Return to the Neoeugenics Home Page

A review of Liberal Eugenics: In Defence of Human Enhancement by Nicholas Agar.

Bioethicists have been very active in helping to set policy or legislation with regards to what procedures should and should not be allowed for genetic engineering, cloning, distributive justice, etc. In Liberal Eugenics: In Defense of Human Enhancement, 2004, Nicholas Agar argues for allowing everyone to use whatever technology is available, except in a few cases, to enhance their children's genetic opportunities—free of disease, low intelligence, small stature, ugliness, and anything else that can be improved upon.

One thing struck me as very odd however: neither Agar nor any of the other bioethicists he discusses give any value to the genetic interests of parents in producing children that will be fitter to continue reproduction. For example, I would assume that parents leave their money to their children because not only do they want their children to live better–happier lives, but they also want to equip their children with additional resources to have more children. This is such a well-studied subject in evolutionary biology, that to ignore it for human reproduction places most bioethicists outside of science altogether; they are merely a new secular priesthood.

That being said, I found many interesting speculations in this book, as well as rebuttals to other's ethical arguments against genetic engineering, making it great fodder for discussing numerous peripheral aspects of eugenics. Agar states that, "The improvement of human stock is no business of the eugenics that this book preaches. Indeed, I do not presume to make any judgments about what to count as such an improvement and how it might be accomplished. Twentieth-century eugenicists thought that bettering humanity would require the strict regulation of reproduction. The eugenics defended here differs in being primarily concerned with the protection and extension of reproductive freedom. Reproductive freedom as it is currently recognized in liberal societies encompasses the choice of whether or not to reproduce, with whom to reproduce, when to reproduce, and how many times to reproduce. What I call liberal eugenics adds the choice of certain of your children's characteristics to this list of freedoms. At the book's center are powerful genetic technologies that will enable prospective parents to make such a choice…. More specifically, I will argue that prospective parents should be empowered to use available technologies to choose some of their children's characteristics."

With the above disclaimer, he then goes on to discuss eugenics as if it had no long term consequences for society, parents, or groups that practice it, as if genetic enhancement is like having your children's teeth straightened: a one time procedure with no consequences for your children's children. Perhaps Agar is aware of eugenics' goal of not only improving one's children's characteristics, but making those improvements available on down the genealogical path to all future generations. We constantly hear how we do not want to leave our huge national debt to our children, then too many ignore future generations genetic debts such as disease, low intelligence, irrationality, and all the other genetic debts that have accumulated over millions of years of genetic meandering.

Today, the two most practical methods used for genetic engineering enhancement are Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) where multiple fertilized eggs are tested for any known disease, with the most disease free egg(s) implanted for reproduction, and sperm and egg banks, where donors supply eggs or sperm from the elite—those who are tall, attractive, intelligent, athletic, and free of disease or emotional problems.

With PGD, parents use natural variation to select the best of possible children to be born. With sperm banks, the best donors are selected. It is also possible of course to purchase the best two of the best donors, then select the most disease free fertilized eggs using PGD for implantation into a surrogate mother. When cloning becomes possible, then these super-selected children could be reproduced in abundance, without knowing exactly which genes are involved in traits such as high intelligence. The winning combinations will just be multiplied and reassembled as desired, leading to a new elite population group.

Agar has some interesting comments on race: "When one chooses a mate one is often also choosing what kind of person will contribute genes to one's children. We accept that racist people can refuse to have children with members of a race they despise because we think that who one is attracted to and repelled by is beyond state regulation. Our negative judgments about their characters do not lead us to force them into relationships with people for whom they claim no attraction. By analogy, perhaps no moral reason could be sufficiently strong to justify the state's intruding on individuals' eugenic choices. Insisting that racism be no motive for the use of enhancement technologies would, in effect, be like insisting that people be sexually attracted to others regardless of skin color."

Note that he is judgmental against the assumed characteristics of racists, but racists are to have no judgment about the characteristics of other races or people. Is a racist any different from a person who hates people who litter, drives recklessly, or has low intelligence? Most normal people have emotions of disgust or aversion towards some types of other people, whether those emotions are based on individual characteristics or characteristics that are common to a religion, political party, sports fans, or races. So why are racists the only group not allowed to have a preference for their own kind? I would also submit that most people are therefore racists, based on Agar's criteria, because most people prefer their own kin likeness.

With brain imaging technology, it may be possible to confirm that feelings of hostility between human races is part of our reptilian brain, and not easily subject to modification, any more than we could intellectually alter our sexual attraction to another gender change our preferences from attractive to ugly people. These are not acquired feelings; they are built in and deep, beyond easy access. Our more advanced human brains however are very adept at deception, self-deception, and manipulation of others for their own benefit. Antiracism then is just the latest attempt to transfer wealth from Western nations to third world nations or to third world people living in Western nations.

Agar quotes Steven Pinker in why there should not be too much enthusiasm for genetic engineering by futurologists. They are essentially technological limitations, and he ignores the political ramifications of genetic engineering. Once it becomes common knowledge that the differences between groups is primarily genetic, especially intelligence, the current egalitarian political zeitgeist will turn away from socialism to a more free wheeling capitalism, where those who have will keep, and those who don't will slide further behind. Parents will realize that it is far better to make sure that their children are born innately intelligent, and let them develop naturally as nature intended. Pushing children too hard too fast, as Agar shows later in the book, is not beneficial. Naïve environmentalism will be replaced by a more balanced interactionist perspective when it comes to having children: start with good genes, let them develop naturally, and they will grow up productive and happy—on average.

This realization will also have another major impact on world population distributions. Once it is fully understood that Blacks from South Africa or Amerindians from Mexico have a very low probability of success in a technology demanding culture, where they will be an economic drag on the economy, the open borders will be slammed shut. Eugenics will then in fact be in play at least with regards to who we let in to the West, and how far we are willing to allow those already here reproductive freedom when they are incapable of supporting a family. Reproductive rights also means reproductive responsibility.

