Philosophical study of life, death, and nature
Eugenics and Disabled People
These days I have been writing a new book in Japanese. The title will be "Life Studies Approaches to Bioethics." This book deals with Japanese controversies on brain death, abortion, disabilities, and eugenics from 1970 to 2000. Probably this will be the first book that deals with the history of contemporary Japanese bioethics. I will translate it into English after the publishment; it is also the first time that the "real" Japanese bioethics is introduced to English speaking world.
By the way, what do you think of eugenics? Today we are faced with "volantary eugenics," in which each of us selects our baby's quality of life based on self-determination, not forced by the government. Some say it is OK, but others seem to have doubt about it.
The word is publication rather than publishment. Eugenics is a very advanced science with regard to cattle, horses, dogs, cats, chickens and ducks, but it was stalled in the West by the disgust of the Germans misuse of it and all those ghastly experiments involving prisioners of war. Some members of the Japanese military were also accused and convicted of using Chinese POWs int eh same way, which I imagine is not a big toipc there. In any event, the Germans did not understand eugenics very well, due to their obsession with physical appearance (blond hair, height and blue eyes, mostly) and their encouragement of unmarried women to have Wunderkind children by selected German soldiers.
Obviously, such things as height, physical strength, appearance, intelligence and such are greatly influenced by heredity. Obviously, some wealthy people are and will continue to try to fiddle with the genes of their unborn children to make them as perfect by their definition as possible. In the West, this is seen as taboo, and they will not announce this publicly.
Politicians are always talking about passing laws against eugenics, but I don't see how this could be enforced: by arresting doctors? parents who will claim that they are only trying to eliminate defective genes? Abort eugenically-designed babies? I doubt this.
The eventual result will be that those who practice eugenics (most of them wealthy because of the costs) will actually BE superior to the rest of the population who can't or won't practice eugenics.
This definitely has political implications, and they aren't democratic.
ps. Thank you for the correction.
When you write Eugenics do you then meen some kind of "selective preimplantatoric featus diagnostics" ? If so my conclusion is that it would be good if we just would learn to handle the aspects of justice that comes with it.
Actually ive written an essay concerning the issue and its very intressting technique with many possibilitys if we just learnt that this sort of things should be distributed on the base of need and not on the base of greed ..
Subsidies or Eugenics
So you think that the state should subsidize people who want better children? I find this interesting. I bet Michael Jackson is into this. I mean, why put the kid through all that plastic surgery, when a few zips and zaps to the DNA and the alterations can be heritary.
Would there be a screening process wherby the government subsidies would be awarded? Should the taxpayers have to pay just because some couple wants a kid with blue hair?
Re: Subsidies or Eugenics
Intressting how you draw conclusions from my statement:)..The technique have other primary fields then those you mentioned but ofcourse those are avalible too but mayby not as importent as the termination of inherited decises.
Im sorry that i dont have more time today to write about this but ill be back tomorrow..
Sorry, I was noit trying to put words in your mouth or to jump to asny conclusions. I was merely speculating on your statement "based on need and not greed" which suggests some sort of subsidy by someone. Who is the greedy party we do not want? Parents greedy for perfect offspring or companies greedy for fiddling with the DNA for lots of money?
Are some parents more deserving than others? I suppose those with congenital diseases, such as Tay-Sachs or sickle-cell anemia or Huntington's chorea.
Before we go any further, let us clarify "need". Are we refering to physical needs (food, clothing, shelter), psychological needs (for michael jackson to look white), or something all together different?
Eugenics and need
I would say that Michael Jackson was not exactly in need of looking like Judy Garland, whom he resembled more each day there for a while.
I would assume "need" in terms of genetics would involve children not inheriting congenital diseases and birth defects. I am not sure where "greed" would come in: perhaps on the side of the doctors.
My guess is that people are already fiddling with their genes to make their children smarter, prettier and taller, but these people are not going to revale this to the public, nor are the doctors: after all, then this would provoke a movement to make it all illegal.
This sort of thing will most likely come to the public's awareness when some tasteless boor breeds a child that is some sort of sports superfreak for the sports where freaks prevail, such as basketball or football, and somehow the story gets sold to the highest bidder. This will provoke legislation, which might well get bogged down in money before becoming law.
Re: Eugenics and need
Its hard to draw a line of what should and shouldnt be ok to look for when it comes to this method but I think that it has to be drawn somwhere.
If not then the rich will produce good looking, supersmart, healthy and strong children and the poor wont. This will only make the segregation in society worse and I see no point in that.
Another thing is what do you do with the information that you didnt look for but you found anyway ?
Another danger with this is that it might be hard to refuse producing children in this way in the future since you might not get an insurance unless you have selected a healthy child in advance or atleast you will have to pay more to the insurance company if you refuse.
As I said before we have to learn how to handle these issues and thats fast because the research is way ahead of the ethics in this matter.
