I'm forwarding this item. I think it will interest all
Extropians/extropians, or even semi-extropians. :-)
>Subj: GENETICALLY ENGINEERED PEOPLE? (Loka Alert 7:2)
>Date: 5/18/00 8:34:18 PM US Mountain Standard Time
>From: Loka@Loka.org (The Loka Institute)
>Loka Alert 7:2 (9 May 2000)
>Please Repost Widely Where Appropriate
>THE POLITICS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED HUMANS
>by Richard Hayes
>"Many people love their [golden] retrievers and their sunny dispositions
>around children and adults. Could people be chosen in the same way? Would
>it be so terrible to allow parents to at least aim for a certain type, in
>the same way that great breeders ... try to match a breed of dog to the
>needs of a family?"
>--Prof. Gregory Pence, University of Alabama (1998)
>Friends & Colleagues:
>The technical ability to genetically modify the human species is advancing
>rapidly, and could easily outstrip societal wisdom and oversight
>capabilities. In this Loka Alert Richard Hayes offers a superb
>introduction to the science and politics of human genetic engineering. He
>concludes with action steps we must take to prevent dangerously
>irresponsible applications of the emerging human biotechnological know-how.
>This is one in an occasional series on the democratic politics of
>research, science, and technology issued free of charge by the nonprofit
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>Jill Chopyak, Executive Director
>Richard Sclove, Research Director & Loka Alert Editor
>The Loka Institute, P.O. Box 355, Amherst, MA 01004, USA E-mail
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>(1) THE POLITICS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED HUMANS
>by Richard Hayes <email@example.com>
>Coordinator Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies
>San Francisco, CA
>We are fast approaching What is arguably the most consequential
>technological threshold in all of human history: the ability to directly
>manipulate the genes we pass on to our children.
>Development and use of these technologies would irrevocably change the
>nature of human life and human society. It would destabilize human
>biological identity and function. It would put into play a wholly
>unprecedented set of social, psychological and political forces that would
>feed back upon themselves with impacts quite beyond our ability to
>imagine, much less control.
>These technologies are being developed and actively campaigned for by an
>influential network of scientists and others who see themselves ushering
>in a new epoch for human life on earth. They look forward to the day when
>parents quite literally assemble their children from genes listed in a
>catalogue. They celebrate a future in which our common humanity is lost as
>a genetically-enhanced elite increasingly acquires the attributes of a
>There is little public awareness of the full implications of the new human
>genetic technologies or of the campaign underway to promote them. There
>are few popular institutions, and there is no social or political
>movement, critically addressing the immense challenges these technologies pose.
>If we are to have any hope of bringing human genetic engineering within
>the ambit of accountable societal governance we need to mow wry quickly.
>We need national and community leaders, activists, journalists,
>scientists, scholars, and other citizens to inform themselves in short
>order about critical aspects of the new human genetic technologies, and to
>join together to begin building nothing less than a new social movement.
>The notes that follow address the science, history, accompanying ideology,
>and other aspects of the most critical applications of the new human
>genetic technologies. Resources for those who want to learn more or find
>out how they can join with others seeking to engage these issues are
>listed at the end.
>Some applications of human genetic engineering are benign and hold great
>potential for preventing disease and alienating suffering. Other
>applications open the door to
>a human future more horrific than our worst nightmares. We need to be able
>to distinguish between these, and to support the former and oppose the latter.
>Genetic engineering means changing the genes in a living cell. If you have
>a lung disease caused by defective genes in your lung cells, for example,
>perhaps those genes can be changed and the disease cured. Researchers try
>to do this by putting healthy human genes into virus-like organisms that
>are injected into a patient's blood stream and travel to the lungs. The
>virus-like organisms insert the healthy genes into the lung cells
>containing the defective genes. That's genetic engineering.
>There are two very different applications of genetic engineering. One
>application changes the genes in cells in your body other than your egg
>and sperm cells. Such changes - like those in the lung cells of our
>example - are not passed to any children you may have. Applications of
>this sort are currently in clinical trials, and are generally
>considered to be socially acceptable.