Agar states, "The idea that my clone would resemble me in every significant respect relies on one of the most pervasive contemporary misunderstandings of biology. This misunderstanding is genetic determinism, the view that our genes dictate all but superficial aspects of our phenotypes, or visible traits. Genetic determinism lies behind many of the misguided hopes and fears about the new genetic technologies." He makes this claim about whom? I am not aware of any scientist, eugenicist, or educated person who believes that identical twins are exactly alike, nor would clones be exactly alike. However, identical twins reared apart are generally quite similar in such features as attractiveness, height, intelligence, and athleticism. Therefore, he sets up a straw man. If anything, we are still in denial with regards to genes, and the environmental determinists are still in the majority, denying any racial differences in average intelligence.

Then he states, "The twin or clone of a genius might easily miss out on the precise combination of early educational or nutritional influences required for the making of great intelligence." Now he is guilty of environmental determinism. Yet, no one has been able to show that environmental factors have much influence on adult intelligence. Any potentially highly intelligent child will do just fine with a typical education, nutrition, and avoidance of any mishaps like playing too much soccer that can cause brain damage.

Bioethicists seem especially concerned with human aspirations that compared to futurists border on messianic zealotry. Agar states, confusingly, "This theory [utilitarianism] comports better with our intuitions about the way we should live. Most of us do not set the accumulation of units of pleasure as life's single aim; rather we pursue goals involving family, careers and friends and we consider a good life to be one in which many of these significant goals are achieved. Preference utilitarians can readily grant that being naturally somber does not stand in the way of a satisfactory existence; many people who have sunny temperaments nonetheless fail to satisfy their most important desires, something that many of the less temperamentally buoyant achieve. This variant of utilitarianism also gives strongly counterintuitive answers to questions about human genetic engineering. For example, Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer wonder whether it would be possible—and desirable?—to attempt to genetically engineer people whose capacities and goals, while possibly truncated, are in harmony with their limited passions? The goal of designing humans who are both limited to easily satisfiable preferences and meet the criteria for personhood is likely to pose technological difficulties for enhancers. But the claim that if feasible it should be mandatory seems even more absurd than the idea of compulsory [enhanced mood] therapy."

If you are confused by the above, so was I. The most eugenicists want to do is equip people with higher average intelligence, normal stature, pleasant looks, athleticism, and to be free of disease. I have never heard any eugenicists discuss much in the way of improving a person's behavioral traits or level of natural contentment. Nevertheless, no genetic enhancement say in overall happiness, would in any way lead to some sort of disharmony. I really have no idea how an enhanced person could in any way be truncated, in disharmony, have limited passions, etc. Humans have enough trouble understanding what it means to be conscious, much less fine-tuning the meaning of life in its various forms.

These discussions beg an even broader question: What is the purpose of an egalitarian ethics that calls for redistributive justice? Are humans really happier because of how much wealth they have accumulated? If yes, then it is advantageous to accumulate as much wealth as possible and not give to those in need. If wealth is relative, then it is even more advantageous to obtain greater wealth, as much as possible, because it means little to have absolute wealth if all those around you are wealthier still. That is, humans compete for resources because having greater resources means out competing one's competitors.

Looked at in this way, being destitute in sub-Saharan Africa means little in terms of relative happiness, if everyone around you is in the same situation. The same is true at Ivy League universities, it means little to the average student that they can afford a cell phone, an iPod, fly home for vacation, etc., because of family wealth when those all around you have the same level of wealth. Evolution has equipped humans with a homeostatic level of relative contentment—sex, food, shelter, dominance, killing off a competing–neighboring tribe along with the excitement of the kill—these proximate emotions were evolutionary successful at promoting life and reproduction. Just accumulating more wealth for its own sake means little in terms of happiness—humans merely readjust their ambitions upward and start the struggle all over again. This is the idiocy of egalitarianism—it has no basis in human nature.

Agar concludes that, "…it is hard to see how someone could be harmed by being brought into existence as a human clone. Had he not been created by somatic cell nuclear transfer, he simply would not have existed at all…. Utilitarian lawmakers who accepted a person-affecting condition on moral discourse could avoid making [mood enhancing] therapy compulsory by pointing out that their moral principle simply does not apply to the countless different kinds of people we could bring into existence. The problem is that person-affecting utilitarianism avoids the aforementioned absurd conclusions only by offering no guidance on how we should use enhancement technologies. Kantians also seem forced to choose between absurdity and silence when they confront enhancement technologies. According to the version of Kant's Categorical Imperative most often used to resolve bioethical dilemmas, one should never treat another person exclusively as a means to an end."

He then goes on to discuss those who would clone for a means to their own ends (or not end in death): "The Raelians would create special kinds of human beings merely to satisfy the vanity of those who misguidedly see somatic cell nuclear transfer as a means of perpetuating their own existences. But first appearances are deceptive. People have always had selfish motives for reproducing. They want kids to save marriages, to ensure pampered retirements, or to find some new purpose in life. This selfishness in respect of individuals who do not yet exist seems perfectly compatible with proper parental concern once children's lives are under way. The fact is that it is hard to have non-instrumental motives in respect of a person who does not yet exist. Compare the aforementioned instrumental motives with the absence of motive that anticipates the existence of children whose parents were just too drunk or drugged to remember to use contraception. These children don't seem better off simply in virtue of the fact that there were no instrumental reasons for their existence."

I think he makes a very good point here. When people say, "I want the best for my children," they mean they want their children to be happy, but also they want their children to be successful and to pass on the genes that we all use temporarily while we are alive. In fact, in a modern technological world, it is hard to justify having children for any reason other than because a) we just want children and/or b) we want children to pass on our genes. In a modern society, one would be better off setting up a savings account and putting money aside for retirement, rather than rely on one's children to take care of you in old age.

Children are used by society however. We spend large amounts of money on educating our children to be productive workers, we teach them to be patriotic so that they will fight and die for their country if the need arises, we imbue them with virtues that are beneficial for the society but not necessarily good for the individual, etc. Children, as far as society sees them, are instrumental for the future prosperity of the country; they are a means to an end.