But remember if you had a choice to choose between a 50 - 50 % chance that your child would get ie Multiple Sclerosis if you dont check in advance or the opportunity to perform Invitro fertilization with preimplantatoric method of selection and then be sure that your child wouldnt be born with any decises then how would you choose? If you choose not to check and the child got the sickness what would you then say to your child when he/she later asks why you didnt check in advance?
Somthing to think about :)
Re: Eugenics and need
Just a correction i wrote:
"with preimplantatoric method of selection and then be sure that your child wouldnt be born with any decises then how would you choose?"
I missed a cupple of words there, read instead:
"with preimplantatoric featus diagnostics as a method of selection and then be sure that your child wouldnt be born with any decises then how would you choose?"
Mayby you understood that anyway but i just wanted to clarify..
Re: Eugenics and need
Webster says need is:
1. necessity created by some situation
Now we must consider whether 1. our situation demands that we abolish disease or 2. that we desire to abolish disease because the statement, "I would assume "need" in terms of genetics would involve children not inheriting congenital diseases and birth defects" is only true if we presuppose a desire for "defect" free living.
The argument would look something like this:
I am inclined to disagree with the first and second premises. I do not desire to live a "defect" free or perfect life. Nor do I consider disease a defect. In fact it has become increasingly acceptable of late to refer to "disabled" persons not as disabled but otherly abled. That is to say that they are not less able but just different. I am willing to extend this rational out to diease so we would no longer call a person unhealthy because the process of sickness and disease is a part of being healthy. Were we to never get sick, we would be a weaker, less fit species. But don't take my word for it. Just ask the natural selection evolutionists.
Re: Eugenics and need
The argumentation line you set up is only true if the goal where some kind of perfectionism and that would be our desire but few if any would desire perfectionism as their highest goal in life i hope.. I could be wrong but noone I know does that anyway..
I think that we dont desire defect free lives just plain and decent lives where we have a chance to be happy and develop our intressts..So if we instead presume that we dont know anything about what people desire but the fact that people desire to do somthing with their lives what ever it might be..
To be able to do whatever it might be, we need what Rawls the older calls "Primary goods" and I guess that in these primary goods we would find a need for a functional body we would find "lack of constant pain" so that we are able to nurish our intressts and mayby even try to fulfill what ever plan we have with our lives.
Id say then that the line of argument would go somthing like this instead..
1. We desire / want to do somthing with our lives..
2.Some cant do anything with their plans because of a genetic disorder.
3.we could do somthing about this situation with gen modification.
4.we want to help people from pain / want people to be able to fulfill their plans because we have an intuitive sense of justice within us or just the plain knowledge of the fact that this could happen to anyone or anyones child.
5.Therefor genetic tech in an imparative if no other cure is avalible..
If we have the technology to cure somone but chooses not to then where will we end up ?
It was just a thought but its also what i belive..
Re: Eugenics and need
Ok. Ignore "defect free" and insert whatever it is that you desire. I'll restate the argument accordingly
1. We have desires.
There is another simpler, albeit less popular solution:
1. We have desires.
This second argument is more common in the East and perhaps Dr. Morioka comment more on the principles of detachment.
Re: Eugenics and need
Well, I don't think I would choose to have a dyslectic child, an autistic child or a child with Huntington's chorea or sickle cell if I could avoid it.
There is a difference between birth defects and congenital diseases and a person catching the flu or the mumps. I think that whether to use what we know to live better and longer is an individual decision that I would not like a government to deny me, personally. On the other hand, I do not think that forcing anyone to bear "perfect" children is valid, either.
Re: Eugenics and need
How do you propose to define what is living,"better and longer"?
What if what you think is best, I think is a threat to all life?
These a great descisions. Great in consequense and magnitude. I do not look upon them lightly.
Living better and longer
Living better means living with less illness and discomfort. Living longer, well that is obvious. It might not be good for Humanity if everyone lives to be 140, but I personally would prefer to be ld and healty to being sick and dead.
I would not mind dying if it were reversible. But I have never 0bserved a resurrection. So STAYING DEAD is the worst aspect of dying.
Re: Living better and longer
Not so fast. Consider for a moment people whom you admire, people who have greatness, heroes and heroines, leaders, teachers, etc. These people are great for they have suffered possibly through labour, disease, or oppression.
We would not call a person heroic for having lived a long and healthy life especially if that person had done so at the cost of other persons lives (as I am asserting that genetic tech. essentially does place all life at risk).
Now you may say, "I don't want to be a hero, I just want to be happy, old and comfortable, unplagued by illness." Fine, but, "It might not be good for Humanity if everyone lives to be 140" so are you willing to be that selfish? Maybe you are, maybe you cling to life with such tenacity that you will preserve it with no regard to the toll leveed on the world. There is a name for this... Narcissism.
