SOC: Genetic Engineering Debate

Date: Sat Apr 29 2000 - 09:13:41 MDT

I'm engaged in a debate on another list. I thought I'd share some of my
posts from that list here:

In a message dated 4/25/00 12:43:39 PM Central Daylight Time, _____ writes:

> From: <>
> Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2000 5:09 PM
> Subject: Re: [GM] Clone of Silence
> >Perhaps not, but do you feel you have some basis
> >for restricting their
> >freedom to make choices about their offspring?
> >Assume for the sake of
> >argument that there is a clear use of genetic
> >technology to somehow avoid a
> >disease or otherwise improve a person's child.
> Do
> >you have the right to
> >restrict that person's choice to employ that
> >technology, regardless of the
> >parent's wealth?
> Yes.
> If people could afford to have their own nuclear
> power plant in their back garden, would I try to
> stop them ? Yes.
> If they decided to plant GM modified seed in their
> garden, would I try to stop them ? Yes.
> If people could afford to pay enough to encourage
> people to part with their organs, would I try to
> stop them ? Yes.
> If people decided that implanting microchips in
> their childrens heads improved their behaviour,
> and made them socially more acceptable, would I
> try to stop them ? Yes.
> I am not really interested in debating the moral
> niceties or not, of some intangible future
> benefit, that rich people may or may not have.
> No one, even the most rabid pro-GM'ers are
> pretending that we are all going to get to choose
> the genetic makeup of our children.
> If, and it's a very big if, this becomes viable,
> it will happen on two levels.
> 1. Rich people get to choose.
> 2. The rest of us have it imposed.

Chris, clearly there is a huge "value gulf" between us. You seem to feel you
know enough to impose deep restrictions on the choices other people can make.
 Of course it's easy to imagine scenarios where the actions of other people
threaten your interests enough to justify interfering in their liberty.
Jumping to conclusions about how threatening those actions are and painting
them in terms of absolutes makes it all the easier to clothe one's self in
the kind of self-righteousness that justifies more and more restrictions on
the individual's right to choose. Seeing things in terms of "rich people
rule the world, the rest of us are downtrodden" appears to be a key
ingredient of such self-righteousness.

"Moral niceties" are the fabric of civilized society. Where will you draw
the line in restricting choices based on wealth? Will you demand that every
child have exactly the same education, because some can afford to send their
children to "better" schools than others? Will you demand that we all dress
exactly alike, because some can afford more fashionable clothes than others?
Who will be on the "Committee for Public Safety" that makes such choices?
Perhaps if Orwell were alive to update "1984", he would add a "Ministry of
Nature" to the government that included the Ministries of Truth and Love.

I have to assume that the recent breakthrough in France in which genetic
engineering was used to correct an immune deficiency syndrome in children
should be prohibited because it is not immediately available to all. I
suppose it would be particularly offensive if this procedure could have been
done at the germ-cell level, so that parents could conceive a child without
the disease in the first place. As they say of the fundamentalist christians
here in the U.S., they disaprove of premarital sex, because it might lead to

       Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:09:57 MDT