Agar continues, "Philosophers have thought hard about whether potentially rational human embryos have a moral entitlement to be born…. The advent of enhancement technologies raises the issue of whether human embryos have any moral claim on a rational existence. Those who argue against any right to rational existence would point out that the discovery of human intelligence genes and the invention of techniques for transferring them into non-human embryos may herald an era in which every mammalian embryo is potentially a rational being. Kant seems to have little to contribute to this particular exchange on enhancement technologies beyond the idea that if we do deliberately create non-rational beings in place of rational ones, our treatment of them will not be constrained by the Categorical Imperative."

There was a great debate apparently eons ago—I have lost the reference and if anyone knows of it I would like to hear from you. Anyway, the debate was about whether life is worth living, and how can we prove that it is. It seems that when bioethicists debate a "right to be born," they suffer a multitude of objections: is the life going to be a good life, is the planet already overpopulated, but more importantly, is it wise to add humans and what kinds of humans to the existing billions of people already here? The history of humanity has always been one of overpopulation followed by warfare, genocide, starvation or disease (Keeley 1996; LaBlanc 2003). I find little support to any claim that life in itself has value outside of various evolutionary drives to reproduce.

Agar continues, "Utilitarianism and Kantianism orient our intuitions about right and wrong towards certain kinds of moral problem—those involving people whose existence is not at issue. We can use these theories to help us to decide whether or not we are permitted to end someone's existence, but not to decide whether or not someone should ever exist."

Agar then discusses Leon R. Kass who is on the President's Counsel on Bioethics, "Kass is very impressed by the queasiness that typically accompanies contemplation of the possibility of cloning humans. He proposes that this unease is 'the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason's power to fully articulate it.' Kass continues: 'We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings . . . because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear.' In chapter 2 I argued that we must make the new genetic technologies morally transparent. According to Kass, significant parts of morality itself are not transparent. We often know that we are disgusted by a certain practice without understanding precisely why we are disgusted. Kass asks of other abhorrent activities such as 'father—daughter incest (even with consent), or having sex with animals, or mutilating a corpse, or eating human flesh, or even just (just!) raping and murdering another human being whether anybody's failure to give full rational justification for his or her revulsion at these practices make that revulsion ethically suspect.' The contention that there is no decisive argument against human cloning should be understood not as support for cloning, but instead as an expression of rationality's impotence when faced with an issue that bears on human existence in such a fundamental way. Instinctual disgust is the only reliable guide."

I find these types of arguments so shallow and absurd because they smack of intolerant religious dogma. Its as if we should have suppressed the revelation that the earth was a ball, floating in space, rather than flat, because people would be terrified of falling off otherwise. Just like other scientific trends, many people hate new technologies and change, while others embrace it. Kass may be "repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings," but I am equally repelled by miscegenation, especially between Blacks and Whites, as well as having that sinking feeling when I see Blacks in my neighborhood. I would argue that my lizard brain's emotional disgust is a much deeper part of human nature than feeling disgust from various changes in values and technologies that are new to our only recently evolved executive brains.

He continues, "Kass makes the same kinds of points against human genetic engineering. The embryo that a couple offers to a genetic engineer for modification may contain nuclear DNA from both of them. But the attempt to improve upon sex's power to provide the kinds of children we want threatens the meanings of love and of making families that we humans have layered on to the biological functions of sex and reproduction. Transhumanists deny that enhancement technologies destroy meaning. They speak of 'aesthetic and contemplative pleasures whose blissfulness vastly exceeds what any human has yet experienced' and 'love that is stronger, purer, and more secure than any human has yet harbored.' Deciding who to believe requires moral images constructed from other cases in which a technology has separated the satisfaction of a desire from its customary foundation. We can use our judgment about whether this separation has destroyed meaning as a guide to what to say about the similar propensity of enhancement technologies."

Well, circumcision comes to mind, a painful ritual to make a people different and deter others from joining the tribe, as well as natural childbirth versus being sedated. I see no reason why a couple that would take the time, expend the money, go through the somewhat painful process of harvesting eggs, etc. to make their children healthier, happier and wise would not be making a much greater commitment to reproduction than those who procreate because they happen to be horny and failed to discuss the consequences. The future of our children will be far more secure, safe, and productive when sex is finally separated from reproduction. Nature no longer needs horniness to make humans reproduce. After all, reproduction between lizards is essentially an act of rape, not love. If humans maintained that form of reproduction, would Kass be arguing that giving up rape as part of reproduction some how diminishes the "meaning of rape and of making families?"

Agar continues, "Kass presents the use of genetic technologies to treat disease 'by eliminating the patient' as a 'peculiar innovation in medicine.' But he is wrong. Consider the following example. Women who drink during pregnancy sometimes give birth to children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition characterized by abnormal facial features, stunted growth and central nervous system problems. Suppose a woman who is currently drinking heavily asks her doctor for advice about whether or not she should get pregnant. He responds that she should not get pregnant until she has cut down on her drinking—in effect advising that she substitute the child she would have while not drinking for the one she would have while on alcohol. Does the fact that the healthy child would not exist at all had his mother become pregnant earlier make him a beneficiary of therapy? If we count his existence as a benefit conferred by the doctor, then we should be similarly generous to a skeptical father who postpones his daughter's marriage, thereby delaying the birth of her first child. This does not seem right. The important point is that, however we understand the case of the doctor advising his patient to cut down on her drinking before getting pregnant, it is not medical malpractice. We would not accuse the doctor of recklessly straying outside of the therapeutic domain. Perhaps no one is benefited, but disease is still prevented, and if so, the moral image of therapy can encompass PGD and gene therapy on gametes or early embryos. Both conventional doctors and gene therapists act morally in allowing a healthy baby to be born in place of an unhealthy one [by genetically selecting the healthiest eggs for implantation]."