Eugenics and good life
I have enjoyed the discussion. I used the word "voluntary eugenics," in which the government never forces us to abondon such and such fetus, but we ourselves voluntarily select the quality of our fetus and abort it. The problem is that if someone say, "it is my(our) right to select the quality of my(our) baby, and it is women's right to abort a fetus," no one seems to be able to deny it. But, at the same time, many of us feel some uneasiness about this kind of selection. Me, too. It is very difficult to say what is wrong about the selection of the quality of life. So this is a challenge to those who think there must be somthing wrong in it.
Let us take an example. I am not a tall man. One of the reason is that my parents are not tall. If my parents live in a society where most people diagnose the egg's DNA with future super-high-tech and throw away an egg that is going to be a short person, then I would never be born as my parent's son. I do not want to live in such a society. Probably, this is one reason that the disabled people, for exaple DPI, object to this selective technology.
pluckebaum presetned a very good point on desire and need. Adherence to our desire does not necessarily lead us to happiness. This a kind of our traditional wisdom. But the problem is that we can not force someone to stop doing it unless it creates an obvious harm to others.
What do you think about this? for example.
Maybe you are fortunate, then.
You are fortunate because your parents did not want you to be a Japanese Michael Jackson.
You are also fortunate because if in fact, your parents did not have the knowledge that you were, as a fetus, a potentially untall person.
And finally, you are also fortunate that they did not reject you.
In my case, I was born with A- blood and a double hernia. the former made it neccessary to replace all my blood with my father's A+ blood.
So we are both perhaps fortunate. But who can say that the more perfect children that would have been born woiuld not have been us, except with improved bodies?
Well call it what you will
I always wave other drivers to turn in front of me,I wait patiently in line for others, I know how to share. I am not a picky person.
But I am very certain that I would improve the world by living to a healthy age of 140. I am extremely certain that I would find this an improvement over what is no doubt in store for me.
Now those people who honk at me and others before the friggin' traffic light even changes, those rude people who crowd in front of everyone, and park in the crippled parking spots, THEY deserve to die earlier. Not me. Nyah! Nyah! Neener-neener!
Re: Eugenics and good life
sorry for beeing away for awhile but my company have blocked this site for me by accident, they will open it again soon they said anyway..
I wonder if the argument that i would never have been born is a valid one. You would never know if you wouldnt have been born so why would you be sorry? Somone else would have been instead so that ought to take out eachother aswell concerning the amount of happiness etc.
Today in my country anyway selective abortions are legal and they do take place after diffrent kinds of fetus diagnostics. The "new tech" would do the same kind of diagnostics only more advanced and in an earlier stage. Those against the new tech would also have to be against i e ultrasound followed by an abortion.
The positive thing about what I atleast call preimplantatoric featus diagnostics is that you avoid late abortions and all the suffering which follows from that.
If you ask disabled persons if they would like their children also to be disabled i think that the answer is easy to predict. I also think that disabled (whatever that is) persons understands that the new technology doesnt meen a valuing of them selves, there is a big diffrence here. The unborn fetus which only is a 8 times divided cell in a test tube has no relation to anyone. Noone will ever hold a funeral for that unborn fetus and noone really care wheater it will live or die.
A living disabled person have relations with many people he/she has a developed mind, friends, can respond to pain have a concius etc etc.. If dead there would be a funural for the person and many will grief his/hers death just like anybody else who would die have and would get.
Even so as i said before I think the arguments concerning Justice and Social Stratification are the best counter arguments and are those that have made me alittle sceptic to the new tech but still i hope we will find a way to handle that so the benifits of the tech could come the weakest groups of society to use, namly persons born with horrible decises that somtimes are worse then beeing dead. (an example of such a decise is what we in Sweden call Krabbes decise, guess its the same name internationally aswell)
Ill be back
Re: Maybe you are fortunate, then.
I am not sure what your occupation is Mr. Eldridge, but when you ask, "who can say that the more perfect children that would have been born woiuld not have been us, except with improved bodies?" you are opening up a huge philosophical can of worms.
This may not be the appropriate forum to discuss these ideas but we must at least acknowledge them as they play a key role in our ethics. I am refering to our identity.
Currently there are several theories competing as to what exactally we are: dualism, materialism, idealism are just a few. Here are some short, over simplified definitions.
Dualism: the mind and body are different things
Now the dualist and the idealist may be willing to say that you could be the same person in a different body but the materialist (which happens to be the currently accepted theory. it gains more ground with each new scientific discovery) will not. The materialist holds that you are your body in so far as you have a brain.
So to answer your question, "who can say that the more perfect children that would have been born woiuld not have been us, except with improved bodies?"
Re: Well call it what you will
You wrote, "I am very certain that I would improve the world by living to a healthy age of 140. I am extremely certain that I would find this an improvement over what is no doubt in store for me."
How do you arrive at this certainty? Do you have what Descartes called, "a clear and distinct idea"? I for one am not so certain and so am curious to hear how I can arrive at so sound a conclusion.
It sounds like you are courteous and do no harm when you say, "I always wave other drivers to turn in front of me, I wait patiently in line for others, I know how to share. I am not a picky person." I do not understand how being courteous "improves the world". Please explain that too.
*Continued on part 2.