Science Makes Babes of Us All
The wonders that modern science is promising in the very near future (really, so near we can touch it, honest) seem so bright that they impart such sparkling innocence that even constitutional pessimists fail to see obvious dark sides. One such, John Derbyshire, writes:
If you don’t like eugenics, you are not going to like the 21st century. “Eugenics” became a scare-word because of ***STATE-SPONSORED*** eugenics programs, which were indeed a horrible idea—especially in the 1920s, when promoters of eugenics had very little idea what (as a matter of technical biology, I mean) they were talking about. State-organized anything is pretty dubious. We’re conservatives; we know that.
Private, commercial eugenics is here, though. It already has a foot in the door, & pretty soon it’ll be sprawled on your living-room couch. My children (probably) and my grandchildren (certainly) will practice eugenics. Why would they not? The desire to have smart, healthy, good-looking offspring is wellnigh universal. If parents can get assurance of such an outcome for a few thousand bucks, why should they not purchase that assurance? In a free country, how will you stop them? And why would conservatives or libertarians want to stop them? “Eugenics” has become such a scare-word that we’ll probably have to re-name the process to avoid all the shrieking and skirt-clutching; but it will be eugenics just the same.
Just how long does Mr. Derbyshire believe we’ll be able to deny a state-sponsored “right to eugenics” for those who cannot afford a few thousand bucks? (Per child, remember. The picture is compounded by the tendency of such folks to have more children.) Surely even small-government conservatives (if I may indulge in a redundancy) would have reservations about allowing the free market to create a permanent underclass — one with fruits borne within a single short generation.
I’ve little doubt that Derb is correct that I’m not going to like the 21st century. It does not make for an auspicious beginning that high-profile conservatives have so abandoned the notion of a higher morality that they cannot believe otherwise than that “objections [to eugenics are] so abstract & theoretical [that] it would be hard to get anyone to care about them.” Gone, apparently, is the societal stigma against attempting to play God. We’re so advanced, nowadays, that we’re well beyond such ancient precautions. Really, we’ll get it right this time — when the stakes are such that we cannot afford to get it wrong. Honest.
Big, big oops: in the brackets of that last Derbyshire quotation, I at first used “euthanasia” rather than “eugenics.” That was some very substantial and stupid mistyping on my part, and I apologize for having made the error, not the least because it distracts from what I believe to be a strong point. I can only plea for your belief that simple intellectual honesty and a sincere interest in truth, rather than victory, keep me from playing deliberate games of that sort. I suppose the best I can do, after owning up to the mistake, is to take it as reminder that I have to be particularly careful now that I’ve gotten in the habit of finishing up my customary 12-hour workday before blogging.