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Genetically engineering ethical humans…

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File:DNA simple.svg … as the only way to save the species? From Bryan Walsh at Medium:

“Our morality and our moral dispositions evolved to stop us from killing ourselves within our small group and to make sure that we cooperated with our small group,” says Savulescu, the Uehiro Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. “But they didn’t evolve to provide benefits to strangers or to deal with large numbers of individuals at risk. All those features mean we’re particularly badly placed to deal with large statistical threats like the use of biological weapons or global collective action problems like climate change.”

Essentially Savulescu believes that we “lack the moral capacities to deal with the sort of world we’ve created for ourselves.” Fortunately, he has a solution.

As Savulescu sees it, the same cutting-edge biotechnology that poses an existential risk could one day be used to engineer more ethical and more moral human beings. As we learn to identify the genes associated with altruism and a sense of justice, we could turn them up in the next generation, creating children who would innately possess the wisdom not to use that terrifying bioweapon, who would see the prudence in curbing their present-day consumption to ensure that future generations have a future. (They also might be more apt to do their chores.) The options for self-destruction would still exist, but our morally bioenhanced offspring would be too good to choose them. “We have to decide what kind of people we want,” Savulescu says. “It’s not something we’ve begun to embrace because we have this sort of liberal neutrality, this relativism about morality that says, ‘Wow, we can’t really decide which moralities are better than the others.”More.

Needless to say, it if were “in the genes,” it wouldn’t be ethics. There seems a natural tendency for people who want to save the whole world to also want absolute control. We’ve been here before—Nietzsche’s Superman and all that.

But then some think the only solution is to do us all in.

But maybe… Jeff Bezos: We must colonize the Moon in order to survive

Oh but no! The ethics of colonizing other planets. Some think it’s wrong.

See also: Voluntary human extinction movement?

4 Replies to “Genetically engineering ethical humans…

  1. 1
    AaronS1978 says:

    I am new here, So this will be my first comment son away I’m starting to feel stage fright I will say though I really do like this site and I’ve been reading it for quite some time and I thank everybody for their contributions and knowledge

    But if ethics and morality was actually genetically encoded in someway would we not have been able to have bread that type of morality long ago?

    It also seems odd that he says we are not genetically capable of being moral and ethical to larger groups but we are genetically capable of genetically manipulating those very genes so we could become more capable of being moral and ethical in larger group situations.

    Isn’t that a combination of both being hypocritical and putting the cart before the horse?

    And lastly I believe it’s geneticists that stress there is no real specific gene for this or that, genes influence and can lead to certain behaviors but there are too many things that contribute to the behavior in a hole from environment, epigenetics, and our own choices. Me thinks this person is not a geneticist.

  2. 2
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Aaron, welcome to UD! I’m a frequent reader and sometime commenter, and I’m glad you took the time and effort to add to our discussion here.

    My own view is what I hope is the biblical view, that human nature is universally fallen, corrupted with sin. And iniquity (another biblical word for sin) is what the Bible calls a “mystery,” meaning something that is utterly beyond human comprehension without the direct revelation of God. It’s a singularity, a black hole if you will, and only Jesus has been to the bottom it. And he returned to tell us about it, and how to be rescued from its accelerating moral gravity well.

    One of the best Bible statements on this is in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 17, verse 9:

    The heart is deceitful more than anything, and desperately wicked:
    Who can fathom it?

    Foolish men like this fellow will only create monsters that will devour him and you and me.

  3. 3
    Fasteddious says:

    Another utopian dream. Dean is correct that humans are fallen and unless that is understood, any utopia is bound to fail. Even if there were genetic keys to morality (whose morality would that be?) and science could identify them and how they work, then for every attempt to “improve” them, there would be some wealthy agency wanting to adjust them another way. Perhaps the mafia or ISIS would like to create people without a conscience, for example?

  4. 4
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Fasteddius @ 3,

    Great user name!

    Also, I’ve long wondered if the great sin of Genesis 6 involved the genetic corruption of the human race, and that is what made the flood of Noah a Strategic Defense Initiative for the human race and God’s plan of redemption. Apparently someone figured it out again after the flood, judging from the accounts of the giants in Canaan in the time of Moses and Joshua.

    I pray that God will intervene before some servant of Satan makes a human-animal hybrid, even if that means the end of history. I am grateful for the built-in genetic failsafes that have, as far as we know, kept such a human hybrid product from maturing.

    But your suggestion, nay observation, that someone would certainly use knowledge of a moral gene to make immoral humans is all that we need to confirmnthr fallenness of man. Hitler almost succeeded in that, without today’s knowledge of genetics.

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