“If you don’t like eugenics, you are not going to like the 21st century. ... The desire to have smart, healthy, good-looking offspring is wellnigh universal. If parents can get assurance of such an outcome for a few thousand bucks, why should they not purchase that assurance? In a free country, how will you stop them? And why would conservatives or libertarians want to stop them? 'Eugenics' has become such a scare-word that we’ll probably have to re-name the process to avoid all the shrieking and skirt-clutching; but it will be eugenics just the same.”And you thought the utilitarian approach to human beings was restricted to liberals? On certain matters, the elites really do think alike. But there are two objections to this hope for an earthly eschaton in which we will put on new bodies of a glorified nature. One is technical and one is fundamental.
1. Why it doesn't work.
The technical objection first. What genetic manipulation does the Derb imagine will lead to "smart" offspring? From his most recent screed, one may assume that he believes that ensuring a non-black skin is one way; but in general, what exactly is "smart" and which "gene" ensures it? Being "smart" is not like being "blue-eyed." On a physical plane alone, it involves involves two brain hemispheres, the nervous and glandular systems, and who knows what else?
Besides which, genes are not atoms. They are often distributed across many loci in the chromosomes, much like an acrostic or cross-word puzzle. Depending on when and under what epigenetic conditions they are activated, they may accomplish multiple tasks. This is an issue known as design coupling.
|A coupled design. You cannot change|
temperature without changing flow,
and vice versa.
For another example consider the Transmission Vane Oil Pump found in Yang and El-Haik, Design for Six Sigma. At the second indenture, the displacement mechanism subassembly, we find the functional requirement to charge the chamber is affected by the expanding chamber, sealing device geometry, movable bore ring, rigid cover, and rigid body. To achieve the proper charging of the chamber, we must target these five controls.
The design can be decoupled by providing separate controls for temperature and volume, as for example a joystick in which vertical changes the flow and horizontal changes the temperature. See right.
A decoupled design.
Temperature and flow can
be controlled independently
- charge chamber
- discharge chamber
- prevent slip flow
- provide displacement charge
Good. Now, replace the Y's with "smart," "healthy," and "good-looking," and replace the X's with various and sundry genes. Even if you could operationally define the three functional requirements -- and don't hold your breath on that one, either -- chances are that tampering with your baby to make her smart will wind up making her unhealthy or not-good looking. Perhaps one of the genes in a suite that affects "smart" is also a player in how the heart muscle forms.
The Derb asked, The desire to have smart, healthy, good-looking offspring is wellnigh universal. If parents can get assurance of such an outcome for a few thousand bucks, why should they not purchase that assurance?
The good news, we suppose, is that parents will get no such assurance.
2. Why we shouldn't work at it.
Which brings us to the second and more important objection. The very concept of making this sort of effort requires us to divide humanity into untermenschen and übermenschen, into those humans that are more desirable and those that are less desirable. This sort of Nietzschean mindset is inherent in considering the program at all, regardless of the unlikelihood of success. It is fascist in its heart.
Derbyshire thought that eugenics programs had gotten a bad name back in the 1920s because they were state-run. Free enterprise eugenics, he thinks, would be kinder and gentler. "How can you stop them?" he asks. But, of course, it doesn't matter whether children are tampered with by the state or by their parents. It will never be voluntary on the part of the children. Think about the number of experiments required to learn which genes do what; the number of children scrapped out because they don't meet specs.
Does it really matter if all this is run by state bureaucrats in spiffy uniforms or by corporate droids in smiling business suits? In either case, people are treated as objects rather than as persons, and you cannot do that for long without becoming numb and dead in your core.