Eugenics sound like something from a distant racist past or a Sci-Fi dystopian future but is it? I just re-watched the movie GATTACA staring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, with Jude Law. It came out in 1997 and while it was a great movie (in my opinion) buuut apparently, I’m not a great judge because it didn’t even cover it’s 36-million-dollar budget at the box office. In the movie Ethan Hawkes charter was a “child of GOD” or a natural born human (and therefore invalid), while his brother was created with selected traits to improve his options in life (and therefore valid). This of course sets the tone for a new form of racism and maltreatment of other humans. Most of these movies follow a similar kind of pattern (so perhaps everyone else was right to skip the movie) and this is the basis of why it would be ethically wrong to manipulate human DNA. All of the movies of this type make it seem as if this would be something relatively easy to do with no real consequences except the ethics of it all. It plays out as if humans would be fully capable of designing better humans, that science could basically completely disavow its concrete stance of there being no intelligent designer but somehow justify placing itself firmly in the position of designer. Were all the arguments about how life is too complex to have had a designer just talk? Have scientist given over to their ego and delusions of grandeur or is this sincerely something that could be done on a large scale and help create better human and world?
Richard Dawkins author of a book I sincerely enjoyed, The Selfish Gene, got caught in a bit of controversy around this time last year for suggesting that Eugenics would work. “It’s one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It’s quite another to conclude that it wouldn’t work in practice. Of course it would. It works for cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses. Why on earth wouldn’t it work for humans? Facts ignore ideology.” He makes solid points but what exactly counts as working? I am unsure how beneficial the eugenics that we have performed on animals works for the actual animals. Have we manipulated these animals in ways that improve their life or have we done so in ways that improve our own? Have we made them better than their wild cousins in any tangible way not directly designed to benefit humans? Are they more resilient, disease resistant, or healthier by any measure comparatively? I believe the answered is no. If we left many of these animals (including your little cute pooch) to their own devices the majority of them would die out in a relative period of time. They were not designed for survival, instead they were bread for our needs with little to no concern given to their actual ability to survive in any particular environment. I’m sure we would do a much better job of designing humans though. We wouldn’t pick and choose trivial or trendy things we would be intelligent designers and do it just right. I am being a tad sarcastic if you didn’t notice.
Do I believe that we could technically change humans “for the better”, yes of course we could do so easily. Using old-fashioned methods of selective breeding or using more precise scientific methods with modern technology it would be relatively easy to create new humans. What is not so easy to do is to predict all of the probable outcomes ,like Dr. strange, and I don’t trust anyone who thinks that they can. For instance there was once a time where someone thought that Kudzu was a great idea to use for the prevention of soil erosion, that it was a good idea to get rid of the wolves in national parks, and that forcing people to only have one child was a good way to control population growth. While all of the programs and scientific aims of humans usually “work” they don’t actually workout they way we thought they would. I am sure some will say that was before we know what we know now. Many will say we have a better understanding of human genetics, ecology, and technology and that the only thing that holds us back are the ethics of it all. To them I say we are still humans and don’t really know what we don’t know. One of my favorite quotes from the great philosopher Gin Rummy from the show Boondocks is “ Well, what I’m saying is that there are known knowns and that there are known unknowns. But there are also unknown unknowns; things we don’t know that we don’t know.” Yes, technology has progressed a great deal and we have the tools and technology to create a special ordered blond hair blue eyed baby boy or whole army of super humans’ weather its ethical or not is of little importance. This train has already left the station, with the revelation of Dr. He’s genetically modified babies and rumors of Chinas genetically engineered superhuman army it is but a matter of time before all of the world is in the grips of a new cold war racing to create genetically superior humans. How well it will “work” environmentally, socially, and ethically is still to be determined, it’s one of those unknown unknows.
Meanwhile we would be creating a new category of human. It is unclear if will it become an us or if we will become the thems of this twisted new reality?
This article is a part of a series focused on the analysis and origins of hate:
Why This Why Now? Published 01.07.2021
What Is Hate? Published 01.14.2021
So, What’s The Plan? Published 01.21.2021
How to Make Mutant Published 01.28.2021
Don’t Take it Personal Published 02.04.21
Social Darwinism Published 02.25.21