>The other application of genetic engineering changes the genes in eggs,
>sperm, or very early embryos. These affect not only any children you may
>have, but all succeeding generations. This application is by far the more
>consequential, because it opens the door to the reconfiguration of the
>The technical terms for these two applications are, respectively,
>"somatic" genetic engineering (after the Greek "soma" for "body"), and
>"germline" genetic engineering (because eggs and sperm are the "germinal"
>or "germline" cells).
>Many advocates of germline engineering say it is needed to allow couples
>to avoid passing on genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis or sickle
>cell anemia. This is simply is
>not true, and scientists and medical researchers who use this argument are
>betraying the trust that society grants them. More acceptable means
>already exist to accomplish this same goal. In the technique know as
>pre-implantation screening, for example, couples at risk of passing on a
>gene-related disease use -in-vitro- fertilization to conceive several
>zygotes, and only those found to be free of the harmful gene are implanted
>and brought to term. No manipulation of genes is required. Germline
>manipulation is necessary only if you wish to "enhance" your children with
>genes they wouldn't be able to get from you or your partner.
>The ability to directly manipulate the genes of plants and animals was
>developed during the late 1970's. Proposals to begin human gene
>manipulation were put forth in the early 1980's and aroused much
>controversy. A small number of researchers argued in favor of germline
>manipulation, but the majority of scientists and others opposed it. In
>1983 an important letter signed by 58 religious leaders said,
>"Genetic engineering of the human germline represents a fundamental threat
>to the preservation of the human species as we know it, and should be
>opposed with the same courage and conviction as we now oppose the threat
>of nuclear extinction." 
>In 1985 the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) approved somatic gene
>therapy trials, but said that it would not accept proposals for germline
>manipulation "at present." That ambiguous decision did little to
>discourage advocates of germline engineering, who knew that somatic
>experiments were the appropriate first step in any event. In the period
>following 1985, and especially following the first approved clinical
>attempts at somatic gene therapy in 1990, advocates of germline
>engineering began writing in the medical, ethical, and other journals to
>build broader support.
>In the mid- and late 1990's these efforts received several major shots in
>the arm. The ongoing success of the federally funded Human Genome Project
>in describing and locating all 80,000+ human genes fueled growing
>speculation about eventual applications, including germline engineering.
>The successful development in 1996 of the ability to create a genetic
>duplicate of an adult mammal ("cloning"), and in 1999 of techniques for
>disassembling human embryos and keeping embryonic cells alive, in culture,
>were critically important. They made it possible, for the first time, to
>imagine a procedure whereby the human germline could be engineered in a
>commercially practicable manner.
>Advocates of germline engineering were further encouraged by the social,
>cultural and political conditions of the late 1990's, a period
>characterized by technological enthusiasm, distrust of government
>regulation, the spread of consumerist/competitive/libertarian values, and
>the perceived weakening ability of national governments to enforce laws
>and treaties, as a result of globalization.
>Advocacy of germline engineering moved to the status of an openly
>acknowledged political cause in March of 1998, when Gregory Stock,
>Director of the Program on Medicine, Technology and Society at UCLA (the
>University of California
>at Los Angeles), organized the symposium "Engineering the Human Germline."
>All the speakers were avid proponents of germline engineering. Stock
>declared that the important question was "not if, but when" germline
>engineering would be used. The symposium was attended by nearly 1,000
>people and received front-page coverage in-The New York Times, The
>Washington Post- and elsewhere.
>Four months after the UCLA conference one of the key participants, somatic
>gene transfer pioneer W. French Anderson, submitted a draft proposal to
>the NIH to begin somatic gene transfer experiments on human fetuses. He
>acknowledged that this procedure would have a "relatively high" potential
>for "inadvertent gene transfer to the germline." Anderson's proposal is
>widely acknowledged to be strategically crafted so that approval could be
>construed as acceptance of germline modification, at least in some
>circumstances. Anderson hopes to receive permission to begin clinical
>trials by 2003.