Kass seems to be oblivious to alternative moral or ethical norms. In Mother Nature, Hrdy portrays humans as routinely killing or abandoning their children as a practical matter under varying ecological circumstances (Hrdy ??). Sometimes, the elite didn't want to be bothered by raising children and sent them off, poor people often abandoned their children to die, and numerous cultures killed their newly born children whenever prospects looked poor or the children were deemed unfit or cursed. That has been the norm for thousands of years, it is still practiced in many parts of the world, and it seems to be quite moral for humans to make decisions about the viability of their children—let this one die, and invest in another later on with better potential for survival. That is human morality as it was practiced before the modern age, and it has merit. Why should a family or society invest resources in less than ideal children when we have the ability to select the quality of the children that we wish to raise to adulthood? Far too many families are torn apart because a child is disabled. It would be better for all to terminate the defective at birth, and have a healthy baby—a decision that benefits the whole family and society in general. Disabled children demand an inordinate amount of resources that should be diverted to the children with more potential for the future.

Turning back to genetic determinism Agar states, "Genetic determinists make the formation of a person's embryo an extremely significant event for her identity. According to them, the formation of a person's genome causally necessitates her every significant characteristic. In chapter 2 I suggested that genetic determinism fails to take account of the important role of the environment. The question of the relative significance to human beings of environmental and genetic influences has occasioned many an academic spat. Genetic determinism finds its ideological counterpart in environmental determinism."

Agar is wrong in his assumption that eugenicists think only in terms of genes and not development, especially in raising children. I and many others in the particularist–racialist eugenics' movement are very concerned about how to raise our children so that they will feel bound to their tribe, prosper emotionally and intellectually, and be provided with an environment that allows them to find their own niche—as long as it is not becoming a self-hating White. Eugenicists I believe would be much less demanding of their children in their early years, because being aware of their intellectual potential, pushing children too hard and too early, is not beneficial. Children need to develop at a slow enough pace to learn how to think, not just what to think. So contrary to Agar's conjectures, eugenicists believe in balancing nature and nurture. It is the egalitarian Left that rejects the interactionist concept of development.

Even more bizarre than Kass's philosophy, Agar goes on to Fukuyama's. "Fukuyama's account of human nature is a fusion of two different scientific ideas. He says that human nature comprises 'the species typical characteristics shared by all human beings qua human beings.' 'Species typical' is to be understood in the way that biologists do when they say 'pair bonding is typical of robins and catbirds but not of gorillas and orangutans.' Fukuyama also invokes genes, saying 'human nature is the sum of the behavior and characteristics that are typical of the human species, arising from genetic rather than environmental factors.' He allows that genes do not fix traits like intelligence or height. Instead, they set 'limits to the degree of variance possible.' Fukuyama elaborates on this idea, saying that 'the finding that IQ is 40 to 50 percent heritable already contains within it an estimate of the impact of culture on IQ and implies that even taking culture into account, there is a significant component of IQ that is genetically determined.' His point is best explained by reference to something that E. O. Wilson has called the genetic leash. This softer version of genetic determinism specifies that although genes do not precisely fix traits, they fix limits within which traits can vary. Fukuyama says 'there are limits to the degree of variance possible, limits that are set genetically: if you deprive a population of enough calories on average, they starve to death rather than growing smaller, while past a certain point, increasing calorie intake makes them fatter, not taller….' This, according to Fukuyama, is what morally separates changes to a person's genes from changes to her environment. While the consequences of environmental changes could never be of sufficient magnitude to take our humanity from us, the consequences of genetic changes may be. No leash limits the efforts of genetic engineers. They can insert as many NR2B genes [that makes mice smart] as their scruples allow. In doing so, they corrupt human nature by going beyond the maximum extension of the leash. Genetic engineers who want only to treat Alzheimer's and diabetes do not corrupt human nature because they respect the leash."

The last few sentences are a bit confusing, but what Agar is trying to say is that when we mess with germline genetic changes, we change humans genetically into the future. However, how does this change human nature? For example, if a group used PGD along with IVF to select the brightest future child out of a dozen genetically tested embryos, they are only selecting for the best, just like entrance exams to a university. Human nature is not changed, just the average human intelligence. It only changes the frequency of some genes (actually alleles or gene variants) over others, which is how humans evolved and races differ. If this changes human nature, then there must be more than one human nature out there, contrary to what Fukuyama and many evolutionary psychologists claim.

Agar continues, "The best way to introduce concerns about the biotechnology's impact on liberal social arrangements is by way of Fukuyama's reflections on both of these topics. His 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man, established him as a leading defender of liberal democracy. In it, Fukuyama declared that history, considered as a progression of political arrangements, was over. Soon, and evermore, all human societies would be liberal democratic ones. Fukuyama spent much of the 1990s rebutting arguments for the staying power of various illiberal social arrangements. With the 2002 publication of Our Posthuman Future, he turns his attention towards biotechnology, a threat that he finds more potent than communism or religious fundamentalism. According to Fukuyama, biotechnology has the power to restart history by replacing humans with posthumans. Posthumans may have imposed upon them, or perhaps even choose, political arrangements very different from liberal democratic ones."

I find this assertion by Fukuyama to be so bizarre that he is definitely on the fringe. First, there is no reason why our current liberal democracies have any forgone staying power just because Fukuyama says so. If humans fall into a dysgenic trend, say with an average IQ of 85 around the world, liberal democracy cannot be sustained. It takes knowledgeable people to keep democracy safe from its inherent corroding influences (Somit & Peterson 1997; Hoppe 2001). Democracy is not a stable political system by any means.

In addition, if we can increase the average intelligence of a population group, we can replace representative democracy with direct democracy with constitutional guarantees to protect segments of the population from the possible oppressiveness of direct democracy. A highly intelligent population group is far better equipped to think for themselves, rather than being manipulated by politicians, the media, interest group propaganda, etc. Fukuyama wants to stop the natural progression that the enlightenment, freedom, and innate intelligence has made possible. Could anyone really claim that today's democratic liberalism is the solution to all of the world's present and future problems? Absurd, we will always be trying to improve our political systems.

