Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, April 18, 2008

My Exchange With Bioconservative John Howard Continues...

Upgraded and Adapted from the Moot:

John Howard: [A]llowing same-sex conception and approving of its development insults families where one or both parents are not related to their children.

Things that are different feel insulting to me, ban them! Bioconservativism in a nutshell.

[I]t sends a message to those kids that their parents don't love them as much as they would if only same-sex conception had been ready.

Quite apart from the fact that this "message" exists only in your mind, I daresay such "messaging" could be easily be compensated for by the actual parent actually indicating they actually love their actual child.

intentionally putting a child at extreme risk, which I don't think is eugenic to oppose, anymore than opposing someone purposefully drinking and smoking while pregnant who never drank or smoked before in her life, just to send some message of her right to do whatever she wants

Few parents want to harm their kids or put them at risk, you know, and providing reliable information about actual harms and risks according to scientific consensus (rather than transhumanist transcendentalizing hype or bioconservative reactionary panic) would go a long way to overcome your worries on this score, to the extent that they are legitimate ones.

There are also, by the way, laws against fraud and misinformation (that progressives should and most do want strengthened), or criminal neglect that would come into play in some cases.

I think we have to be very careful in deploying traditional intuitions about basic care or neglect, however, as healthcare shifts from a normalizing recovery model to a diversifying lifeway model. Some people seem to want to treat the conception of atypical offspring as a kind of "abuse" even if atypicality is not a barrier to flourishing on their own terms.

This is why it seems to me we need shift from the progressive ideal hitherto of an application of universal standards (which we never managed to implement in any case) to an ideal of universal access and informed nonduressed consent, else eugenic projects of bioconservative "preservationists" or transhumanist "optimizers" will trump consensual lifeway multiculture in an era of modification medicine.

exposing a future child to extra risk is wrong

What if the technique you disapprove of as "unnatural" doesn't expose a future child to undue risk, after all? Will you change your position then? Or is the "risk" that really exercises your imagination the "risk" of what you fear as difference?

Also, do you think that potential parents with strong dispositions to heart disease or other life threatening heritable conditions should be sterilized so that their kids won't be exposed to "extra risk," too? You'll forgive the "libelous" exposure of the eugenicism (possibly unconscious?) embedded in your position yet again.

I'm trying to stop all GE, and that includes same-sex conception too.

All GE? Even if it ameliorates suffering? Even if it treats hitherto untreatable conditions? Even if it is wanted by informed, nonduressed consenting adults?

It means preserving everyone's conception rights, everyone's right to use their own unmodified genes

Ah, the freedom not to be free to make consensual recourse to wanted techniques, the freedom to incarnate always only the parochial bioconservative vision of what humanity should look like and act like, whatever their peers have to say about it, the preservation of everyone's right not to have a right to modifications or modes of conception bioconservatives disapprove of. Up is down.

It's funny we both accuse the other of being an elite making a ban, but, well, I'm right and your wrong. I want Congress to make a law that makes it a major crime to attempt to conceive a child that is not the union of a man and a woman's actual representative unmodified gametes.

Yeah, isn't it "funny" how I accuse you of being a would-be tyrant when all you want is for "Congress to make a law that makes it a major crime to attempt to conceive a child that is not the union of a man and a woman's actual representative unmodified gametes." (I'm sure you are a perfectly nice fellow personally, of course.) It's also funny how I say you seem to have a wee problem with the Gay, endlessly intoning reverentially about the "natural" Union of "a man and a woman" and so on.

You want, presumably, a government agency, which will exist through clown administrations and even clowner adminstrations, that makes constant new rules and regulations and somehow prevents any labs from jumping the gun on any particular new technique before your agency says its OK.

Well, ya know, that's what regulation looks like in complex technoscientific societies. You act like I'm proposing some cr-a-a-a-a-a-azy new regime or something.

Progressives already know how corruptible regulatory and oversight processes are in principle and how utterly debauched they have actually become in the neoliberal era consummated by the Killer Clown Administration -- but few progressives are proposing junking rather than reforming these apparatuses in light of this understanding.