>A NEW IDEOLOGY
>Advocacy of germline engineering and the new "techno- eugenics" (i.e.,
>technologically enabled human genetic manipulation and selection) is an
>integral element of a newly emerging socio-political ideology. This
>ideology differs from conservative ideologies in its antipathy towards
>religion and traditional social values, from left- progressive ideologies
>in its rejection of egalitarian values and social welfare as a public
>purpose, and from Green ideologies in its enthusiastic advocacy of a
>technologically reconfigured and transformed natural world, human beings
>included. It embraces philosophical, normative and political commitments
>to materialism, reductionism and determinism; to science and technology as
>autonomous endeavors property exempt from social control-, to the presumed
>priority of market outcomes; and to a political philosophy grounded in
>evolutionary psychology and social darwinist views of human nature and society.
>This ideology is gaining acceptance among scientific, high-tech, media and
>policy elites. A key foundational text is the book- Remaking Eden: How
>Cloning and Beyond Will Change the Human Family, by molecular biologist
>Lee Silver of Princeton University. Silver looks forward to a future in
>which the health, appearance, personality, cognitive ability, sensory
>capacity and life-span of our children all become artifacts of genetic
>manipulation. Silver acknowledges that the costs of these technologies
>will limit their widespread adoption, so that over time society will
>segregate into the "GenRich" and the "Naturals" In Silvers vision of the
>"The GenRich - who account for 10 percent of the American population - all
>carry synthetic genes. All aspects of the economy, the media, the
>entertainment industry, and the knowledge industry are controlled by
>members of the GenRich class ... Naturals work as low-paid service
>providers or as laborers ... (eventually) the GenRich class and the
>Natural class will become entirely separate species with no ability to
>cross-breed, and with as much romantic interest in each other as a current
>human would have for a chimpanzee."
>"Many think that it is inherently unfair for some people to have access to
>technologies that can provide advantages while others, less well-off, are
>forced to depend on chance alone ... (But] Ame6can society adheres to the
>principle that personal liberty and personal fortune are the primary
>determinants of what individuals are allowed and able to do. Indeed, in a
>society that values individual freedom above all else, it is hard to find
>any legitimate basis for restricting the use of repro-genetics .... I will
>the use of reprogenetic technologies is inevitable. .
>. . [W]hether we like it or not, the global marketplace will reign
>Silver is hardly alone. Here's James Watson, co- discoverer of the
>structure of DNA, Nobel laureate and founding director of the Human Genome
>"And the other thing, because no one has the guts to say it, if we could
>make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn't we?
>What's wrong with it? ... Evolution can be just damn cruel, and to say
>that we've got a perfect genome and there's some sanctity to it? I'd just
>like to know where that idea comes from. It's utter silliness."
>And here's Dr. Gregory Pence, professor of philosophy in the Schools of
>Medicine and Arts/Humanities at the University of Alabama:
>"[M]any people love their retrievers and their sunny dispositions around
>children and adults. Could people be chosen in the same way? Would it be
>so terrible to allow parents to at least aim for a certain type, in the
>same way that great breeders ... try to match a breed of dog to the
>needs of a family?"
>Or consider this excerpt from an interview with University of Pennsylvania
>bioethicist Arthur Caplan:
>... [M]aking babies sexually will be(come) rare,'Caplan speculates. [M]any
>parents will leap at the chance to make their children smarter, fitter and
>prettier. Ethical concerns will be overtaken, says Caplan, by the
>realization that technology simply makes for better children. 'in a
>competitive market society, people are going to want to give their kids an
>edge,' says the bioethicist. 'They'll slowly get used to the idea that
>a genetic edge is not greatly different from an environmental edge."'
>Here's noted economist Lester Thurow of MIT:
>"Some will hate it, some will love it, but biotechnology is inevitably
>leading to a world in which plants, animals and human beings are going to
>be partly man-made .... Suppose parents could add 30 points to their
>children's IQ. Wouldn't you want to do it? And if
>you don't, your child will be the stupidest child in the neighborhood." 
>And here's Francis Fukuyama of the Institute for Public Policy at George
>Mason University and author of -The End of History:
>"[B]iotechnology will be able to accomplish what the radical ideologies of
>the past, with their unbelievably crude techniques, were unable to
>accomplish: to bring about a new type of human being.... [W]ithin the
>next couple of generations ... we will have
>definitively finished human History because we will have abolished human
>beings as such. And then, a new posthuman history will begin."
>Can it get worse than this? Yes. In Germany last year an uproar ensued
>following statements by noted philosopher Peter Sloterdijk that the
>failure of "Habermasean social democracy" now leaves human genetic
>engineering (which he referred to as "Selektion," a word associated with
>Nazi genocide) as the only means for humanity to improve its lot.