Agar then tries to address the truly strange human trait of effort: "The human marathon runner feels totally exhausted at Mile 23, but at least he can claim the credit for having got that far. The posthuman athlete, still feeling good, deserves no congratulations. She is simply performing up to her design specifications. Eric Juengst suggests the label 'biomedical Calvinism' for the view that those who win races because they have taken performance-enhancing drugs or had their genomes modified are denied the possibility of putting in the effort that would make their apparent achievements worthwhile. If there is any credit due for the victory won by the genetically engineered athlete, it should go to the person who did the work modifying his genome. However, if an athlete's winning advantage derives from the chance recombination of his parents' DNA, then there is no other agent for the credit to default to; his parents did not choose which of their genes to pass on to him. He truly deserves his medal."

Do humans really think this way? Do we look at someone who is beautiful versus ugly and dismiss their good fortune because no effort was put into being beautiful, just the luck of the genes? How about a lawyer that passes the bar exam on her first try, not because she studied hard, but because she is just plain brilliant. Does another lawyer get congratulated more enthusiastically after passing the bar exam after the sixth time? Probably not, I doubt that they would brag about how much effort they put in. More than likely, they would be just a tad embarrassed. Humans do not normally weigh deservedness when it comes to accomplishments; we give credit for the outcome even when they have natural abilities, like the Kenyan marathon runners. Whether parents pay special athletic coaches or educational tutors for their children's environmental enhancement, or whether they use genetic engineering to enhance their children's ability, in the end it is the same. "Effort" is not something that most people want to face when seeking goals, they would far prefer to have the ability to make the task easier, then go on to more difficult tasks.

Agar then discusses the outcome of one of the children from Graham's Repository for Germinal Choice (see my review of The Genius Factory). He notes that one particular gifted child with an IQ of 180, ended up studying comparative religion rather than science—as if this was some kind of failure. With the flawed logic spewed out by the current crop of bioethicists, we could certainly use some enhanced intelligence in the non-scientific fields. But even more important, unlike pushing this gifted child into science—only to have them turn their back on it by pushing environmental enhancements—the genetic enhancements are available for future generations. The genius baby turned religious scholar will pass on to his children more intelligence genes, then they in turn can decide how to use their enhanced intelligence. Genetic intelligence is forever; environmental enhancements have to be repeated every generation. Which approach is more economical? Genetic selection of the best fertilized-eggs for implantation currently costs about $10,000. To educate a child for one year currently costs about the same. You do the math of where we should be spending our money if we want smart, educable children in the future.

Agar returns to Kass: "The beneficiaries of genetic engineering to boost intelligence, like the beneficiaries of the best educations, ought to be capable of more than others, but this does not mean that they live lives without character building struggle; it does not make their achievements meaningless. Consider the following objection to human genetic engineering made by Leon Kass: '[T]he price to be paid for producing optimum or even genetically sound babies will be the transfer of procreation from the home to the laboratory. Increasing control over the product can only be purchased by the increasing depersonalization of the entire process and its coincident transformation into manufacture. Such an arrangement will be profoundly dehumanizing ...'"

Well maybe to Kass, but it seems that many people don't feel any dehumanizing when they use alternative means to reach an intended goal. Is a man dehumanized because he needs to take Viagra to have sex? Does masturbation to video porn now dehumanize masturbation because instead of our imaginations, the new machines don't require any imagination? Many single moms who are financially sound are getting pregnant at "the factory" and they do not report the child that results or themselves as "dehumanized." To many, feeling dehumanized is being turned down by a mate for sex, being denied that anticipated promotion, or being unable to perform an assigned task at work. Another example is someone feeling dehumanized by getting a face lift at the cosmetic surgery factory, rather than applying tons of makeup to cover up wrinkles at home (or worse still while driving to work).

Agar rebuts Kass, "Once we accept that environments also make personalities, we should be prepared to pass the same judgment on 'manufacture by education' as we do on 'manufacture by genetic engineering.' If some forms of education are innocent of the charge of manufacture, then likewise so are some forms of genetic engineering."

On the other side, Blacks are always being held up and praised for doing better on performance tests as a result of "teaching to the test," Head Start programs, additional schooling during the summer months, special tutoring, etc. Shouldn't we also be able to make the claim that these exceptional environmental enhancement programs' outcomes are equally undeserved using Kass's argument for undeservedness via environmental enhancement?

Agar then turns to Jurgen Habermas objections to genetic enhancement: "Habermas identifies what he thinks is a difference between environmental and genetic improvements. Unlike the latter, environmental enhancements can be questioned or challenged by the person who receives them. One has the option of rebelling, perhaps unsuccessfully, against after-school math lessons. No similar option exists in respect of genetic engineering. One is simply born with one's genome engineered to include a parental 'fifth column.' Habermas describes the likely experiences of a genetically enhanced adolescent: 'To the extent that his body is revealed to the adolescent who was eugenically manipulated as something which is also made, the participant perspective of the actual experience of living one's own life collides with the reifying perspective of a producer.... The parents' choice of a genetic program for their child is associated with intentions which later take on the form of expectations addressed to the child, without, however providing the addressee with an opportunity to take a revisionist stand. The programming intentions ...have the peculiar status of a one-sided and unchallengeable expectation.'"

Agar has his own means of dismissing Habermas, but I will provide my own: however parents open up a child's options in life, whether they are environmental or genetic enhancements, they are merely expanding opportunity, not directing the child's ultimate goal. I have no doubt that when genetically enhanced children reach puberty, the hormones will be raging, and they will follow their own paths as they desire, just like any other adolescent. They will not feel any different from any other child, except learning will be easier, they will have fewer genetic diseases, they will not be short, they will be reasonably athletic, they will be attractive, and they will be smart. It seems to me that this is the perfect formula for providing eugenically enhanced children with the most open of futures. Whatever they desire, they will be better equipped to seek it—unless of course they have some strange desire to be in a circus freak-show.

