out the soup of probable genetic determinants of “empathy”, so physical trait enhancement will surely precede character trait enhancement.
And lastly, what about nurture, Kyle? If you want more charming, empathetic, innovative, beneficent kids, it sounds to me like you might try to raise them to engage with other people regularly (instead of the PSP) and teach them to view themselves in the shoes of others before they make judgments. I’m just saying.
One problem Minerva points to, of course, is that empathy and beneficience might be, in themselves, "risk factors." They can turn people into suckers and even cause them to put their personal survival on the line for the good of others. Our designer personal goal, first of all, seems to be something like indefinite longevity, which is not the literal immortality some transhumanists misleadingly promise. And so my personal qualities--physical, cognitive, and emotional--should be reconfigured, most of all, with keeping ME around as long as possible in mind. Accidental death will remain possible, and we won't be able to stop working to fend off the nature out to kill each of us. So people might well be--and seemingly have to be--more self-obsessed than ever. Nothing seems more horrible than dying when death itself has become avoidable through perfect pesonal prudence.
My own view is that we might readily figure out how to make people smarter and stronger and in many ways less physically vulnerable (by, for example, using nanotechnology to wipe out disease). But it's far from clear that we will know how or even intend to make them more virtuous--or BETTER PEOPLE in the crucial sense. Yet it will remain the case that folks will have TO BE GOOD in order to reliably FEEL GOOD.
I also like Minerva's shot against Kyle about putting himself in the shoes of other before being so intolerantly judgmental. Many religious people, after, do a great job raising their kids with the old-fashioned virtues like courage, charity, generosity, humility, moderation, frugality, and even chastity in mind. Meanwhile, sophisticated Americans really do have a hard time aiming higher than middle-class productivity and autonomy. Autonomy--or being one's own person, having one's own point of view--suffers as a result
The point about social pressure is too obvious to emphasize: It'll be impossible to have the only unenhanced kids on the block or in school etc. I will also say more about that issue later.
Minerva concludes by saying that she's still all about the promise of science. Well, I am too. But, as usual, our future is likely to be full of both promise and peril.
Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"
- A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
- It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
- Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.
There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.
Firefighters in California are still struggling to contain several wildfires nearly one week after they broke out.
- Hundreds of people are still missing after three wildfires spread across Northern and Southern California last week.
- 48 of the 50 deaths occurred after the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento.
- On Tuesday night, a fourth wildfire broke out, though it's mostly contained.
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