Eugenics: PLS READ [was Berkeleyans Against "Techno-Eugenics"]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Tue, 5 Oct 1999 01:56:33 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 4 Oct 1999, Chris Fedeli forwarded a message regarding a "movement" opposed to "Techno-eugenics". So we are all educated to discuss this, I wanted to provide foundation material.

>From The New Lexicon Webster's Dictionary:
eugenic (adj): of, concerned with, or encouraging the production of

healthy children.
eugenics (n): the study of methods of protecting and improving the

quality of the human race by selective breeding eugenist (n): fr. Greek: eu (well) + genes (born)

> I want to alert you to a nascent movement originating here in
> Berkeley opposed to "Techno-eugenics'" i.e. human germ-line engineering
> with the intent of producing super-people, which presents some very
> serious threats to the future of humanity, social equality and the
> like..

To start with, the term is applied improperly. Since human germ-line engineering does not involve selective breeding, the term of "Techno-eugenics" seems a distortion designed to invoke the spectre of the eugenics movement in the early part of this century and more seriously the NAZI eugenics efforts.

I want to point out ways for you to disassemble this effort piece by piece.

(a) "germ-line engineering" - this will get thrown up with the

presumption that this is the *only* way this can be done. It isn't. Methods that can be used to engineer germ-lines can be applied to engineering existing humans. While it may be more difficult to engineer billions of cells than a single cell, viral attacks and adaptation in your immune system to specific pathogens are examples of this occuring (with "no" intelligence driving it.) Since cancer will be one of the driving forces behind reasons to develop "genome editing" (to correct mutations that cause cancer), you are on the slippery slope:

  1. Correct mutations that lead to cancer;
  2. Correct mutations that give you one of the 5-7 genetic defects that each of us have that have negative health effects;
  3. Correct mutations that make us different from how we would like to be (tall, short, blonde, brunette, curly hair, straight hair, fast/slow twitch muscles, etc.)

I am unsure why people "invoke" germ-line engineering here. The fundamental thing that most people should be "afraid" of is *limited* access by existing adults to technologies that improve their intelligence (or perhaps other features that would improve the earning potential; appearance, height, etc.)

(b) "super-people" - exactly *what* is a super person?

Someone stronger? If being stronger requires more muscle mass and that makes easier for your muscles to break your bones or makes it more difficult for you to fit in an airplane seat then there are tradeoffs.
Someone more beautiful? Well if everyone looked like Cindy Crawford or Mel Gibson (or pick your star), then it is unlikely to have the value we assign to it in our society where everyone cannot have that appearance. Someone smarter? Again, if everyone has faster thinking and greater memory then what does this buy you?

It seems like what they are saying is "I want to remain 'natural'" to maintain my position in society and you must remain 'natural' as well."

So, by definition, they are saying that they want to stop evolution (which seems "un"-natural). If they want to stop you from improving your "hardware", shouldn't they want to stop you from improving your "software" as well? So they presumably do not want you to undergo cosmetic surgery to appear more attractive or get an education that gives you more skills or even think creatively in some way that forces them to compete or adapt to the new reality you might generate.

(c) "serious threats to the future of humanity, social equality"...

"future of humanity" -- if the future of humanity is to be

     static and stagnate, then it is to simply wait here until
     a near-earth-crossing asteroid does to us what happened to
     the dinosaurs or if we are very very lucky simply wait until
     the sun burns out.  If someone invokes "future of humanity"
     get them to define exactly what they view this as.

     "social equality" -- this is probably the *real* motivator
     behind things.  We have an illusion that "all men (or women)
     are created equal".  There are people who want to protect
     that illusion.  Its garbage.  Lets say we "make intelligence
     enhancing technologies available to all people who are retarded".
     Ok, but what justifies not making those technologies available
     to those who are non-retarded?   If you *really* want to level
     the playing field, then you *want* to use genetic technologies
     to make each of us an identical twin to everyone else.  That
     levels the playing field in the physical (hardware) reality.
     Then point out, you could level the playing field in the
     virtual (software) reality by having nanobots adjust our
     neural connections and synaptic strengths to make us all
     mentally identical to each other.

     The minute someone mentions "social equality" force them to
     confront the fact that if technologies could make us all
     *identical* clones, isn't that what they really want?!?

> The technology is moving forward quite quiickly, with little
> public awareness.

The technology for fixing somatic cell mutations will move forward as fast or faster than germ-line therapies.

> > We support biotechnology in the public interest. We oppose
> > policies and biotechnologies--including human germline
> > engineering and human cloning--that foster inequality,
> > discrimination, objectification, and the commodification
> > of human genes and tissues.

Why? There is no rationale that germline engineering or cloning promote inequality/discrimination/objectification.

If you want to foster equality, eliminate discrimination or objectification there is one clear solution -- promote all of us being exactly and completely identical.

What is wrong with the commodification of human genes and tissues? While I object to someone owning the rights to something that I inherently posess (the sequence in my genome), I am not at all opposed to people owning the rights to turn that into something of use to me (a replacement organ or a drug that modifies or enhances the capacities or limits that nature has bestowed upon me).

> >
> > The pace of developments has picked up considerably in the
> > past several months. And glimmers of opposition are starting
> > to emerge. But most Americans--including most activists and
> > academics--have no idea that a small group of influential
> > scientists have launched a campaign to promote germline
> > engineering, human cloning, and a techno-eugenic future.
Claims without much evidence. I will agree that Greg Stock and John Campbell advocate germline engineering but I've never sensed that they have a "eugenic" perspective.

There are a few scientists who claim to support or who will even undertake human cloning but they haven't dealt with the fundamental issues of how to create a "mindless" clone.

It is a stretch from germline engineering & human cloning to techno-eugenics. The concepts *do not* fit together. Germline engineering is about creating mutation free or potentially enhanced children. Human cloning is about creating copies of "ideal" children, or about creating bodies from which organs can be extracted or into which brains can be transplanted. Techno-eugenics "seems" to be about creating a future superior human race.

Why does any of this matter unless you *assume* that you cannot follow that path *or* believe that you do not want to follow that path and must restrict others from doing so?

Since the group/organization is relatively open about their sources, we should undertake to monitor them and use the "crit" program or other constructive criticisms to offset their perspective.