Agar goes on to explain how extreme environmental enhancements can leave children damaged: it is called "hothousing." Parents take extreme measures to teach their children early and well, only to have them become zombies of rote learning, without the ability to organize facts and search out solutions to problems on their own. These children are suffocated, not developing in a natural way, that leads to destroying any option of a "right to an open future." Their overbearing and demanding parents drive them beyond what they are naturally capable of for their age. Genetic enhancement does this—provide children with the talent to pursue many different opportunities—then lets them do what suites them the best. As Agar notes, "Infertile couples are now offering financial inducements of up to US $100,000 for the eggs of women with demonstrated Ivy League educations, attractiveness, elite scholastic aptitude scores, specific ethnicities, and backgrounds free of major family medical issues."

Agar states, "The moral image of nurture helps us to understand a popular objection against genetic enhancement. According to this objection, we should not allow enhancement because attributes like increased intelligence, stronger muscles and more charming personalities are positional goods. Positional goods are sought because they give a competitive advantage over others…. Suppose the great cost of enhancement means that only the rich will have any real freedom to enhance their children. Inequalities resulting from genetic enhancement layered on existing educational and dietary inequalities will turn the gap between the rich and the poor into a gulf between their children." Great—let this speciation event commence so that we can move those capable of understanding and appreciating genetic enhancement beyond the reach of the bottom feeders that we have tolerated for too long already. But what about justice for all?

Agar notes, "I stressed that enhancement technologies present us with problems that seem quite unlike those we have confronted before. However, the challenge I have just described seems quite familiar. Isn't it just the issue, long pondered by philosophers, of what counts as a just distribution of the goods required for a good life? Political philosophers have proposed a number of accounts of how houses, doctors' visits and retirement moneys should be distributed and of how best to achieve what they deem a just distribution. Why shouldn't we see enhancements as just more goods to feed into a society's distributive apparatus? John Rawls's distributive scheme currently enjoys the most widespread philosophical support. Rawls proposes a 'difference principle', which allows deviation from equal distribution of goods such as liberty and opportunity only when an unequal distribution helps everybody, most especially the worst off. Were we to entrust enhancements to Rawls we would grant the rich better access only if the worse off were to be benefited by this pattern of access. We would be confident about the fairness of this way of allocating enhancements to the extent that we were confident about Rawls's theory of justice." Fortunately, Rawls's theory of justice is dead on arrival. It has no scientific basis other than feel good socialism. It is a failed philosophy.

Agar then turns to manipulating behavioral traits: "The moral image of NURTURE can help us to respond to such a use of enhancement technologies. R. Paul Churchill argues that parents have an obligation to educate their children to be moral altruists. He claims that the aim of raising healthy, happy and autonomous human beings does not conflict with, indeed is often promoted by, the goal of raising altruists. It does seem unlikely that parents would benefit their children by making them psychopaths. Those completely devoid of empathy may flourish in the short term, but they are usually exposed in the end. Perhaps geneticists will find genes that can be modified so as to reduce but not entirely eliminate the capacity to empathize. It seems to me that even slight moral impairment is likely to handicap many life plans. A person who is incapable of acknowledging the full moral worth of others is likely to find forming meaningful relationships with them more difficult. However, even if enhancement by way of moral impairment did not harm its recipients, it should be banned. This should be apparent once we take into account the plights of those whose spouses, neighbors and colleagues are morally impaired."

This is where the debate gets down and dirty—Agar along with other bioethicists are out of touch with evolutionary realities. It is true that when humans were confined to small bands of hunter–gatherers, psychopaths could be held in check. If they became too much of a liability, they were banished or hacked to death. The same is true in small villages, where psychopaths, through gossip, could be countered by alerting others to the danger they posed. In a modern, cosmopolitan society however that is no longer true—an intelligent psychopath can do very well in terms of reproductive success and economic success. They can go after whatever they want without the shame, guilt, or shyness that many of us feel if we don't conform to accepted behaviors. Today, it is the empathetic sucker—the altruist—that will do less well. Trivers and Hamilton in addition have shown that altruism is merely a means to advance reproductive success for cooperation in the environment of evolutionary adaptiveness. That world no longer exists.

As Agar notes, "Moral and political philosophers have defended a variety of views about reciprocity's significance. According to some, it is at the heart of morality. Moral rules emerge from the needs of rational beings to cooperate with one another to generate goods and protect against threats."

Then Agar returns to the bizarre, "Conceiving of diversity as only instrumentally valuable makes it vulnerable to enhancement technologies. It is the manifest diversity in conceptions of the good life that supplies much of the motivation for the liberal doctrine. As enhancement technologies eliminate or reduce differences between people, they eliminate or reduce the need for laws protecting citizens' rights to make unpopular choices about the good life."

This seems not to be incorrect, just highly indeterminable. First, we don't know yet whether enhancement technologies will increase the differences between people or reduce them. That all depends if it is the elite who will take advantage of genetic engineering, or it will be the state(s) policy to raise everyone up to at least a minimal level of enhancement—or both at the same time in different parts of the world. Second, with enhancement will come a whole new set of values. Highly enhanced people could be egalitarians, inegalitarians, indifferent to lesser human beings—we will not know until it happens. One thing is fairly certain because it exists today—the elite will dictate the policy and the value system of the state using the media, and control of resources.

Agar goes on to warn, "The morally noxious homogenizing influence that I will focus on is prejudice. A program of liberal enhancement would prevent a state from using the reproductive acts of its citizens to implement its bigoted ideology. But no society is entirely free of prejudice. Despite efforts to protect them, people suffer because of their genders, racial backgrounds, religious commitments and sexual orientations. Often this prejudice is subconscious but, conscious or not, it can still influence enhancement choices. Enhancement technologies will turn reproduction into another means of expressing prejudice. They will grant racism and homophobia an unprecedented efficacy. While today these attitudes make many people miserable, in the future genetic technologies may enable them to shape successive generations. The progressive elimination of psychological and physical characteristics that, for whatever reason, attract prejudice will dramatically reduce diversity…. Many racists wrongly believe that the color of one's skin indicates the possession of particular intellectual, moral and physical virtues. Racism has the great advantage, from the perspective of the genetic engineer, of focusing on superficial characteristics of human beings."