>INSTITUTES OF INFLUENCE
>Supporters of human germline engineering and the new techno-eugenics have
>established a number of institutes that encourage public acceptance of
>their program. At UCLA the Program in Medicine, Technology and Society
>(MTS), noted above, is currently promoting the notion of aging as a
>disease that can be cured through germline engineering. The Extropy
>Institute, also in Los Angeles, supports "evolutionary advance by using
>technology." At their annual conference last year in Berkeley, the Extropy
>Institute held strategy sessions on how to organize politically to advance
>the post-human agenda, and on how to talk to the press and public about
>human genetic modification in ways that build support and diffuse
>opposition. In Maryland the Human Biodiversity Institute recently
>presented a seminar on the prospects for genetically modified humans at a
>Hudson Institute retreat attended by former British Prime Minister
>Margaret Thatcher. These institutes are small but growing. No comparable
>efforts are underway to counter their influence.
>The biotech industry is actively developing the technologies that would
>make it possible to offer human germline engineering on a commercial
>basis. This work is almost completely unregulated. Geron Corporation of
>Menlo Park, California, holds patents on applicable human embryo
>manipulation and cloning techniques. Advanced Cell Technologies (ACT) of
>Worcester, Massachusetts, announced last year that it had created a,
>viable human/bovine embryo by implanting the nucleus of a human cell into
>the egg of a cow. No laws exist that would have prevented this trans-
>species embryo from being implanted in a woman's uterus in an attempt to
>bring a baby to term. The baby would contain a small but significant
>proportion of cow genes.
>Chromos Molecular Systems, Inc., in British Columbia, is developing
>artificial human chromosomes that would enable the engineering of multiple
>complex traits. People whose germlines were engineered with artificial
>chromosomes, and who wanted to pass complete sets of these to their
>children intact, would only be able to mate with others carrying the same
>artificial chromosomes. This condition, called "reproductive isolation",
>is the primary criteria that biologists use to classify a population as a
>OPPOSITION TO GENETICALLY MODIFIED HUMANS?
>Given the enormity of what is at stake, and the fact that the advocates of
>the new techno-eugenics are hardly coy about their intentions, it is
>remarkable that organized opposition has been all but absent. Why is this?
>In part it's simply that the most critical technologies have been
>developed only within the last three years or so, and there hasn't been
>time for people to fully understand their implications and respond.
>Also, the prospect of genetically engineering the human species is
>categorically beyond anything that humanity has ever before had to
>confront. People have trouble taking these issues seriously - they seem
>fantastical, or beyond the pale of anything that anyone would actually do
>or that society would allow. As a consequence there exist no self-
>identified constituencies of concern, and no institutions in place to
>effectively focus that concern.
>Further, attitudes concerning human genetic modification don't fit neatly
>within the familiar political categories of right/left or
>conservative/liberal. The more useful set of categories is
>libertarian/communitarian. The libertarian right and libertarian left are
>typically less concerned about human genetic modification, which they can
>accept as a property right or as a personal right, respectively. By
>contrast, the communitarian right and communitarian left tend to be
>strongly opposed, the former typically for reasons grounded in religious
>beliefs and the latter out of concern for human dignity, social equity and
>solidarity. This unfamiliar alignment impedes quick and confident
>responses by opponents.
>Finally, although people intuit that the new genetic technologies are
>likely to introduce profound social and political challenges, they also
>associate these technologies with the possibility of miracle cures,
>notably for the many tragically fatal inheritable conditions. Before any
>sentiment in favor of banning certain uses of genetic technology can take
>root, people will have to come to understand that doing so would not
>foreclose means of preventing or curing genetic diseases.
>WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
>At the policy level we will need global bans on altering the genes we pass
>on to our children, and on reproductive human cloning. We'll also need
>effective, accountable systems for regulating human genetic technologies
>that may have some beneficent uses but could be dangerously abused.
