Sunday, May 18, 2008
(a portmanteau word combining "biology" and "conservatism") is a stance of hesitancy about technological development especially if it is perceived to threaten a given social order. Strong bioconservative positions include opposition to genetic modification of food crops, the cloning and genetic engineering of farm and companion animals, and, most prominently, rejection of the genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive modification of human beings to overcome what are broadly perceived as current human biological and cultural limitations.
Bioconservatives range in political perspective from right-leaning religious and cultural conservatives to left-leaning environmentalists and technology critics. What unifies bioconservatives is skepticism about medical and other biotechnological transformations of the living world.
... the bioconservative perspective is characterized by its defense of the natural, deployed as a moral category.
Even though I'm essentially an atheist, I think there are good grounds to be "bioconservative."
My main objection to the new frontier of biomedical research is to modifying the human genome in ways which are perpetuated through the germline. Viz, genetic manipulation which is passed down to the patient's offspring.
Why? I can just see every competitive middle class parent trying to modify their offspring to be handsome, brilliant, athletic, and endowed with leadership qualities.
Which might be fine in a single individual, but it's not at all clear that it'd be good for society as a whole.
Not to mention that the trait we're really in need of these days is wisdom, which probably wouldn't be selected for much.
While I don't really have much interest in religion-backed claims about "human dignity," I don't quite understand the need to conquer every single human disease.
Finally, I think a lot of what drives medical research is solutions in search of a problem. The repugnant biologist Lee Silver is exemplary of this type; my take on his attitude towards this stuff is that since biologists aren't making much real progress towards curing malaria or finding a simple solution to cancer, they want to be able to do something with these powerful tools that have been developed. I'm completely unsympathetic.
Not sure why we need a new word for Luddites.
My objection to the frontiers of biomedical research is that it's primarily publicly funded but the financial benefits are transferred to and accrued by private corporations.
Scientists will do what they will do, it's up to society to decide what to do with their results.
Last thing we need is a culture that demonizes scientists to the point that they're driven underground to experiment on vagrants and dig up corpses to scratch their itch.
j.goodwin wrote, Scientists will do what they will do, it's up to society to decide what to do with their results.
Nonsense. If scientists work on something sufficiently horrifying or dangerous, society is well within its rights to regulate their work.
For example, it's pretty well understood that, with current cloning technology, a human clone ("reproductive cloning") would stand a large chance of having huge health problems.
IMHO, anyone caught doing reproductive cloning with current technology should be found guilty of crimes against humanity and executed.
Then there's the matter of some idiot accidentally creating a killer bug. It's not all that likely, but it's hardly impossible.
While biological research is fascinating and sometimes has useful payoffs, the risk-return ratio IMHO isn't all that impressive, so it's entirely reasonable to regulate such research.
And yet, there are indeed scientists working on reproductive cloning right now.
Clearly the international furor and domestic regulation haven't accomplished their presumed objective of stopping it.
Scientists do what they do, even if they have to do it in labs in bunkers on desert islands, or have to find some totalitarian regime to sponsor them and provide them with a steady stream of victims/subjects.
There logically is some reasonable point where you can help define how something is studied, but I think that moral framework is only going to be effective when it comes from the scientific community and it's reinforced in academia. Stopping federal funding for cloning etc isn't doing the job.
j.goodwin wrote, Stopping federal funding for cloning etc isn't doing the job.
Yes, which is why I think making it a crime against humanity, with a steep punishment (myself, I don't see why death is unreasonable) is necessary.
I also don't think people trying to clone humans are doing science. They're taking a technique already established (reproductive cloning in mammals) and applying it to humans to stroke their own egos.
That they're willing to commit such a crime---again, you don't need to believe in any god, you only need to know about common cloning outcomes and have sense of medical ethics---shows what scum they are.
Finally, aside from the point that there's little truly scientific at stake, it's not clear what the pressing medical need is. Because some people have no other means of reproducing themselves? Like they can't adopt?
There logically is some reasonable point where you can help define how something is studied, but I think that moral framework is only going to be effective when it comes from the scientific community and it's reinforced in academia.
I think most US scientists would probably not have an issue with the criminalization of reproductive human cloning.
I'd wager that the problem on that one is that the pro-life guys don't want to divide the issue up like that, because they want to ban all human cloning (reproductive as well as therapeutic), and splitting the issue could end up in a ban of reproductive but at most weak constraints on therapeutic. They want to keep them combined to have leverage against therapeutic.