Human Exceptionalism

Michael Cook Says Scuttle Bioethics and Start Over

Boy, I get accused of being hard on bioethics, but Michael Cook, the creator of Bioedge, has topped me. He blew his top, finally sick and tired of the rush at prestige universities to reward the most radical bioethicists with big dollars (or pounds), the more radical the better.

We all know about Peter Singer and Princeton. Another case in point is Singer’s fellow Australian Julian Savulescu, who I have written about here at SHS. I have seen him debate and there is no question, he is a real doozy, so far gone that he was larded with a ton of money by a foundation and brought to Oxford! From Cook’s column:

Savulescu has broken new ground. A youthful 44, he has been at Oxford since 2002 as the head of something called the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

His postal address may be an ivory tower but he gets down and dirty with “practical ethics”. He argues trenchantly for performance enhancing drugs in sport, genetic screening, early abortion, late-term abortion, sex-selective abortion, embryonic stem cell research, hybrid embryos, saviour siblings, therapeutic cloning, reproductive cloning, genetic engineering of children for higher IQs, eugenics, and organ markets. For starters…Julian Savulescu is internationally recognized as “a world-class bioethicist”.

Savulescu has, Cook writes, even supported doctors being given permission to cut off healthy limbs of people obsessed with becoming amputees, a mental illness I have warned could be the next stop for the “choice” train.

Cook thinks things are so akilter, it is time to scuttle the whole bioethics project:

Which provokes me to suggest something even more radical than his outlandish theories. After several years of reviewing the theories of Savulescu and his colleagues, I’m fed up. It’s time to abolish bioethics and bioethicists. What we need is plain vanilla ethics.

That sexy little prefix “bio” has become a Kevlar vest for so-called experts who couldn’t score a job in the philosophy department of Monty Python’s University of Wooloomooloo. Because there is no agreement about what bioethics is, about what areas it should cover, or about its fundamental principles, just about anyone can dub themselves a bioethicist. And just about anyone does.

That’s the problem alright: Bioethics doesn’t really believe in any firm principles. It’s all relativistic and free floating. In such a milieu, and in an age when anti-human exceptionalism and bioscience radicalism is in baby, the more extreme you are, the better you do. Of course, as a consequence there is blood on the floor.

Good for Michael Cook for pushing back.