March 10, 2007

Bailey on Fukuyama's 'eugenics'

Looks like I'm not the only one who interprets over-the-top regulation of human biotech as a form of eugenics. Reason science correspondent Ronald Bailey has penned a piece in which he warns, "Francis Fukuyama wants to control your reproductive decisions."

In the article, titled "Medievalizing Biotech Regulation," Bailey describes Fukuyama's recent initiative to create a regulatory agency in the United States that would be modeled after the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HEFA). This new agency would regulate the safety and efficacy of new biotechnologies and rule on their ethical merits. Fukuyama argues that it's time for "social control."

More specifically,
Fukuyama explained that the new agency would regulate anything having to do with assisted reproduction techniques (ART). This would include IVF, ooplasm transfer, sex selection either by pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) or sperm sorting. The agency would also regulate research involving human reproductive tissues including all embryonic stem cell research and anything dealing with human developmental biology....

Fukuyama would completely ban human reproductive cloning, the creation of human animal chimeras for the purpose of reproduction, germline genetic modifications, any procedure that would alter the genetic relationship of parents to children, and the patenting of human embryos.
I'm not opposed to regulatory agencies in principle; institutions such as these are both necessary and fairly inevitable. What concerns me, however, is when extreme bioconservatives like Fukuyama take the initiative. These regulatory precedents are dangerously constrictive. It is Fukuyama, after all, who has made it painfully clear that he is opposed to not just human enhancement, but life extending technologies as well.

As Bailey points out in his article, these regulatory bodies often function as bureaucratic obstructions to research and development. Moreover, when given too much political clout, and if guided by anachronistic notions of human reproduction and biology, these agencies may also act in a way that's reminiscent of 20th century eugenics.

Ultimately, Fukuyama's agency will work to enforce a preconceived, non-normative and state imposed vision of human reproduction and health in general.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that we do need regulatory bodies, that it is inevitable and that it is even desired. My own personal philosophy would be to allow any sort of genetic enhancement that would actually make the "being" better in some way shape or form rather than hinder them in any way. If parents decide the want a blind kid, I say no way. But if they want to give them better vision, disease resistance, or higher intelligence then it is their right as parents to make their child "better" in any way they see fit. Just like a parent can raise their child as they see fit with little involvement from the state the same should go for designing your child.

Infidel753 said...

The only thing these "bioconservatives" can possibly manage to accomplish is to hand over dominance in biotechnology (with all that that implies) to the Asians and Europeans while progress here stagnates under the dead weight of their primitive taboos.

Nato said...

Banning dangerous and powerful new research seems like a pretty good idea, since heaven knows we don't want responsible, benevolently-motivated scientists as technological midwives. Much better we leave it to dictator' henchmen and criminals.

Jennifer Eli said...

The more I hear about Fukayama the more i wonder what basis his decisions are made on.

The ability to select capacities in offspring that better equip them to function in their daily life is really none of the government's business. I believe in offerring advantages when possible. While I believe that many of the advantages we create for a society come from more tolerant persons, I seem to see that more intelligent people are more likely to bypass prejudice entirely. Therefore intelligence enhancementServes the greater good in the scope of tolerance of diversity.

By confining enhancement options we are discriminating against higher capacities and I find it disturbing to say the least.

Jesse said...

In "Our Posthuman Future," Fukuyama argues that one of the primary reasons to strictly regulate genetic modification is because a change to genetics is a change of the resulting biochemistry, which may be a change of the brain mechanisms. To change man is to change the nature of man, and that is a threat to the nature of the state. (One only needs to look at the FoxP series of genes to see the links here). Being a neoconservative or former neoconservative, it is not surprising that Fukuyama would be concerned about the nature of the state and preserving a stable system. This, of course, completely fails to see the potential dollar signs here, and in the end, it is the almighty dollar which will win out. I believe this is best detailed in Gregory Stock's "Redesigning Humans": the technology will be developed, it is a matter of who develops it, either a democratic state or a less than democratic state. I wonder which Fukuyama would want?