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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Darwinian Joins Scientific “Regressives” Against Genetic Engineering



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Neo eugenicists and would-be genetic engineers often claim that those of us who oppose their intention to engage in biological alchemy do so for strictly religious reasons. Not me. I oppose eugenics in all its forms because it violates the fundamentals of human exceptionalism by assuming that some people can be better than other people based on heightened capacities. The new eugenics merely deploys a kinder, gentler lexicon for the same inherently invidious distinctions described in the vile distinctions that used to be made between the so-called “fit” and “unfit.”

Eugenics has always had a tie-in to Darwinist philosophies–as opposed to the biological theory–which those of that persuasion either deny or get angry about. I don’t want to get into that fight here, but it is good to see biologist and science writer, Stuart A. Newman, giving purely Darwinian reasons for opposing the manipulation of the human embryo for engineering or transhumanist purposes in the Huffington Post. From, “The British Embryo Authority and the Chamber of Eugenics:”

Perhaps the most insidious factor in calls for acceptance of the idea of genetically engineering humans is the profound misconception of the nature of living organisms that underlies it. Organisms differ from machines or computers by being products of evolution rather than design. But complexity that has accumulated over billions of years does not come with blueprints or instruction books, and cannot be reconfigured with predictable outcomes.

Fair enough. But by opposing genetic engineering and eugenics, Professor Newman finds himself in uncomfortable company (from his perspective). So, he has to assure his readers that he remains on the side of scientific righteousness:

Although rejection of the realities of evolution is generally considered to be a sign of scientific ignorance, it unfortunately characterizes the thinking of some professional biologists who are strongly influenced by engineering disciplines. For example, the bio-entrepreneur Craig Venter has claimed that there is “no difference between digital code and genetic code”, and the Stanford University (formerly MIT) “synthetic biologist” Drew Endy asked a New Yorker reporter ”What if we could liberate ourselves from the tyranny of evolution by being able to design our own offspring?”. This showboating, promoted by think tanks and major media outlets, deceives the general populace by promoting the notion of science as magic, and the scientist not as a cautionary Dr. Frankenstein, but as a valorously adept Harry Potter.

The ironic lesson of the new drive toward DNA-based eugenics (of which the mitochondrial replacement techniques would be the thin end of the wedge), is that despite its being the special initiative of an avowedly progressive sector of biomedicine, it actually brings together some of the most regressive strains of traditional and modern society: valuation of people according to their biological characteristics, parental proprietorship, the marauding entrepreneur and evolution denialism. 

That’s funny. Newman is trying to shame his progressive friends out of their folly. Good luck with that. Progressives hubristically believe that “experts” have the answers and can perfect anything. They aren’t going to stop because Newman tries to put them in bed with supposed regressives.

By the way, that last crack is a hit on my intelligent design pals at the Discovery Institute, such as John G. West, who fight eugenics within the context of the Center for Science and Culture. Glad my colleagues are on Newman’s mind. They are not regressive in the least. But that’s okay. I guess Newman is a bit embarrassed to be on the side of the angels for a change. (Joking!) 

But isn’t it nice to see a Darwinist biologist standing against the coming neo eugenics tide.



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