Through centuries of education human beings have naturally gotten smarter, without genetic engineering or tampering of any kind. Einstein came out of a vagina not a test tube and that will likely remain the case for centuries to come. Furthermore, human beings have become incredibly intelligent over the centuries, yet are hardly any wiser for it. Maybe we should engineer wisdom, we are in dire need of it.Provoked me to respond with a comment of my own:
Patriarchy itself can be usefully viewed as the inculcation of a set of arbitrary norms driving a selective eugenic breeding program many centuries old, and so the "natural" default status into which eugenics-champions fancy themselves to be tampering is just as well viewed as a position taken in a long clash of stupid eugenic parochialisms. To the extent that "coming out of a test tube" can be and has been a phrase used by folks to describe IVF, I daresay an Einstein could emerge from one before emerging from a vagina easily enough. I think it is important to distinguish ARTs (alternative/artificial reproductive technologies) from eugenic-inspired proposals, even as we grant that there is some historical overlap between the two, as there is also a certain bioreductionist strain (that deserves the strongest critique as well) that sometimes frames both for their champions and critics.Credit where credit is due, this is an idea that was first suggested to me years ago by Annalee Newitz at a feminist conference I organized on bioethics discourse at Berkeley.
Anyway, at this point an all-too-familiar long-time periodic sniper in the Moot, John Howard (who is not, I'm pretty sure the former Australian PM) replied to that last comment in his usual vein, and the ensuing exchange seemed worthy of its own post:
So the "natural" default status of men and women choosing each other to marry and having children together is eugenics? So what is not eugenics? Don't tell me: Peer to peer consensual fully informed blah blah voluntary genetic modification and same-sex/transgender reproduction is not eugenics and OK, right?I reply:
Needless to say, what John Howard echoes as the "natural" or "default" state of men and women marrying and having children is neither natural nor a default for countless people -- and ever more so the more he may want to freight "married with children" with other modifications, for example, life-long, monogamous, nuclear, etc.
This is not an invitation for you to elaborate your point, John Howard, I'm not getting drawn into yet another of these homopanic exercises you post to my blog a couple of times a year since I know that treating you as a good faith interlocutor does no good a couple of exchanges down the road from this initial one. You have a history and a reputation and you have to live with it. Further communications from you will probably just be deleted unless you are very good and very concise.
For newcomers and lurkers, I will add that it is obviously not a negative judgment of those for whom desiring or sexual or affiliative lifeways really are legible and satisfying on comparatively now-customary terms to point out as well that the wider range of also perfectly legible human desires and sexual practices have been constrained and violated and punished by heteronormative and reprosexual assumptions, norms, ends.
And to the extent that heteronormative and reprosexual norms have functioned to police and abject and deform equity-in-diversity there is some urgency about refusing to allow such forms to be described as "natural" in the way John Howard wants to do.
Howard claims (no need to trust me on this, scour the archives) that heterosexuality is under attack, and is especially paranoid about futurological discourses in which imaginary technologies enable queer folks to have armies of clone babies who will steal his heterosexuality away from him (after a few argumentative bouts with him it is hard to shake the suspicion that he is just afraid of the loss of an unearned privilege and also possibly that he can't exactly deal with a bit of hankering of his own for a little dick on the side).
To elaborate a bit more for the peanut gallery: "Patriarchy" names social formations in which the transmission of property and authority from fathers to sons requires that women be subordinated/owned as property as well so that men can control their reproductive capacity and hence facilitate that transmission of property and authority from fathers to sons. "Patriarchy" also describes social formations in which that which is constructed and marked as female/feminine is subordinated in comparison to that which is constructed and marked as male/masculine in order to facilitate the transmission of property and authority from fathers to sons, or as vestiges of a history of such transmission (vestiges that can linger and unexpectedly ramify and transform long after patriarchy in its initial legal and ethnographic sense has been overcome).
To the extent that in many historical and geographical sites men have chosen for countless generations to marry and have children with women who facilitate patriarchal norms it is perfectly obvious that patriarchal sex-gender constructions have articulated (which is of course not to say determined) both the men and the women as well as the cultures co-constructed by those practices and lifeways.
Needless to say, by the way, if queer folks marry and have kids (facilitated by ARTs or through elaborate surrogacy arrangements) but choose their partners and shape their offspring in the service of visions of optimality that remain paradoxically patriarchal (believe me, it happens), or racist, or according to various instrumentalizing competitiveness criteria, then of course these too can be framed as eugenic. It should go without saying, but I disapprove of the stupidity and anti-democracy of eugenic formulations as much from gay folks as from anybody else.
It is to be hoped that few of my readers will find the very idea of actually informed, nonduressed consensual democratic multiculture quite so contemptible as John Howard, defender of straight pricks, seems to do.