[wta-politics]More on AJOB - Glenn McGee is my new hero

Hughes, James wta-politics@transhumanism.org
Thu, 25 Sep 2003 10:37:35 -0400

The bioethicist wing of the Resistance to the Bush/Kass/bioLuddite occupation has come out in the open. 

In his essay introducing the collection of essays on creating human-animal transgenic creatures in the latest issue of the American Journal of Bioethics, the editor, Glen McGee, a philosopher at the University of Pennsylvania, directly addresses the ascendance of Leon Kass and "yuck factor" bioLuddism as a form of thinly veiled religious fundamentalism. McGee compares Kass to the assassin in "Leon the Professional" and notes:

"It is has become the era of Leon Kass, or more
specifically the era of one argument from one part of Kass'
1980s work on bioethics, brought back to scholarly life by
a call from President George W. Bush for Kass to return to
bioethics from the philosophy of food, which he had pursued
for almost a decade until called upon by The New Republic
to revise an old article as a response to the cloning of
Dolly the sheep. It was a call for Kass to become a Presidential
bioethics advisor, drawing in that role on the service
of a Council-one very much the opposite of the National
Bioethics Advisory Commission set up by President
Clinton. The Council would be, as was detailed by numerous
Washington insiders in print exposÚs of the Council,
in the service of putting a stop to embryonic stem cell research,
and if possible, putting a stop to a number of other
scientific and clinical projects objectionable to the farright
wing of the Republican party, and in particular, Southern Baptists."

Then McGee slam-dunks the central tenet of bioLuddism:

"But if we get past the "yuck"-as is suggested
by more than half the contributors to the collection-we
find that engineering of humans is not only ubiquitous
and a function of ordinary human life as well as high-technology
science, but also that the rules for avoiding "yuck"
are a mere matter of faith themselves in the articles of a
flimsy new kind of neoconservative natural law theory.
And perhaps we are better off yucky but complicated than
in the clean, well-lit spaces of the illusory safety of a "nature"
that doesn't really exist, or at least can't be operationalized
in science or policy."

McGee's editorial and the Robert-Baylis target article are available on-line at: http://bioethics.net/

I also highly recommend these responses (only available if you subscribe):
"What's Wrong with Confusion?" Hilary Bok, Johns Hopkins University

Who suggests "...we find chimeras
confusing because our views of the moral status of human
and nonhuman animals are not adequate as they stand, in
which case our confusion is not a reason not to create
them. And if, in general, those novel technologies that
confuse us do so because we do not understand our own
views well enough to apply them to new cases, then the
fact that some technology will cause confusion will rarely
be a convincing reason not to use it."

And then 

Linda MacDonald Glenn whose 
"A Legal Perspective on Humanity, Personhood, and Species Boundaries"  suggests that personhood, and personhood conferring-genes, are what should be of moral concern. 

And then 

Julian Savulescu's  "Human-Animal Transgenesis and Chimeras Might Be an Expression of Our Humanity" which points out the many benefits that can accrue from transgenic research and therapies. He argues that the only concern with radical genetic alteration of human beings is whether we enhance or degrade our capacity for "practical rationality."

A wonderful collection of essays, and a good sign that bioethics is getting serious about the future.   
James J. Hughes Ph.D.
Public Policy Studies
Trinity College
71 Vernon St., Hartford CT 06106