Monday, February 12, 2007
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw
(+1 202) 452.1992 x517
"The ability to manipulate human nature...destabilizes both the biological and the social foundations of the human world," Hayes observes, describing the potential impacts of human genetic alteration on core progressive values. New frameworks are needed for progressives to envision a world in which abortion rights and medical research are protected, while applications of genetic science that open the door to profoundly undesirable outcomes are prohibited.
In recent years, developments concerning new human genetic technologies have been interpreted in many countries largely through the familiar frameworks of abortion politics and the culture wars. While religious conservatives were among the most vocal early opponents of human cloning, stem cell research, and related procedures, many liberals and progressives reflexively assumed that the enlightened position was to embrace these technologies.
"While understandable, this is nonetheless simplistic and misleading. The same genetic technologies that might be used to prevent or cure many widespread diseases and debilitating conditions will allow forms of genetic manipulation that could endanger equality, social justice, human rights, and other core progressive values," Hayes writes.
Hayes outlines four scenarios in which predominant values of libertarianism and communitarianism on both the left and right help shape visions of a "post-human" future. The more clear-sighted that individuals and organizations today can be about those possible futures, the easier it will be to figure out what we are called to do now, writes Hayes.
"After the horrific experience of the 20th century with eugenics and genocide, could any country call for creation of a genetically 'superior' population without immediate and massive international censure? One would hope not. But for the past decade reputable scientists, bioethicists, and others have been actively promoting a revival of eugenic sensibilities and practices, and have received plaudits rather than protests from their peers and the press. In a world that is far from overcoming its propensity for racism, xenophobia, and warfare, this is more than worrisome," says Hayes.