Week 9

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Culture, Art, & Technology
Gerald Doppelt

1. Kitcher defends Eugenic decision making on the grounds of only curing. His view is that of the NationalAcademy of Medicine. a. Advocates an enlightened eugenic decision making, in which education and information improve our standards of criteria for eugenics decision making, and limit it to conditions of quality of life and to children who have low chance of a high quality of life, such as mental and motor debilitation and effect on others. 2. Kitcher is defending minimalist eugenics for the sole purpose of delivering healthier babies and thus a healthier human race. a. The Slippery Slope – society begins by limiting genetic engineering possibilities, and limit it just to avoid the worst disease. However, society eventually eases into using genetic technologies for less serious issues, such as cosmetic faults. This quickly falls out of control. b. Slippery slope could result in a strictly and rigidly regulated society where people essentially fit the mold of society’s preference and idea of a perfect genetic race, destroying genetic diversity. Don’t we all benefit from different types of people? c. What we may end up seeing is one scheme of preferences and values from a specific set of individuals may dominate society, and other sets of genes may be abolished. Can it ever be right that one scheme of values can be used to determine genetic worth, and who should live and who should be destroyed? d. E.G. Carry Buck is sterilized on the grounds of preventing imbeciles, and was a ruling that was upheld by the Supreme Court. She was characterized as someone who remained at a mental stage of development comparable to that of a child. i. This case was caused by bad science practices and political coercion, even though Carry had “bad” genes. 3. Stock is defending maximalist eugenics, and advocates the free choice of the individuals, regardless of these decisions being possibly prejudiced, including genetic engineering/technologies, etc. a. Stock argues that the slippery slope is inevitable. b. As long as individuals are making these decisions of the genetic traits of their children, he thinks that diversity will be maintained because people have different values and have total reproductive freedom in the free market of eugenics. 4. Johnson, a disability activist, defends zero eugenics, in that she believes that we shouldn’t tamper with people’s natural genes to prevent people with these disabilities from being born. 5. Laissez-Faire Eugenic decisions are those that are made by the individual in accordance with their own wishes and desires. Of course, this depends on their ability to afford tests. The state and political power should be hands off. No political decisions by political entities. a. Appeals to the value of liberty and truth. Thus, responsible and reasonable eugenic decision making, even though it is on the duty of the individual, must be corroborated by tests. b. Why should the human race and our children be selected based on prejudice? That would run the risk of beliefs of genetic superiority. c. Genetic screening and genetic engineering costs money; it isn’t clear whether insurance would cover this form of genetic engineering. Even if eugenic decision making were restricted to curing the worst genetic diseases, only the rich and affluent will be avoid these diseases, stigmatizing these illnesses as “lower-class illnesses.” This could result in less public/tax support for genetic engineering practices like these. i. The distribution of genetic tests by the market can generate a context of class inequality and create more unintended social consequences. d. With genetic diseases, you cannot know exactly how this complication will affect the life of the child, and the child may actually have a life worth living; this is the knowledge complication that is associated with the results of genetic testing i. E.G. Acouple has a fetus that has a gene for down-syndrome, but can have a life worth living under the right circumstance. Even though the couple decides that the child may have a viable life, they can choose to abort due to social values of prejudice against “defective” children. Cultural prejudices block the prospect for this child from having a happy life. To avoid the misery of this child, to be brought up in a disapproving society, the couple may bow to social attitudes that they may not agree with. If they abort, not only are they perpetuating the social prejudice, but they are going against their own values. e. Even though they have reproductive freedom, they aren’t really free because they are restrained by social values. f. Laissez-Faire eugenics may simply reproduce one of the infamous historical eugenic events, except that it is controlled by the individuals themselves. Eugenics practices may be applied not to cure the worst genetic diseases, but on the basis of overall social contexts. g. Kitcher believes in an enlightened “utopian” version of eugenics, building on a powerful tradition of thought on issues like this; to get a just society, what we need is education and enlightenment. i. The solution of social problems such as irresponsible eugenics decision making is not the law, but is a culture in which people are enlightened and educated. ii. E.G. Racism and sexism was initially reinforced strictly by law and judicial enforcement onto society. However, with most laws and powerful public policies, there are still going to be racially/sexually prejudiced people. Enlightenment involves teaching people about oppressive race and sex practices; prejudices are gradually overcome as we come to understand these issues, and society can make choices not based on race and sex, but on the characteristics and merits of an individual. iii. Enlightened eugenics has always been one of the most powerful sources of gaining justice in society. iv. Kitcher also argues against maximalist eugenics: 1. E.G. Agenetic test reveals the physical characteristics of a child. Eugenic decisions can be made to alter these traits. However, the child may learn that their own traits were genetically altered, and may come in conflict with the child’s own values and preferences. Aperson trying to embody their own values and preferences onto a child is actually violating the child’s own values and preferences. v. Kitcher argues that disease is a value-neutral concept in that whatever a person’s preferences and values, we can all agree that disease is undesirable as opposed to normal human health, and that health is a precondition of autonomy. Thus, autonomy can be seen as an uber-value that is shared amongst all humans. 1. Thus, in accordance to health being the ultimate and only value to consider, minimalist eugenics is the enlightened/responsible form of eugenics because it ignores the ethical problems of laissez-faire eugenics. 6. How do we define disease? a. Many people assume the criteria for “disease” is solely determined by the doctor, while others consider cultural aspects. b. Kitcher believes that disease can be thought of in the objectivist construct, where we consider it solely in
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