Saturday, October 10, 2015

Unleash the Monsters

What happens when you turn scientists loose to solve the problems of humanity in a moral vacuum? You get New York University ‘bioethicist’ Professor Matthew Liao.

Don’t take my word for it:

What strikes me is how perfectly reasonable a monster may appear when you don’t think too closely about what it’s actually suggesting.

Shrinking Humanity

Liao genially proposes re-engineering humanity to combat climate change.

Smaller people have smaller carbon footprints, Liao says. So why not make people smaller? Sure, you’d have to do a whole lot of in vitro fertilization to pull it off, but all it really requires is a lab and someone with the expertise to select for the appropriate genetic material.

And, hey, why stop in the womb when science gives you a whole buffet of available options to meddle with? Small children, Liao tells us, could be given hormone treatments to “close the growth plates” and stunt their growth. Even better, scientists could genetically induce allergies to meat in humans to reduce the need for livestock.

The sheer hubris is off the charts. But since anything now goes, apparently, why not introduce hormones like oxytocin and seratonin, and decrease testosterone in order to maximize empathy?

That would sure eliminate those pesky climate change deniers.

The Ethical vs. the Possible

The only question Liao appears to be concerned with is what is possible, not what is ethical, moral, right or advisable.

Apparently the climate change bogeyman is so horrific that even the thought of him justifies any sort of scientific atrocity. But this is what you get when you suspend value judgments. You get Matthew Liao’s personal preferences: his fears for the future, his fetishization of science as savior, his amiable curiosity about the neat things technology could enable him to play with if given a chance.

Or, as someone once said:
“Those who stand outside all judgements of value cannot have any ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

And ... It’s Probably All Moot Anyway

Meanwhile, with the sort of ironic timing you couldn’t plan if you tried, Australian electrical engineer Dr. David Evans announces that the climate model that underpins all climate science is incorrect.

“The model architecture was wrong,” says Evans. “Carbon dioxide causes only minor warming. The climate is largely driven by factors outside our control.”

The Perth Sunday Times reports:
“If Dr Evans is correct, then he has proven the theory on carbon dioxide wrong and blown a hole in climate alarmism. He will have explained why the doomsday predictions of climate scientists aren’t reflected in the actual temperatures.”

Power and Benevolence

Of course, the chances of getting inquisitive folks like Matthew Liao to stand down are not great when they are already gleefully fiddling with the lid of Pandora’s Box. Evans admits that given the generally accepted myth that CO2 emissions are the primary cause of global warming, persuading climate change proponents to rethink their position will not be an easy sell. “The political obstacles are massive”, he says.

Hopefully not as massive as he thinks.

Let’s let Lewis have the last word:
“I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man


  1. “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you've had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb."

    ― Robert Oppenheimer

  2. This is what sociologists call “instrumental mentality”, the belief that things have their value only as they serve to advance some function. That “function” itself goes unjudged. Nobody asks, “Is this right?” only “Is this effective?”

    It’s a disease of the modern mind.

    Another interesting word is “adiaphorization”, which means “the belief that something is ‘neither here nor there’ in regard to morality, but is just a neutral option”. Adiaphorization describes our common attitude to technology: we think it’s just a neutral thing, without its own moral standing or consequences, and the moral dimension only comes into how we USE it, not into what it actually is.