Week 10

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University of California - San Diego
Culture, Art, & Technology
Gerald Doppelt

1. Stock (Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future) argues for maximum eugenics, and does not agree with the “slippery slope” concept in that he believes such a phenomena is inevitable.Advocates absolute reproductive freedom a. “No-one really has the guts to say it, but if we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn’t we?” – Watson b. Kitcher’s seemingly across the board rejection of genetic enhancement, and the freedom of perspective parents to make totally free choices, is both unrealistic and unreasonable. i. Maximalist eugenics (decisions in favor of whatever traits) will be the inevitable, unstoppable, necessary results of advancements in genetic technology, the manipulation of genetic eggs or sperm to redesign human beings. 1. Having this be an ethical issue is beside the point, because he argues it will happen regardless (although he does present a moral argument). 2. Technological advancements in human history have often not been ignored and further advancements inevitable, despite fears of exploitation and liberal use. The exploitation of technology is unstoppable, and once it’s in play, it has a life of its own (Technological Determinism). a. E.G. As germline technology increases, it will eventually raise a separation between the “enhanced” and the “unenhanced.” ii. However, there are many examples of technology that have limited its use. 1. E.G. the atomic bomb. Right after WW2, there became a powerful effort to ban the bomb. This restriction has been built into international relations. 2. E.G. Abortions were an available technology, and was seen as immoral. They have been restricted by law (another example of law catering to the morality of the public.) c. Sees science, technology, and engineering as providing unlimited possibilities for the future of the human race, where all problems are understood scientifically. d. Arguments against Kitcher: i. Kitcher limits responsible eugenics decision making to therapeutic causes only. However, genetic engineering can overcome things like aging, and is both an enhancement and therapeutic. The distinction breaks down at a point as genetic technology advances. 1. E.G. Aging and mortality can be envisaged so that genetic engineering can extend human life by discovering the DNAand genetic basis of mortality. Most of the diseases that kill people are those of old age, such as stroke, heart attack, and cancer. ii. If quality of life is the main standard of eugenic decisions and future genetic modifications, any genetic modification which enhances the person’s heath will probably also enhance the person’s quality of life. Why limit genetic modifications to only the worst genetic and neurological conditions? iii. We are not presupposing particular biases of eugenics if we support reasonable eugenic decisions to cure illnesses and diseases. e. This is not the most extreme form of eugenic decisions, because up to this point, health and avoiding the whole range of illnesses and diseases is the criterion for eugenic decision making. This completely ignores genetic modifications for enhancement of human characteristics, such as health, intelligence, skin color, height, etc. There are many arguments between Kitcher and Stock. f. What about genetic enhancements to physical characteristics of humans, especially those who want to essentially “downgrade”? i. E.G. Acouple wants a baby who has Taysach’s disease. Many would claim that this is unfair to the child. However, people like Harriet Johnson would respond by example, and say they are living a fine life, and would claim that these people are responding to their own bias’s and fears.Aserious neurological disease, as Kitcher would argue, would seriously degrade quality of life. Will a doctor honor the couple’s reproductive freedom and allow this baby to be born? g. Kicher would argue that choosing for a baby with no hearing is permissible because it has no notable effect on quality of life, in that it does not affect mental capacity such as self-awareness. h. Stock embraces a total Laissez-Faire eugenics without any ethical frameworks such as Kitcher’s. Parental autonomy and freedom is a powerful value, and though they might make genetic modification choices, and might be controversial, they should not be illegal and criticized by doctors or physicians. i. E.G. Acouple may favor a baby that is hearing-impaired and reject those that have normal hearing. ii. You do not want to block reproductive choice by law or policy, as this essentially represses certain groups of people. i. We should not fear parental autonomy and freedom, as infamous events such as Nazi Germany was caused by government influence and repression. The coming opportunities far outweigh the risks, if we have a free-market environment with individual choice. However, eugenic decisions must involve knowledge and information, as Kitcher would argue with enlightened eugenic decision making. 2. Stock worries that the advance of germinal technologies will isolate us from one another, and we may see each other as “inherently different” due to genetic differences via modification, and may not be able to hold an equal respect for each other. a. Stock believes that this is a non-issue 3. Kitcher would say that total reproductive freedom and parental autonomy goes too far, if people choose a baby with a serious neurogenetic disease just to make a statement about their community, because it would be unfair to the life of the baby. It would be morally irresponsible. 4. Johnson is a disability activist who is interested in gaining recognition and respect for people with disabilities, where disabilities, not merits, become an overwhelming factor. i. “If I had to live like you, I would kill myself.” b. Johnson claims to enjoy her life, but others can’t seem to believe it as people seem to stereotype people with disabilities as “cripples.” What happens when they see me as just a cripple? i. People keep a distance, and others with disabilities become threatening to one’s own sense of normalcy. They alienate themselves from those like Johnson as a method of self-protection. c. Often, people ignore the fact that people have
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