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Saturday, 13 October 2007
On to Speciation

In the London Times, philosopher John Harris discusses his new book Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People. Basic argument: "Heck, we can do a better job of species evolution than sluggish old Ma Nature. Onward to speciation!" Something like that.

I'm wary. On biotech, I'm a tad to the restrictionist side of Ron Bailey's "let it happen!" libertarian approach (meaning, I'm less optimistic than Ron that governments will keep their grubby little hands off this stuff). However, there's a breezy utopianism about Harris, in this interview, that sets off all sorts of alarms.

Take the issue of speciation, for instance. OK, we've twiddled around with the human genome & now have two distinct species. What will be the nature of the relationship between the two species? Master-slave? Owner-pet? Morlock-Eloi? (I.e. diner-dinner.) If this is going to happen in my kids' lifetimes, I suppose that they, produced as they were in the plodding, messed-up old natural way, will be drawing the short straw here. I'd like to think there's something better than that in their future.

In any case, if we're talking on-the-fly genetic enhancement, I'd like to have my eyesight improved so I can read the nanoscale-sized print in the London Times online articles. I had to whang up the "View¦ Text Size" control in Firefox three notches to read this thing.

Posted on 10/13/2007 6:32 PM by John Derbyshire
23 Oct 2007
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In a way, we've already been doing species evolution (albeit haphazardly) through technology, just by our elimination of much of the selective pressures humans evolved under.  Technology, in the form of things like medicine, supermarkets and mass development of housing and agriculture) has already had huge effects on who can live and reproduce and who can't.  "Survial of the fittest" doesn't mean nearly what it used to.