Wow, I never thought I be arguing against someone arguing against a member of the Bush Administration’s Un-Think Tank, but there it is. While I believe that Mr. Munkittrick. is right in shooting down the assumption that all “designer babies” will be atheists, I don’t think he’s fully thought out the cultural underpinnings and ramifications of “enhancement” as he’s calling it, and just plain “eugenics” from where I’m standing.
He argues that there will be no mandate for enhancement by the state, so we won’t have “godless achievement machines,” but he fails to see the point that state pressure is not the only pressure that will be experienced by people in an age of genetic enhancement. Social pressure, Mr. Munkittrick, tell me you’ve heard of it? It is dangerous to assume that governmental or economic pressures are the only ones that act upon parents in relation to decisions about their children. Cultural norms and beliefs about “what makes a good life” will make much more of an impact on the perceived necessity of “enhancement” than any governmental mandate could.
Also, he argues that “enhancement” will lead to a “flush of inventive, moral, empathetic, charming, attractive and beneficent people.” I’m sorry Mr. Munkittrick, but you also assume that those individuals who choose to have their children enhanced will value traits such as empathy and beneficence. Maybe they will, but that’s a big assumption, because arguments supporting “enhancements” have pretty much focused on physical capability and not moral character. Also, the opportunity to alter a relatively “simple” trait such as height will be available long before we figure out the soup of probable genetic determinants of “empathy”, so physical trait enhancement will surely precede character trait enhancement.
And lastly, what about nurture, Mr. Munkittrick? If you want more charming, empathetic, innovative, beneficent kids, it sounds to me like you might try to raise them to engage with other people regularly (instead of the PSP) and teach them to view themselves in the shoes of others before they make judgments. I’m just saying.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a scientist, and I have always been in love with the promise that science holds for the future. However, science makes a big mistake when it believes that it lives in a cultural vacuum.