By : Jim Pinto,
By : Jim Pinto,
It is clear that genetic selection, in addition to reducing the propensity for disease through elimination of undesirable genes, will also improve physical characteristics and intelligence. Soon, choosing the physical and mental characteristics of a child through cloning and genetic selection will be vastly preferable to the present day biological lottery.
San Diego Mensan magazine, August 2002
In the 1930s, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World forecast a society based on clones, with a population optimized for productivity and happiness - humans bred for work, skills, administration, leadership, etc. In this century, that prospect looms.
The prospect of cloning and genetic selection has been widely condemned by clerics, ethicists, sociologists and politicians as unethical and socially dangerous. Ethicists denounce it as a denial of a unique genetic identity. Social critics warn that cloning would simply permit the rich to indulge in reproductive egomania, or entrepreneurs to mass-produce superior athletes; but that's not realistically a deterrent - indeed it may be a striking competitive advantage which opportunists would welcome.
Laws banning human cloning and human genetic manipulation have been enacted in 24 countries, including France, Germany, UK India, Japan, South Africa and Brazil. This simply allows other countries, like China, to take the lead for competitive advantage.
Let’s recognize, without naiveté, that there are countless bioengineers racing to see who will be first to clone a human being and demonstrate effective genetic manipulation. When this technology is perfected (perhaps in a hundred years, perhaps sooner) few humans will still choose the painful process of biological birth.
It is interesting that human DNA is 98.6% the same gorillas and 97.8% the same as orangutans, our original biological roots. Evolution took millions of years to progress to the development of primates and then Homo sapiens. Neanderthal man and other extinct species were eliminated on the basis of genetic disadvantages. After Homo sapiens, human biological evolution produced almost no detectable changes. Over the past ten thousand years, human physical characteristics and intrinsic intelligence changed very little. Ancient athletes could have competed admirably in present day Olympics; Socrates would probably have scored at genius level on the Stanford-Binet intelligence test.
During the course of history, humans achieved dominance over one another first through brawn and then brain (communication, organization, intelligence). Leaders were chosen based initially on physical prowess, and then intelligence to remain in control. Power passed by hereditary lineage, with the assumption that offspring would have the same ‘royal’ characteristics, cultivated additionally through education and upbringing. This often proved to be tragically wrong and inferior heirs were usually displaced by a competitive combination of brawn and brain.
In the next few thousand years, competitive advantage was gained by brainpower - science and technology. History makes it evident that man-with-tool inevitably survived and conquered man-without. Superior discipline, plus the technology of war, built the Roman Empire. Even spiritually advanced humans (India a few centuries ago, Aztecs and American Indians within the last two) were quickly subjugated by competitive technological prowess.
In just the past few decades DNA was discovered; and then sequencing of the human genome bought a new level of knowledge of our biological makeup. As we begin to understand the subtle yet significant DNA differences and achieve the ability to manipulate gene sequences, the consequences will be awesome.
Technology has already enhanced natural biological processes through the virtual elimination of disease and significant increase in human longevity. While intrinsic intelligence has not really changed, knowledge has increased steadily, to the point where human intelligence augmentation is significant and increasing fast.
It is clear that genetic selection and manipulation, in addition to reducing the propensity for disease through elimination of undesirable genes, will also improve physical characteristics and intelligence. Soon, choosing the physical and mental characteristics of a child through cloning and genetic selection will be vastly preferable to the current painful process of biological lottery.
The demand for cloning is already evident. Calls have come from gays, infertile couples, and couples that have a known propensity for inherited diseases, who wish to have genetically related children. There are many people who would like to clone lost children or loved ones. The recent news headlines include a story about the family of the late baseball great Ted Williams, squabbling about preservation of his body for future cloning. It is abundantly clear that, if cloning and genetic manipulation is made safe and reliable, there is virtually no moral, ethical, social or legal obstacle that can impede progress. .
We need to stop focusing on the warnings of myopic moralists and outdated ethicists. Let’s do some creative thinking about where human cloning and genetic selection will really lead.
If there is danger in human cloning and genetic manipulation, it is that they introduce potential for either peaceful or violent changes in society. Here are some possibilities to consider:
It has been said that democracy is ineffective and dictatorship is the best form of government - if one could be assured of a succession of benevolent dictators. Cloning could clearly be used to perpetuate a genetically stable lineage for a great leader, with genetic manipulation to eliminate undesirable character traits. Even the mere belief in a controlled genetic influence on behavior will surely encourage many of those who are in power to try human cloning. Cloning and genetic manipulation could produce a new “queen bee” for every generation.
Harkening back to Huxley’s Brave New World: When cloning and genetic manipulation becomes possible (notice the When, not If) any government could develop production of soldier-clones (vastly better than volunteers or involuntary conscription) and the resulting “defense” forces would provide undeniable competitive advantage.
To end on a comic, yet current, note - perhaps too, technology will provide improvements in the selection process for business leaders without the genetic traits of selfishness and greed. This would certainly seem preferable to the current competitive, yet chaotic and ineffective, selection process for a CEO.
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