Of course, all people have their prejudices, including those who hate prejudiced people. That is the conundrum of value systems, they change but there are always those behaviors and kinds that are in and those that are anathema to most people. Humans are easily indoctrinated into changing many of their attitudes, but I believe that the more intelligent human being will be better equipped to bias their prejudices towards those values, actions, and human kinds that are truly inimical to society. For example, will an enhanced intellect be more or less prejudiced towards pedophiles? Well, if they understand the organic nature of the condition (if that is what it really is) they would be less condemning but would also perhaps be more protective in keeping pedophiles away from children. Again, Agar speculates too much about human nature when we still do not understand if humans are even truly rational—Stanovich et al. would say we are not (Stanovich 1999, 2004; Gigerenzer & Todd 1999; Giovannoli 1999).

Bioethicists seem to be all about speculation, as if X always leads to Y. With regards to racists—or what eugenicists call race realists—those who are educated know that the color of one's skin has no meaning whatsoever with regards to intelligence, behavioral traits or anything other than just the amount of melanin produced. Race is not about color, it is about real differences in the frequency of genetic alleles that have taken place within breeding populations. Blacks have low intelligence, they act out, they are more violent, and with their own form of racism, they blame all of their problems on Whites and Jews.

Racism is coalitional psychology: it is found in the chimpanzee, our closest ancestor, as well as in humans. In addition, assortative mating is the norm among animals. Sexual selection is strongly influenced by the likeness between mating pairs, and is a powerful component of speciation (Jernvall in Hall 2003). It is highly likely that as the world becomes more multicultural, and some races or population groups interbreed, others will be in the process of sorting themselves based on intelligence, looks, personality, etc. Some humans will breed for intellect, while others for athletic ability, because both can pay off big time (sports is a long shot of course, while intellect is a sure bet for at least a highly prestigious job if not enormous wealth). Now, along with a diaspora form of racial separation based on selected traits, speciation can be driven by technology.

Agar states that, "Leon Kass worries that the advent of reproductive cloning will create an immoral market in Michael Jordan's genome. The combination of genetic engineering and cloning may enable people to become the parents of a white Mike."

It is interesting that the same people who deny that athletic talent or intelligence is highly genetic, now worry that evil Whites will steal athletic Black genes, then make the child look White. These are some bizarre science fiction scenarios, not on the technical side but the value laden moral side. Likewise, Blacks could clone a White genius but change their genes so that they are Black in color. But is color a factor? The last time I looked at the young and old women alike at the health club, getting a tan was still very much in, even with the risks of skin cancer. I saw one young women at the club who was very dark with a very attractive caramel color, and I couldn't determine if it was the new spray-on tan or the real thing. More than likely, when we can alter skin color through genetic engineering, the color selected could be dark just as easily as white, and the preference would probably change over time. Dark skin has more sexual appeal when it is combined with White features, and it would also protect sun lovers with ultraviolet light protection.

Agar continues these absurd speculations, "Racism may become relevant to decisions about the welfare of future persons in another, more insidious, way. It does not have to be a motive of parents-to-be for it to influence their enhancement choices. Although prospective parents may recognize that the claims of homophobes or racists are false, they should nevertheless acknowledge that these claims make up part of the social environment in which their children will live. Consider this fact in the light of my appeals in chapter 5 and chapter 6 that we ought neither to reduce our children's real freedom, nor to infringe their autonomy. Racism and homophobia are threats to real freedom and autonomy. A person may think about the transmission of his dark variants of the melanin-producing genes in the same way as he does about passing on his asthma-risk genes. This prospective parent is unlikely to be fooled into thinking that being black or having asthma reduces one's moral worth. He may feel that his conception of himself has been formed by these characteristics, and hence be reluctant, or even find it impossible, to imagine his life as a white non-asthmatic. However, he may at the same time understand that the path of the person he is about to bring into existence will be easier if he is white and non-asthmatic."

Agar above conflates science, religion and preferences of humans. What does he mean by "claims of homophobes or racists are false?" From a religious perspective, homosexuality is often taboo, while culturally it is celebrated in many cosmopolitan niches. As for science, homosexuality is studied just like introversion or neuroticism. And it is the same with racism—anyone not of the chosen people are lesser people, some people regard other races preferentially or disparagingly, and science looks to behavior genetics to determine how races differ from environmental influences versus genetic influences.

As to what he means by "racism and homophobia are threats to real freedom and autonomy" I cannot determine. The fact that I am not "hung" like Michael Jordan certainly has reduced my freedom to pursue women like those that I would have liked. The same can be said for homely people, short people, shy people, and a host of other traits that are limiting in a very judgmental world. As for autonomy, in the world we live in today, to be Black gives one a great deal of autonomy on making claims or excuses for why they should be given preferences for jobs, education and benefits over those that cannot use their minority status for special freedoms and opportunities. Only minorities are allowed to form special interests groups based on race—Whites are condemned if they try it.

Agar elaborates, "Helping a person to escape prejudice by changing his genome misdiagnoses the problem. Being black or gay is not a disability. It is a mistake to seek biotechnological solutions to problems that have nothing at all to do with genes. The fault is in the attitudes of racist people, not in the genomes of the people they hate. We should change the attitudes, not the genomes. We would block the homogenizing combination of enhancement technologies and prejudice by banning choices that collude with unjust environments."

Agar misses the primary objective, conscious or not, as to why parents use genetic enhancements: it is to give their children the ability to prosper and procreate, if they so choose, thus passing their genes to future generations. If your child is a homosexual they perceptually at least may not procreate or will not do so with as high a numbers on average as heterosexuals. In addition, parents have the right to apply enhancements that they feel are more desirable like attractiveness, height, and athleticism as an aesthetic concern. If parent(s) find homosexuals disgusting, then they have a right to try to avoid that behavioral type. If lesbians find heterosexuals disgusting, they can opt for birthing homosexuals. To be human is to have prejudices, but with greater intelligence, we equip ourselves to check on our prejudices to see if they make sense. Not all prejudice is wrong or immoral.

