Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, April 22, 2013

No Class Today

Post your thoughts on Sandel, eugenics, & Generosity (Part Three).

Final report presentations begin Wednesday, see "Next..."

Presenters, please post your topics & suggested readings/links.

Happy Earth Day!
Some of my highlights from "Well Past Chance," add yours:
Myth...refers us forward... Myth will become reality... 
...let every reader reach the country of her innermost need. In the margin, next to "travel freely," the Berber woman has written "scares some people." "Innermost" is circled. 
She found him vaguely messianic, but neither the thug- gish Edward Teller nor the grandiose Craig Venter that scared or envious reporters made him out to be. Weld knew plenty of researchers like Kurton. She'd gone to school with them... These men had simply accepted science's latest survival adaptation-- salesmanship. 
Thassa's gift had little to do with molecules; on that, Candace was ready to bet her own well-being. The Kabyle had found something about how best to be alive. 
Two-fifths would enhance their children, with the number rising every year. 
 If the future is not your destination, now might be a good time to disembark. 
The writer's thought is so dense that every clause tries to circle back for another try... 
The novelist's argument is clear enough: genetic enhancement represents the end of human nature... 
And for Earth Day,
...joking about the boon of planetary climate disaster. It's exactly the day on which to start the future's next blank page.
We're tuned by a billion years of natural engineering to the flashing Now, designed to be dead blind to exactly the kind of huge, slow, incremental changes that will kill us...


  1. I love the sandel book so far. I have enjoyed reading it more than any other, in about 6 years.
    For the Generosity novel, I guess I am not really far enough yet to see the bioethics in it... but so far it has been interesting... (I bought the audio version becase it was 50 cents online- haha).
    Listening to it is kind of fun for me, in contrast to the comments I hear from students in class who are reading, because I can relax and get lost in the details. :)

  2. I'm puzzled that Sandel didn't mention the matter of subjectivity in deciding the good traits from the bad in his discussion of eugenics. From our class discussion about the couple who purposely sought to have a deaf child, it is clear that there are no definite traits for human beings that can be named good or bad, useful or impairing. Sandel focuses on arguments against the need to genetically improve people, with a notion that there is a commonly agreed upon set of traits that will lead to living an optimal life. But there isn't, and that seems to me to be a big part of why genetic engineering is so controversial. It's not just a matter of ethics.

    Oh, there was a line by Tonia Schiff I believe in the "Walk on Air" chapter, something about if we have this moral obligation to improve human beings, don't we have a moral obligation to provide clean water to those billions without it? I have to agree with her on this. We're tring to perfect our genetic makeup, while much of the world is born into a life where the even perfect genes can't save them. There seems to be one too many steps skipped on this road to paradise.

    And here's a few highlights of my own from "Well Past Chance":

    All other things are never equal.

    Why is "optimal" configuration so damn rare? What doesn't natural selection like about it?

    How long ago did she discover that lovely was a chemical trick?

    Technology changes what we think is intolerable.

    What kind of life would let dinner pass in a tenth the time of its preparation? This kind. The kind we're built for.

  3. Nice highlights, Mary. "Technology changes...": so true. I remember when it would have been intolerable to be interrupted at home or on vacation by work, via email etc.

    And also true, that "our kind of life" experiences pleasure too fleetingly. Personal "optimal configuration" not optimal for the species: that would be tragic.

    Cas: where did you find it for 50 cents?!