Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The God Game


Bobby posted the following link to an article advocating the need for us to apply our knowledge of genetics to improve human health and well being.

http://nautil.us/issue/28/2050/the-philosopher-who-says-we-should-play-god

Good article. I enjoyed it. Certainly a lot of good points were made, but I must agree with Anthony that it was rather simplistic. Real world applications would be much more messy and complex. Think about Dr. Bashir on Deep Space Nine, Kahn, the Sauron Superman from The Mote in God's Eye...  What is acceptable and what isn't?

Just a few comments:

Anesthesia for relief of the pain of childbirth was so controversial that there were sermons preached against it all over England. After all, God had condemned women to labor pains as punishment for eating the apple.  To prevent the pain was to defy God's justice.The controversy ended when the beloved and adored Queen Victoria used anesthesia during her ninth labor (which gave the world Princess Beatrice).

It is quite true that the Nazis did not invent negative eugenics and that other nations also participated, including America. It is less well-known that the Nazis (obviously before they became our existential enemies) sent representatives to America, including California, to study sterilization and other programs to improve the species. Shockingly, supporters of negative eugenics included Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, and a disturbingly large number of other famous individuals.

It is interesting to note that adult children sometimes criticize their parents for decisions they made.  (Why did you make me move when I was in high school?  I never fit in at the new school.)  If the parents decided a child's temperament, intelligence, and more, will the adult that results be grateful or bitter?  "You engineered my math skills and not artistic abilities? You monsters!"

Finally, we really have no choice but to play God.  Once you have the capacity to act, refusing to act is still making a decision.  If I can stop a murder, but choose not to do so, I am
morally culpable.  If we can prevent horrible birth defects and refuse to do so, we are deciding to let them occur.  Knowledge can be regarded as a trap.

Keep me thinking, Bobby. It is a moral obligation.

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