Happy Darwin Day (Feb12)...
1. "We do not view what we did as very different from what many straight couples do..." What did they do?
2. How much did Genetic Savings & Clone plan to charge for cloned canines?
3. According to what objection is genetic engineering objectionable because "designer children" are not fully free? OR, Why does Sandel not find this objection persuasive?
Also worth a look: Sandel's Adam Smith Lecture; What Money Can't Buy; The Public Philosopher; Conversation with A.C. Grayling4. What questions do we need to confront, to grapple with the ethics of enhancement?
5. (T/F) Sandel says it may soon be possible to take a drug that prevents horrific events from being deeply registered in memory.
6. What does Sandel mean by a" hormonal arms race" with respect to height?
BONUS: Michael Sandel served on what high-profile council, OR teaches a hugely popular MOOC course at Harvard on what subject?
1. Do the deaf couple defend their reproductive choice as primarily a matter of sexual freedom, rather than of the rights of the hearing-impaired? Is the issue of their sexuality relevant?
2. Is it unconscionable to spend a small fortune to create a custom-made pet?
3. If you knew your happiness, athleticism, height, or some other distinctive personal trait had been selected for you by your parents, would you consider yourself any less free than if you had simply inherited those qualities in the "genetic lottery"?
4. How would you characterize "the moral status of nature" and the proper stance of humans towards the "given world"? Must we respect it, and its independence from human purposes and interests, as a repository of value in itself? To what extent are we obliged to preserve its "wild" quality? To what extent has that become a moot point?
5. If you could take a drug that would selectively and reliably suppress your memory of specific events, would you?
6. Do you want to live in a society where parents feel compelled to spend a fortune to make perfectly healthy kids taller/smarter/happier/etc.? (Or feel inadequate because they don't have a fortune to spend?) Are we headed in that direction?
7. Is an eight-cell embryo growing in a petri dish morally equivalent to a fully developed human being? (21) Why or why not?
ALSO OF INTEREST:
|Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande)|
|Mother Jones (@MotherJones)|
Vaccines Are One of Our Best Weapons Against Global Warming bit.ly/1IRRKej
You Should Be Able to Know Whether Your Kids Are Surrounded by Unvaccinated Classmatesslate.me/1AURXJt
|The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast)|
No, the HPV vaccine will not drive teens to have wild, promiscuous sex. thebea.st/1DYVS5T
Virgie Divinigracia had the kind of death last month that most Americans say they want: at home, relieved of physical and mental pain, surrounded by those she loved, “a beautiful death” as those present described it. Alas, this is true for too few Americans. Most still die in costly medical facilities tethered to machines, often unable to communicate, in a futile attempt to prolong their lives...
Options regarding end-of-life care should be discussed well before an emergency — or for those with dementia, during the early stages of mental decline. “The absolute worst time to contemplate decisions about medical care is when one is critically ill and in the hospital,” Dr. Volandes writes.
The kinds of questions doctors should be asking:
■ What gives your life meaning and joy?
■ What are your biggest fears and concerns?
■ What are you looking forward to?
■ What goals are most important to you now?
■ What trade-offs or sacrifices are you willing to make to achieve those goals?
Whoever is chosen as health care agent must understand the patient’s priorities and agree to honor them, regardless of what that person might want for himself. A strong backbone is needed to assure that the agent will advocate the patient’s wishes even if doctors or family members disagree.
Enhanced, but… improved?
We’re on in Bioethics to Michael Sandel’s The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering (“The Ethics of Enhancement”) and Richard Powers’ Generosity: An Enhancement.
“Enhancement” is the inescapable issue here. Enhanced for what, to what end, with what rationale?
In Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, Bill McKibben imagines several responses. Perhaps the road to enhancement will take us to Enchantment too, and answers (at last!) to the philosophers’ perennial questions.
- Where did the universe come from?
- Why is there something rather than nothing?
- What is the meaning of conscious existence?
“Not to be impolite, but for this we trade our humanity? Sure, these questions are important, especially the last one. But they’re not all-important.” Are we happy? might just be a better one.
What’s ultimately problematic about enhancing ourselves and our progeny, aside from legitimate worries about equity, democratic opportunity, and enhancement for all? Sandel is concerned for our freedom and dignity, for the “moral status of nature” and the “given world.” He’s worried about the prospective sacrifice of our humanity for something less intrinsically meaningful and more divisive.
Powers is concerned for the fragility of happiness, and seems eager to impress upon us all a consciousness of ourselves, at this specific moment of natural history, as the collaborative authors of a future to whose inhabitants we owe the greatest generosity (which we can pay only in the coin of responsibility in the present).
Sandel begins with the case of the deaf lesbian couple who wanted a child “like themselves” (i.e., hearing impaired) and so arranged it, with a strategy “not very different from what straight couples do when they have children.”
Well, that could be the problem. Emerson long ago scolded parents who insist on reproducing “another you,” when “one’s enough” already. The problem’s in the will to design, rather than accept the genetic lottery’s default. “None of us chooses our own genetic inheritance,” nor should any of us have to accept the choices of parental engineers
And yet, “Viagra for the brain” sounds irresistibly alluring to some of us. “Memory suppression” too.
But as a parent who’s already spent a small fortune to educate the next generation, I’m definitely not interested in “hormonal arms’ races,” height extension, gender selection, or anything else in any Gattaca scenario. “They used to say that a child conceived in love…has a greater chance of happiness. They don’t say that anymore.” Well call me old-fashioned, I still do. [More… It’s Time to Question Bio-engineering… Powers@dawn/DS]
As for our playfully self-conscious novel, with its Camus epigraph, Sisyphean theme, and protagonist called “Stone”: the early stage-setting of Generosity comes with a foreboding warning (but also a reminder that we’re involved here with a story, a work of the imagination still subject to human choice and will): “Here… is one plot no one will ever bother writing down: A happy girl passes through the world’s wretchedness and stays happy.” Happy, generous, and present.
But do remember: this is fiction. So far.