RE: Gene Therapy & Ethics [was Re: AI Backlash]
Wed, 11 Aug 1999 13:39:54 -0700

Billy Brown, <>, writes:
> Robert J. Bradbury [] wrote:
> > The *sticky* point in my mind is we are entering the time when treatments
> > that are entirely "enhancements", rather than "necessities" are
> available.
> > If the Extropian principles are those which should encourage diversity,
> > minimize tyranny, manipulation/control by power bodies/majorities
> > (including parents or medical authorities), etc., then it would seem to
> > me that --
> So, in other words, this is such a sticky problem that we should have
> government make all the decisions? Somehow, that seems less than ideal to
> me.
> Or do you really want to see a regulatory agency defining "enhancement",
> "treatment", "necessity" and so forth according to whatever political
> forces happen to apply at the time?

Can't we discuss these issues without this knee jerk libertarian response?

Robert didn't say anything about government. He posed an ethical question. Do we have the right to make genetic alterations to our children, given that they cannot consent to the procedure?

This is an interesting and valid question to discuss without bringing in the issue of government enforcement. Even in a fully libertarian society, even in a world where I am the only person who exists, I must face and answer this question for myself. If we cannot debate the issue without getting sucked into the libertarian quagmire, then we cannot reach the most informed conclusions about what our decisions should be in this regard.

Only those of us who come to the belief that such alterations are wrong must then face the question of how to balance this wrongness against the wrongness of intervening to prevent others from altering their unborn children in this way. But that question does not arise until we first satisfy ourselves that we have a good answer to the first question of whether the practice is good or bad.

And even when we face that question, it is not one which can be answered by libertarian dogma. Libertarians agree that coercion is wrong. Most would attempt to stop a parent from harming his children, under at least some circumstances. The question is whether a potentially harmful alteration which happens before conception also constitutes a form of coercion and is therefore justifiably prevented in a libertarian society. It is a question on which libertarians may differ, just as they currently disagree about the abortion issue.

Raising the bugbear of government regulation is both premature and unhelpful to the discussion of this issue.