IMPORTANT QUOTES ON TECHNO-EUGENICS
"Many people love their retrievers and their sunny dispositions around children and adults. Could people be chosen in the same way?"
For most people quotes like the one above from an American philosophy professor seem too absurd, grotesque or futuristic to warrant serious concern - certainly not immediate concern. What is startling about much of the material below, however, is the extraordinary breadth of science establishment support already being brought forward in support of genetically engineering humans.
Among the more prominent supporters are nobel laureate and double-helix discoverer James Watson, whose support for GE foods has been made so much of, Lord Robert Winston (who currently has another big TV series on BBC2), the New Scientist (in an October 99 editorial), and, needless to say, the corporate funded Hudson Institute.
This support is often expressed, as with GM crops, in terms of "inevitability" - even not getting left behind by the competition is predictably utilised at a Hudson Institute seminar.
All the material below is taken from back issues of the TECHNO-EUGENICS EMAIL LIST NEWSLETTER. Richard Hayes, one of the newsletters’ co-editors, comments:
"Such predictions have seemed so far in the future, or so patently repugnant, that they didn’t need to be taken very seriously. Well below the radar screen of both the general public and policy makers, a concerted campaign is underway to perfect and justify the technologies that would allow the engineering of ‘designer babies.’ "
He goes on:
"Supporters of the techno-eugenic future are working diligently on a number of fronts to advance their cause. The broad strategy includes the continued development of genetic manipulation technologies, mobilization of a credible and vocal minority of the public to actively embrace and call for a techno-eugenic future, and persuading the majority of the public that attempts to restrict the use of human genetic technologies would be an infringement of individual rights."
We start with some excerpts from an Open Letter distributed at the Symposium on Science, Ethics and Society of the Asilomar Conference, at which 150 leading molecular biologists and others gathered to devise procedures to oversee the development of recombinant DNA technology in the United States. The excerpts from the letter are followed by quotes from eminent scientists in support of genetically engineering "better" humans, and other relevant items.
This vision of the human future is grotesque. Casually dismissing principles of democracy and civil society, it celebrates nothing less than the end of our common humanity. The fact that many scientists appear ready to welcome it is deeply disturbing.
Equally disturbing is the eagerness of many scientists to authoritatively
declared that human germline engineering is "inevitable."
Citizen concern about genetic engineering is growing rapidly.
Controversy over genetically modified food has spilled into the streets. Anxiety can only mount as the public becomes aware of the plans to produce genetically modified humans.
The prospect of human germline engineering presents a point of decision
-- one that ranks among the most consequential that humanity will ever
"And the other thing, because no one has the guts to say it, if we could make better human beings by knowing how to add genes, why shouldn’t we? What’s wrong with it?....Evolution can be just damn cruel, and to say that we’ve got a perfect genome and there’s some sanctity to it? I’d just like to know where that idea comes from. It’s utter silliness."
James Watson, Nobel laureate and founding director of the Human Genome
"Many people love their retrievers and their sunny dispositions around children and adults. Could people be chosen in the same way? Would it be so terrible to allow parents to at least aim for a certain type, in the same way that great breeders...try to match a breed of dog to the needs of a family?"
Gregory Pence, professor of philosophy in the Schools of Medicine and
Arts/Humanities at the University of Alabama:
[In the future...] "The GenRich—who account for 10 percent of the American population—all carry synthetic genes....All aspects of the economy, the media, the entertainment industry, and the knowledge industry are controlled by members of the GenRich class....Naturals work as low-paid service providers or as laborers... [Eventually] the GenRich class and the Natural class will become...entirely separate species with no ability to cross-breed, and with as much romantic interest in each other as a current human would have for a chimpanzee...But in all cases, I will argue, the use of reprogenetic technologies is inevitable...whether we like it or not, the global marketplace will reign supreme."
Lee Silver, professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton
"Biotechnology will be able to accomplish what the radical ideologies of the past, with their unbelievably crude techniques, were unable to accomplish: to bring about a new type of human being... Within the next couple of generations...we will have definitively finished human History because we will have abolished human beings as such. And then, a new posthuman history will begin."
Francis Fukuyama, professor of public policy at the Institute for Public
Policy at George Mason University
"Some will hate it, some will love it, but biotechnology is inevitably leading to a world in which plants, animals and human beings are going to be partly man-made... Suppose parents could add 30 points to their children’s IQ. Wouldn’t you want to do it? And if you don’t, your child will be the stupidest child in the neighborhood."
Lester Thurow, professor of economics, Sloan School of Management, MIT
"Once people begin to reshape themselves through biological manipulation, the definition of human begins to drift.... Altering even a small number of the key genes regulating human growth might change human beings into something quite different....But asking whether such changes are ‘wise’ or ‘desirable’ misses the essential point that they are largely not a matter of choice; they are the unavoidable product of...technological advance..."
Gregory Stock, Director of UCLA’s Program on Medicine, Technology and
"Absolutely, somewhere in the next millennium, making babies sexually will be rare,"[bioethicist Arthur] Caplan speculates. Many parents will leap at the chance to make their children smarter, fitter and prettier. Ethical concerns will be overtaken, says Caplan, by the realization that technology simply makes for better children. "In a competitive market society, people are going to want to give their kids an edge," says the bioethicist. "They’ll slowly get used to the idea that a genetic edge is not greatly different from an environmental edge."
ABC NEWS.com; Arthur Caplan is Director of the University of Pennsylvania
Center for Bioethics.
SOURCES OF ABOVE QUOTES: Watson: Gregory Stock and John Campbell, eds., 2000.
Engineering the Human Germline (New York: Oxford University Press) pp.