What, you don't like the EPA and OSHA just because Bush has screwed them up so royally? No, we fight to end the conflicts of interest, reverse the deregulatory trend, tighten the standards, make the processes more transparent, and so on.

If an actual consensus of relevant scientists propose that the basic science has reached a level that suggests clinical trials of a hitherto untried technique are warranted and desirable, then in a world that is operating more as it should (and can if we progressives make it so) I disagree that this is an evil thing to do. If informed nonduressed adults would make consensual recourse to emerging techniques eventuating from such a process of regulation and testing I disagree that this is an evil thing for them to do either.

Bioconservative fearmongering aside, people overwhelmingly like the idea of emerging medical treatments for hitherto untreatable conditions. But they want these treatments to be as safe as possible and they deserve access to reliable knowledge and the security of income and basic care to ensure they are not duressed in the decisions they come to. This seems exactly right to me, too.

Saying that it shouldn't be done until it is safe is meaningless because you don't have any idea how that determination would be made and how you would justify telling a gay couple that wants to try it anyway that the government doesn't think it is safe yet, but maybe next year it will be.

Again, it seems to me that we already have both professional organizations and regulative and administrative and legal apparatuses making decisions of this kind countless times every day. Obviously conflicts of interest, the short-sightedness of for-profit considerations above others, lack of transparency, insufficient regulation of fraud and misinformation and so on bedvil these processes, but part of what progressives are and should be devoted to is correcting these problems.

As I have already said, I do also happen to think it's true that emerging genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive techniques that will be wanted will include non-normalizing ones that trouble traditional progressive intuitions about universal standards of care and demand a shift -- about which debate seems to me perfectly warranted and useful -- into norms of universal access and substantial consent (substantial consent backed by real knowledge and real security, not the vacuous pro forma consent of duressed market outcomes). Be all that as it may, this is not a shift that demands an utter jettisoning of administrative apparatuses that are already functioning today, if not as smoothly or fairly or democratically as progressives are fighting for, and familiar to everybody.

I don't see how you are going to tell the libertarians that it is not safe enough to try yet.

However foolish I find them I don't think libertarians want to harm their kids any more than anybody else does, so if some emerging therapy isn't safe you and other qualified people should tell them why and the overwhelming majority will do the right thing if your worries are warranted. Libertopians will certainly benefit, as always, from life in a non-libertopian society that doesn't barrage them with fraudulent hype and misinformation from cynical for-profit health-providers (because that should be illegal).

But if market libertarians want to go ahead and do actually unsafe or harmful things therapeutically -- and by "unsafe" I am assuming you don't just mean either "unnatural" or "sub-optimal" by your lights but actually reckless (on a reasonable person standard) or demonstrably lethal things -- then I daresay they can be stopped in the same way that they can be stopped from murder or theft even if they want to commit them. With, you know, like, laws and police and stuff.

Tell me the mechanism, tell me, why are you not agreeing with me that it should be banned right now?

In perpetuity?

Right now it is legal!

So de facto are anti-gravity boots powered by black-holes in their heels, but if clinical trials for same-sex conception are actually being contemplated then of course professional medical organizations and government regulators will be stepping in to oversee what is afoot. Are you mad?

Right now any lab in the country could create an embryo however they want and implant it in a uterus (except Missouri, where they prohibit the implanting part). I smell something again.

Me too. Your paranoia.

Skepticism is one thing, especially in this era of corporate-militarist debasement. And, look, if patients are being used as test subjects for actually risky unprecedented medical procedures without oversight, without social workers and regulators with clipboards and sensible shoes, without schools of muckraking journalists sharking around, raftloads of professional reputations at stake, and armies of lawyers on hand -- you can be sure I will be right there on the barricades with you.

But even then I won't demand a blanket ban or a ban in perpetuity, because I see no compelling reason (I could definitely be persuaded otherwise if there were actual reasons and evidence on offer) to think that safe same-sex conception won't be made available soon enough.

1 comment:

Robin said...

Holy wow.

Just... wow. And people STILL claim humanity is marching inevitably toward Progress.