Interesting to see eugenics back in the news again, this time with Professor John Harris advocating that we warmly embrace its goals. In this News Night discussion he claims that eugenics is ok because we can do it from choice, while it was previously wrong because it came from co-ercion.
Its an interesting argument. The logic of personal choice, extended to parental choice seems hard to beat. Surely you should have the freedom to take important decisions without the state or other systems telling you what to do? Shouldn’t you?
The problem is that in eugenics nothing is neutral. While we may rightly strive to do everything in our power to make the lives of existing people better, and as such seek the basic eugenic goal of improving the human condition, eugencis soon goes down its historic route of sparing future generation of those who ought not to be born.
Prof Harris was quick to defend the idea of embryo selection as a means of weeding out those who may have poor lives, but was rapidly tackled by other people in the studio who point out that there is lots more to a happy life than just functional capability. Family structures, friendships, need and interdependence are the characteristics that build strong societies, not regiments of perfect people.
The aim is also likely to lead to dissapointment. You can have a perfectly delivered baby who gets knocked down on the way to school and spends the rest of her life in a wheelchair. In a society that only values perfection, she has little role to play.
So do I want to be imperfect? Certainly no. Do I wish people to be as good as they can be? Certainly yes. The challenge though, as one of the panel put it is to attempt to build societies that care for all, rather than attempting to build a popultion of perfect people. Do we want to add capability to our people and our places, or delete the ones who don’t seem to fit?