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Enhancement Anxiety - Comments

Vicar of Art on Earth's Avatar Comment 1 by Vicar of Art on Earth

"Whatever problems sex selection might cause in such countries as China and India—where it is the underlying social causes, not the technologies, that need to be addressed"

Fifty years ago when I was young, my parents and their friends thought that they would see the end of religion as important in American life, science had just stop polio so how could people continue to believe in faith healing. I agree with what you are saying, but social causes are often more important than evidence.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 03:01:50 UTC | #894587

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 2 by Cartomancer

To be honest I see embryonic sex selection as a neutral or even slightly positive thing for places with strong cultures of gender bias. Obviously I want to see such cultures reformed, but until they are I'd far rather the gender bias was pandered to with humane technologies like that than with the exposure of infants or the having of ruinously large families until sufficient offspring the desired gender are acquired.

As for reproductive cloning I can't see what all the fuss is about. I already have a clone. Indeed you could say I actually am a clone. Sharing my entire genome with another person doesn't seem to have had any cataclysmic effects on me so far. As far as I can see there is no good reason to get upset about cloning technology and no good reason either to favour it or to eschew it as a means to human reproduction.

And it has always struck me as weird trying to legislate future generations into respecting or following the mores of the present. For a start it just doesn't work - if people at a later time feel differently they will just repeal or ignore the legislation you've put in place - and secondly wouldn't you feel extremely patronised if people a hundred, two hundred, a thousand years ago had tried to impose their anachronistic past morality on you?

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 03:26:32 UTC | #894591

AULhall's Avatar Comment 3 by AULhall

This was a wonderful and brilliantly argued essay. Count me as a new fan of Professor Blackford.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 04:32:20 UTC | #894599

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 4 by Schrodinger's Cat

I don't think the primary issues surrounding things like cloning, GM, nanotechnology, etc, were ever simply 'moral' ones. The real issue has always these people really know what they are doing ? This sort of argument does not need to invoke God, or 'violations of the natural order', at all.........any more than campaigners against nuclear power need to invoke God in order to question if nuclear power is safe.

'The natural order' may suck considerably, and could certainly do with a few changes. But no alteration to it is without its consequences. We now have super-bugs that can resist virtually all drugs......due to the poor planning of drug usage. We have marine animals being made sick or dying off, thanks to the very same 'miracle fertilizers' that give us enough food. And lets not forget that global warming is the end result of all that wonderful technology we've created. Nobody would argue that the resultant green movement is necessarily anti-science or particularly pro-morality.

I would personally argue that if there's people around with budgets to spend on this or that latest techno-fad biological enhancement, the money would be better spent sorting out the considerable technology created problems the planet already has. Now that's a moral stance.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 04:34:01 UTC | #894600

Vicktor's Avatar Comment 5 by Vicktor

...might not generalize to more radical technologies that could reverse the aging process, dramatically increase our cognitive capacities, alter the gross morphology of human bodies...

I really don't see any of these happening any time soon. Especially the first and last ones. You could probably count the number of research groups around the world seriously tackling the first "problem" on just one hand. A wise man once said: "Philosophy is to science what pornography is to sex."

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 06:26:20 UTC | #894610

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 6 by Richard Dawkins

Nice article.

On the specific question of selecting the sex of babies, there is one positive effect that is often overlooked. At present, family size is often increased by a couple's desire for a child of a particular sex, or their desire for at least one child of each sex. We all know families in which the birth order is boy boy boy boy girl. Or girl girl girl girl boy. You get a run of one sex, terminated by a single baby of the other sex, as the parents finally achieve what they want. If parents were able to choose scientific means to balance their families rather than the present lottery of the sperms, we'd see a lot more small families, and populations would not grow so fast.

Of course there are some societies where cultural biases would lead not to a balance but to a huge surplus of one sex. Some cultures might eventually go extinct for lack of females. Perhaps some religions too.


Thu, 01 Dec 2011 06:56:26 UTC | #894616

Lapithes's Avatar Comment 7 by Lapithes

I'm glad that I'm not designed by my parents.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 10:34:22 UTC | #894652

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 8 by Mark Jones

Yes, my mum and dad had three boys and tried one final time for a girl; and got twin boys. Poor mum was heartbroken. All those shirts to iron.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 11:10:29 UTC | #894661

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 9 by Cartomancer

Some cultures might eventually go extinct for lack of females. Perhaps some religions too.

Given how badly most women are treated by cultures that venerate misogynistic religions (okay, we mean islam in the main, so lets say so out loud) that would be a tremendous reduction in suffering. I have always thought that islamic societies would work much much better if they were exclusively of one gender.

But the actual suffering the declining numbers of women in these cultures have to endure might persist or worsen if they become increasingly rare, increasingly commodified and placed under increasingly desperate controlling patriarchy as their perceived value increases. It could go the other way, and with greater rarity comes greater status, but I don't think there's any reason to think this is a more likely outcome.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 11:23:11 UTC | #894664

dandelion fluff's Avatar Comment 10 by dandelion fluff

Comment 9 by Cartomancer

But the actual suffering the declining numbers of women in these cultures have to endure might persist or worsen if they become increasingly rare, increasingly commodified and placed under increasingly desperate controlling patriarchy as their perceived value increases

It's happening in India as brothers decide to "share" wives:

Though it's hard to tell if it would get worse before it got better or just stay really miserable for a long time.

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 12:15:05 UTC | #894677

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 11 by Premiseless

Some articles have me in 'brain spin'. I hope you see why? If not, I hope you see at least some or it? Here it is anyhow:

I found this an intriguing read as an indicator of why we have religions, why religions are multi-versed, and why, not religion, but societies per se are multi-versed that posit them to an extent they self perpetuate each other! Why, ultimately, there can be no criminal sentencing of a bankers legally supported bonus (pseudo-theistic values), but conversely prison terms for far less holistically "compassionate" incidents (direct isolated actions) to replicate themselves unconfronted, in real terms. This feature of humanity explains to me why you will get the problem of hindrance respecting the single-verse ambitions (whether medical, national, social, or whatever they are - even relationship wise, jobwise, family wise, reputation wise etc), not least because their benefits are already predisposed to only advantage, directly, an elite cohort afforded access, which then tiers potential thought about benefits or enslavements. Speculations become multiversed amidst ones peers and siblings, enriched or entrenched by a transparent or deceptive ensuing collective! The direct consequence to most in realtime is that they simply 'pay the price' of another's interest.

It's the cost equation ratio of direct benefits due indirect enslavements in a multi-verse of master slave equations.

Which army do I fight for when they all claim to care about me? Which army do I fight for when the care is what the fight is for? (what does that even mean - impersonal advantage?) Which army do I fight for when those I thought cared about me have been conned by the spy-deception-multiverse tactics of traitor emotion manufacture? Which army do I fight for when every army has lost any philosophical position (all motives are now absorbed, REALTIME, by the entropy of the multiverse - personal equitability reduces into how much ammunition you are carrying since the alternative is death - physical, emotional or lifestyle)?

It's all good under the banner of enhancement anxiety!

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 12:22:44 UTC | #894684

keyfeatures's Avatar Comment 12 by keyfeatures

There was another debate here about sex selection a while back.

I've yet to see a convincing argument for legislation against it. Necessary commodities (perhaps not the best term for a human) soon become more highly prized if made rarer. People are allowed to choose sperm donors on the basis of all sorts of personal preferences. Why not allow people to choose for gender?

Thu, 01 Dec 2011 16:00:01 UTC | #894722