Agar argues that, "By analogous reasoning, the fact that dark-skinned people suffer only because they live in a social environment shaped to some extent by morally wrong racist attitudes does not make any less real their suffering. If light-to-dark skin gene therapy is justified to avoid the ill effects of UVB then why should not dark-to-light skin therapy be justified to avoid the ill effects of racism? Both ozone depletion and racism are ugly realities, but they are realities nonetheless. Of course, it would certainly be preferable to eliminate racism, but prejudice, racial or otherwise, is an entrenched feature of most societies—it cannot be changed overnight. Optimists may think that education can reduce prejudice, but they would not deny there is still much to do. Parents have little control over whether their child will be born into a society in which there are many racists—but they can use enhancement technologies to prevent the child from being harmed by this morally defective environment.

"The logic of the above reasoning can be summarized as follows. The mere recognition that a certain harm has its origins in a morally defective environment does not alter its reality. If parents are allowed to use enhancement technologies to spare their children the harms imposed by mild asthma then they should also be allowed to spare them the same amount of harm inflicted by racists and homophobes.

"However, there is a difference between using genetic engineering to escape the harmful effects of ozone depletion, on the one hand, and using it to escape the harmful effects of prejudice, on the other. In the former case, collusion with injustice may remove part of the motivation for addressing the real problem, but it does not prevent us from doing something about it. The technologies that would make a future person's skin darker are not themselves ozone-depleting. We can darken people's skins while still fighting to reduce emissions harmful to the ozone layer. This two-pronged approach to the problem should be motivated by the recognition that the thinning of the ozone layer not only harms humans, it also harms the environment. Some philosophers think that the environment is valuable in itself. Even those who deny that nature has intrinsic value think that humans derive a wide range of goods from it. Ozone depletion threatens these goods.

"Now consider parents who replace dark with light skin alleles in the genomes of their future child. The value of a procedure that transforms a black fetus into a white one depends to some extent on the continuing existence of people to serve as targets for the prejudice that is avoided. Prospective parents may succeed in sparing their child the burden of prejudice, but, in doing so, they increase the burden on children who continue to be born with the dark variants. Whether they intend it to or not, their complicity with prejudice will be seen as endorsing the idea that moral value really is determined by one's skin color. The complicity is likely to make racism more efficacious, encouraging the very idea of prejudice. The same points apply to genetic engineering to change sexual orientation. The perhaps accidental endorsement of homophobia will make it worse for the gay people who remain in our society. It is hard to imagine a successful fight against prejudice in the very society in which there is a widely exercised freedom on the part of parents to remove from their children the characteristics that would make them objects of prejudice.

"Suppose, improbably, that therapy to alter sexual-orientation genes and skin color genes were not only to be made universally available, but also that every prospective parent used them to make their children invisible to bigotry, and furthermore that they are universally successful. There would be no more black or gay people left to hate—but the arbitrariness of bigotry allows the same motives that underlie the prejudice whose targets we have eliminated to fix on other targets. They would default to other morally irrelevant attributes of people. Those who would have been homophobes could find some part of the broad spectrum of heterosexual behavior to focus on with equivalent vehemence. The hatred of racists would be replaced with loathings fixed on other easily recognizable distinguishing characteristics of people, such as their religious beliefs or sporting affiliations. Thus, in order to put an end to prejudice, the processes of homogenization would need to proceed to the point of making us all indistinguishable from one another.

"It is because of this close connection between the moral badness of racism and the action of removing dark skin alleles that we should not allow parents to choose this modification for their children. We imagine a widely exercised prerogative to use genetic engineering to spare one's future child the harmful effects of UVB being combined with a successful struggle against the agents damaging the ozone layer. Neither the gene therapy nor sun-blocks prevent us from recognizing and acting against the wrongness of the circumstances that necessitate them. This is not the case when we deflect bigotry by genetically modifying skin color or sexual orientation."

Agar seems to be singularly obsessed with racism and homophobia, but he fails to realize that if Blacks used genetic enhancement to increase their intelligence and conscientiousness, reduce their violence, becoming productive members of society, their dark skin would be irrelevant. It is not skin color that causes Whites, Jews, East Asians, and very dark Indian Asians from fleeing Black neighborhoods, it is in recognition that Blacks' high levels of violence and low intelligence leads to neighborhood decline.

Agar and the rest of his liberal eugenic' advocates have also forgotten that very near and dear segment of the world's population, the ubiquitous indigenous people. Their advocates want to preserve their tribal way of life, free of modernism's corrupting influence, and preserve the lands they occupy as they have for thousands of years. If the rest of us cosmopolitan genetic progressives use enhancement technologies to change our racial characteristics, will these indigenous natives become just another attraction like an African safari—where we can use them to look back at our primitive past? They will eventually be left so far behind that we will see them being closer to apes than to enhanced humans.

Throughout the literature of bioethicists is a common theme: there is a denial that intelligence is primarily genetic while at the same time there is a fear that genetic enhancement for intelligence will not be distributed equally to everyone. The elite will have ever more children that are more intelligent, leading to a gradual speciation between enhanced humans and the unenhanced underclass. They want it both ways, to deny any innate differences in average intelligence between races, while arguing for a redistribution of intelligence genes to bring Blacks, Amerindians, and others up to the innate intelligence of Whites, Jews and East Asians.

It was not too many years ago that everyone was declaring that eugenics was dead; it was a pseudoscience. Now, they are scrambling to try to make the implementation of eugenics an egalitarian mandate of the socialist society. I am confident however that we are getting very close to a point where eugenicists–futurists will start to split away from others, forming our own societies for accumulating wealth, to produce children that are as perfect as possible to win the evolutionary arms race to the top.

The separation of course does not have to be complete physical separation. We can continue to live in the resource rich cosmopolitan environment, working with others not like ourselves, but retreat in our leisure hours to our own communities to raise our children within a eugenic value system. No altruism or empathy towards outsiders, no socializing with outsiders, and no sharing of any sort with outsiders. The good life will be one where we share in the awe and passion of intellectualism, futurism, wealth accumulation, and producing children to carry on after we depart.
---
published 10/21/2005 by Matt Nuenke