79, 85. Pence: G. Pence, 1998. Who’s Afraid of Human Cloning? (New York:
Roman & Littlefield) p. 168. Silver: L. Silver, 1997. Remaking Eden:
How Cloning and Beyond Will Change the Human Family (New York: Avon Books) pp. 4-7, 11. Fukuyama: F. Fukuyama, "Second Thoughts: The Last Man in a Bottle," The National Interest, Summer 9299, pp. 28, 33.
Thurow: L. Thurow, 1999. Creating Wealth: The New Rules for Individuals,
Companies and Nations in a Knowledge-Based Economy (New York: Harper Collins) p. 33. Stock: G. Stock, 1993. Metaman: The Merging of Humans and Machines into a Global Superorganism (New York: Simon & Schuster) pp. 165, 168.
From an article by Ann Ashburner, OTC (COMTEX Newswire):
Grahamstown (East Cape News, February 3, 2000)
Genetically modified babies were inevitable, said renowned fertility pioneer Lord Robert Winston recently. "In my view, we will certainly be able to make transgenic humans."
Lord Winston was speaking to the Royal Society last week to mark his Michael Faraday Award in recognition of his contribution to the public understanding of science. During the lecture, he also discussed the inevitable use so-called germ-line gene therapy which effects eggs, sperm and thus future generations. The British government blocked moves in June last year to clone early embryos for the production of tissue for medical treatments.
Winston expressed his frustration at this debate: "I find it very
distressing that we should be going backwards. To be hysterical about
the use of embryos for tissue engineering does not make any sense if you
are likely to be able to save a life." Winston’s TV series,
"Your Life In Their Hands," reached an audience of 8 million viewers and
was one of the most successful BBC2 series ever made.
An editorial in the October 23, 1999 New Scientist is titled, "The Last
Taboo: If genetic engineering could be made safe, would you let your baby
The editorial comes out strongly in opposition to a hypothetical ban on research using artificial chromosomes in human tissues. If artificial chromosomes "fulfill their promise," the editors write, "they could revolutionize scientists’ ability to genetically engineer embryos. They may never make the outcome totally predictable, but they could make it safe enough to ease the worst fears about genetic accidents. And that could change perceptions."
The editorial concludes: "As for designer babies, nobody is going to approve of them in the abstract. But if you ask would-be parents if they’d like to give their children a head-start at school or on the athletics track, don’t be surprised to find that the opposition is less than absolute... It would be a mistake to expect the taboo on human genetic engineering to last forever. Some day someone will want to try it. The invention of artificial chromosomes doesn’t make that desirable—only people can make that judgment. But it does add to the forces that are now beginning to make it seem inevitable."
The complete editorial is online at
"Scientists have long speculated that parents would someday be able to genetically engineer their children for appearance, physical and mental abilities, or other traits of choice. For most people these predictions have seemed so far in the future, or so patently repugnant, that they didn’t need to be taken very seriously. Such complacency is no longer possible. Well below the radar screen of both the general public and policy makers, a concerted campaign is underway to perfect and justify the technologies that would allow the engineering of ‘designer babies.’
"Supporters of the techno-eugenic future are working diligently on a
number of fronts to advance their cause. The broad strategy includes
the continued development of genetic manipulation technologies, mobilization
of a credible and vocal minority of the public to actively embrace and
call for a techno-eugenic future, and persuading the majority of the public
that attempts to restrict the use of human genetic technologies would be
an infringement of individual rights."
On December 12, the Hudson Institute hosted an elite gathering, including former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for a briefing on the "long run impact of the human biotechnology revolution." The presenter, Steven Sailer of the Human Biodiversity Institute, suggested that "progressive pressure groups" may try to ban human genetic engineering but will fail; then, to prevent a crisis of inequality, they could flip 180 degrees and try to mandate "politically correct" human genetic engineering. He argues that China, with less scruples, will simply compete straight-forwardly for superiority:
"If China uses genetic enhancements while the West either bans them or pursues a politically correct re-engineering of human nature, the inevitable result within a few generations would be Chinese economic, and thus military, global hegemony. The weapons scientist and evolutionary theorist Gregory Cochran points out that ‘We cannot opt out of this biological arms race any more than we could opt out of the nuclear arms race. Thus, those serious about either preventing or mandating genetic engineering should start planning a pre-emptive nuclear strike on China...soon.’"
Sailer illustrates his argument with a colorful slide of a hydrogen bomb explosion.
For a text of the Hudson Institute presentation, see: www.HumanBiodiversity.org>
People Against Eugenics (PAE) are protesting the invitation by the Novartis Foundation to have eugenicist Arthur Jensen address a scientific meeting in London on intelligence.
David King of PAE said: "It is vital that we resist the creeping return of eugenics. On the eve of a new millennium we are facing two threats: the increasing acceptance of old fashioned eugenics, like Jensen’s, and the proliferation of genetic technology, unrestrained by either law or ethics. It is time to take a stand."
For more information: People Against Eugenics, PO Box 6313, London
N16 0DY. Phone: 44 (0)181 809 4513; fax: 44 (0)171 502 7516
The Cambridge-based Council for Responsible Genetics has just released a ten-point Genetic Bill of Rights that addresses concerns including biodiversity, life patents, genetically engineered food, biopiracy, eugenics, genetic privacy and discrimination, and human germline manipulation.
Point 6 reads, "All people have the right to protection against eugenic measures such as forced sterilization or mandatory screening aimed at aborting or manipulating selected embryos or fetuses."
Point 10: "All people have the right to have been conceived, gestated, and born without genetic manipulation."
For the complete Genetic Bill of Rights, see <www.gene-watch.org>
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