One Degree wrote:I would not say tolerance and openness are desirable traits. They have their place, but so does intolerance and being inflexible. These are things that each human and/or their current society need to decide. The desirability of a trait is determined by your environment. Being tolerant when confronted by those who wish to harm you, would not be very desirable.
I agree. These two traits were meant to be examples of what is currently viewed as desirable. This wasn't always the case and will almost certainly change again in the future.
Potemkin wrote:That clarifies things a bit more; thank you. I suppose the basic problem I have with it is that it separates the genetic changes in humanity from the environmental factors. After all, even the political system of a human society is part of the environment of the individuals in that society; the enforced changes made to the population by a government are merely induced adaptations to a changing social environment. They are therefore not fully under the control of that government, and the dialectical interaction between the development of humanity and its environment remains intact. In this respect, the final collapse of the Soviet system was actually the revenge of dialectics on the Soviet government, which is rather ironic, all things considered. The current ability to directly manipulate the human genome to produce a 'perfect' humanity is troubling to me precisely because it severs that connection between the development of humanity and its environment, and is therefore non-dialectical. It runs the risk of producing a dangerous mis-match between the 'perfected' humanity and its environment - after all, our conceptualisations of reality are no more than vastly simplified and impoverished simplifications and abstractions from that reality, and can serious mislead us concerning the nature of that reality. You only need to read PoFo to realise that. Basically, I am concerned that reality is wiser than we are and may take its revenge on us, just as it took its revenge on the Soviet system.
Thanks for elaborating, Potemkin.
I would argue that by taking into account and intervening in our genetic makeup, we are becoming more holistic rather than separating the genetic changes from the environmental factors. It is right now that we are separating the two by concentrating on only one side. Of course, the reality is that they cannot really be separated and that they will always interact in both individuals and society as a whole.
I used to get to sometimes read psychological assessments of people who were in some way involved with social services. These were often women who had their children taken away and were assessed to see whether the kids could be allowed to live with their mother again. The assessments usually included family histories. Their stories could be quite harrowing, with all kinds of dysfunctions handed down through the generations: substance abuse, violence, neglect, broken families, early pregnancies, any stupid and self-destructive behaviour imaginable, thriving on interpersonal conflict, you name it, and usually several of these were and had been present in their families. In my view, we need to allow for the possibility that not all of this is caused by environmental factors, but at least some of the dysfunctions are influenced by genes passed on from parents to their children.
By refusing to even look at this possibility or, god forbid, intervene at a genetic level, we are potentially condemning these people to - at the very least - having a much harder time breaking out of this vicious circle. And in a sad ironic twist, this decision is made by what are quite likely "genetically privileged" people and justified on ethical grounds. If there is anything to the heritability of cognition and behavioural traits, and if it is anywhere close to what twin studies have been suggesting for decades now, our current attitudes and policies couldn't be any more unjust. And the more meritocratic our societies become, which is after all one of the major objectives of environmental interventions, the more it will lead to social stratification, with the lower strata being strongly associated with poverty, the very group of people which decisions like the one in the OP supposedly protect.
Of course, there is an awkward and inefficient way around this self-imposed restriction to medical applications: just diagnose people with an illness or disorder. And lo and behold, that's exactly what is happening. Most of these people have at least one, usually psychiatric, diagnosis, but often there are several. I don't want to go into the question when a behaviour becomes an illness or pathological, or whether the abnormal is normal, etc. For the purposes of this discussion, it's sufficient to note that there are and maybe always will be grey areas and by artificially restricting ourselves with respect to what we can investigate and when we can intervene, we are creating a need for an ever expanding catalog of disorders, so that we can circumvent the hurdles we have needlessly put up. I would say that this, and our dysfunctional relationship with genetics in general, goes beyond the possibility of being "misled about the nature of reality". We don't really want
to get any closer to reality on this and the bioethics committee in the OP goes even further in that it preemptively forbids research into certain types of interventions, just in case reality turns out to be contrary to what we wish for.
Finally, the most horrifying aspect of genetics used to be the idea that our genes were somehow immutable and changes irreversible. Genes were "destiny" and deterministic. None of this is true, of course, and it's been clear for some time now that even if the constellation of our genes has a substantial impact on us that cannot be mediated by the usual environmental interventions, we will in the future have the technologies to change them. Logically, our fear of genes and their effects should therefore subside, but this is not the case. We are actually doubling down. We are so deeply committed to our current world view on this that it will probably require a generational change for us to make any progress. Again, this is to point out that we are
getting closer to the nature of reality.
Actually I agree with you here. Because of the technology, as a nation you are better off to invest in the research if other leading nations are doing so. However depending on how the technology is used it could be ethically immoral and potentially dangerous to a just society. Natually there are health benefits too that can't be overlooked. But like any advancing technology these days, it seems you have to take the cons with the pros. So it is up to nations to put in place laws to prevent manipulation and corruption in this technology. Otherwise we are indeed in danger of a 'Brave New World'. And being WE are all imperfect somehow we are all in danger of being second class citizens in a world of perfect intelligence and strength.
If we accept that genes play a role in intelligence and strength, then we should realise that our world is fundamentally unjust and that actually the only way to create a more just world is through technologies like the one mentioned in the OP. You, Potemkin and I have almost certainly been lucky in the genetic lottery, yet we do not have to acknowledge this. It's perfectly acceptable today to assert that any achievement is solely due to one's hard work. However, the sad fact is that, while working hard may be a necessary condition to achieving one's dreams, it is usually not sufficient. I'm no Newton or Gauss, and I will never be, no matter how hard I work.
As mentioned above, meritocratic societies are likely to exacerbate the element of luck over time. As environment and opportunities become more equal, ever more will depend on the genetic makeup that a person happens to inherit from their parents. Add to this assortative mating and you get societies that are increasingly stratified, with the genetically lucky becoming and staying rich, while the genetically unlucky remain poor. This is ultimately an imperfect and slow, drawn out version of the process and effects that we are so afraid of when it comes to genetic engineering.