>These policies and systems are already in effect in a number of major
>countries. France and Germany have banned both germline engineering and
>cloning, the Council of Europe is working to have these banned in all 41
>of its member countries, and Canada is expected to ban germline
>engineering and cloning within a year. The United Nations,
>UNESCO, and the Group of Seven industrialized nations have called for a
>global ban on human cloning. Great Britain has a Human Fertilization and
>Embryology Authority (HFEA) which licenses all research and commercial
>enterprises whose activities involve use of human eggs, sperm or embryos.
>The HFEA is frequently cited as a model for other countries.
>If we are to realize such policies in the United States and worldwide, is
>imperative that strong, coordinated civil society efforts toward these
>ends be initiated, and soon.
>As noted, little infrastructure to support such efforts currently exists.
>We will need to establish national and global-scale education and advocacy
>organizations, research and media centers, and more. Success in adopting
>the policies described above will enable us to avoid the worst threats
>posed by the new human genetic technologies, and will allow us to better
>use our tremendous scientific and technological gifts in support of a
>healthy, sustainable and equitable human future.
>ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Hayes - E-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> -
>is coordinator of the Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic
>Technologies (see below). He formerly served as assistant political
>director and national director of volunteer development for the Sierra Club.
>ACTION STEPS, RESOURCES, and FOOTNOTES
>(A) ACTION STEPS:
>The Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies is
>helping alert and inform the leadership of civil society organizations
>about the new human genetic technologies, and about steps we need to take
>to prevent their misuse. If you or your organization would like to
>schedule a meeting, presentation or workshop; subscribe to the Exploratory
>lnitiative's free email newsletter; receive its list of publications; or
>for other inquiries about becoming involved, please E-mail Marcy Darnovsky
>Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies 466 Green Street
>San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
>Books Opposing the new techno-eugenics:
>o Andrews, Lori. -The Clone Age: Adventures in the New World of
>Reproductive Technology. New York: Henry Holt, 1999.
>o Appleyard, Bryan. _Brave New Worlds: Staying Human in the Genetic
>Future-. New York: Viking, 1998.
>o Hubbard, Ruth and Elijah Wald. _Exploding the Gene Myth_. Boston: Beacon
>o Kimbrell, Andrew. -The Human Body Shop: The Engineering
>and Marketing of Life New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
>Books Supporting the new techno-eugenics:
>o Pence, Gregory E. -Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?- Lanham, MD: Rowman &
>o Silver, Lee. -Remaking Eden: How Cloning and Beyond Will Change the
>Human Family_. New York: Avon, 1997.
>Web Sites Opposing the new techno-eugenics.
>o Council for Responsible Genetics, http://www.gene- watch.org
>o Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering,
>0 Genetic Engineering and its Dangers:
>Web Sites Supporting the new techno-eugenics:
>o UCLA Program on Medicine, Technology and Society (Gregory Stock,
>o Extropy Institute: http://www.extropy.org
>SOURCES OF QUOTES:
> "Theological Letter Concerning the Moral Arguments,"
>June 8, 1983, presented to the U.S. Congress. Foundation on Economic
>Trends, Washington, DC.
>[21 Silver: L. Silver. 1997. _Remaking Eden: How Cloning
>and Beyond Will Change the Human Family_ (New York: Avon Books), pp. 4-7, 1 1.
>[31 Watson: Gregory Stock and John Campbell, eds., 2000. -Engineering the
>Human Germline- (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 79, 85.
> Pence: G. Pence, 1998. -Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?_ (New York:
>Roman & Littlefield), p. 168.
>[51 ABCNEWS.com: hftp:/Iabonews.go.com/ABC2000/abc2OOOliN,ing/babies2OOO.
> Thurow: L. Thurow, 1999. -Creating Wealth: The New Rules for
>Individuals, Companies and Nations in a Knowledge- Based Economy_ (New
>York: HarperCollins), p. 33.
> Fukuyama: F. Fukuyama, "Second Thoughts: The Last Man in a Bottle,"
>-The National Interest-, Summer 1999, pp. 28, 33.
>ABOUT THE LOKA INSTITUTE
>The Loka Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making
>research, science and technology responsive to democratically decided
>social and environmental concerns. Current Loka projects include-.
>o The Community Research Network
>o Deliberative Citizens' Panels on Science & Technology
>o Identifying Democratic Technologies
>o Building a Constituency for Democratizing Research, Science & Technology
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