Last updated on 04.06.2020
Knowledge with a grain of salt
Knowledge is not always absolute. Positions holding that the possibility of knowledge is limited either because of the limitations of the mind or because of the inaccessibility of its object are philosophical arguments of skepticism. Generally anyone doubting or in question of any putative knowledge or beliefs would be considered a skeptic (R. H. Popkin). Is this skepticisms healthy or extreme? B-russ believes that when experts are not agreed, that no opinion should be regarded as absolute certainty by any non-expert or even worse when experts all agree that that no positive position exists due to lack of sufficient grounds of evidence, it would be best if the ordinary person would benefit to hold all judgement. Yet you have ordinary people poisoning the well with miseducation by perpetuating a belief in which is not held on ground of evidence but instead one based on proving whatever it is they believe, even if that means ignoring all scientific experts, really anything that will conform their biases no matter how absurd. However, Bertrand Russell also held a strong position for middle ground and against taking up any extream position. He believes that there is also healthy skepticism. That you shouldn’t just take any whatever you are told without a grain of salt. A healthy skeptic however has a very different process from that of a full blown conspiracy theorist who ignores experts and things everything in history is an elaborate ruse plotting to fool him. The healthy skeptic test their hypothesis to get to a conclusion whereas the conspiracy skeptic starts at the conclusion and then seeks out to prove said conclusion with whatever information, no matter how in sufficient, to prove their conclusion. Bertrand Russell would advocate for a middle ground position that the average human would benefit from, revolutionizing human life. Taking these beliefs from Bertrand Russell and applying them to a very controversial topic such as human genetic modification might benefit those who take up these extreme positions to understand that it is not so clear cut and dry.
Imagine you’re alive back in the 1980’s and you were told that computers would soon take over everything regarding day to day life. That you would be connected to billions of people via the web. That you had the answer to just about any knows knowledge in a matter of milliseconds at the tips of your fingers.That you would be able to have a small device capable of existing in your pocket that would be incredibly more powerful than any supercomputer of that time. All of this would be observed and incomprehensible for the time, but then science fiction became a reality with the development of the smartphone in just a few decades. Similarly we are at the same point right now regarding genetic engineering. Humans have been unknowingly participating in genetic modifications for thousand of years. We have been selectively breeding plants and animals to strengthening desired traits. For example watermelons were not originally sweet, it also was mostly seeds on the inside. Similarly dogs have been bred to be more domesticated and in more recent times breed to a particular breed that amuse us. Even Though we have been doing genetic modification successfully we didn’t quite understand how it works, that is until now. With the discovery of DNA we have realized that we have discovered the “code for life” DNA is a sense the building blocks for what makes up all of life. The way that the “building blocks” are sequenced determines our being. encoded in the structure of the molecule is the information and instructions for exactly what makes us us. You change the building blocks you change the being carrying it. Recently we have designed an incredible technology called “CRISPR”. before Crispa the costs for editing and sequencing genes was just too costly and timely. But after the revolution of crispr gene editing costs have seen a reduction in 99% and basically anyone with a lab can now do it. Using crispa scientist can pinpoint dna and manipulate it. Cutting it out or even modify it in any way you wish. Crispr lets us study and target dna sequencing like never before and easier than ever before. Despite these being a first generation tool stents have been using this tool in incredible ways. Scientists have been researching into gene editing in humans and have found that using crispa we could manipulate our own dna make up meaning that we could potentially eliminate all sorts of diseases and defects. With this potential tool we could not only eliminate diseases but we could potentially modify ourselves to do unhuman like things(Sarah Ly). We could have super vision, or a brain as fast as a supercomputer. Why stop there why not give your future child a full head of hair and your ideal looks. With cripsa rapidly growing that might not be as far from reality as you might think.
There is major skepticism concerning the scary road we will go down regarding Genetic Engineering and how it could lead to a more ‘Friendly Eugenics’. That we will favor pre selected features and reject none perfect human beings disregarding what society deems less than desirable. For instance, society could come to the consensus that down syndrome and other severe learning disabilities have no place in our future, and our future generations of humans, all it does is leave a burden on society. That could easily be removed through gene editing (Knoepfler, Paul). Well if you talked to a person with Down Syndrome they would most likely disagree with you. That they are happy to be given the blessing of life and that they have a right to live.well the thing is this is already the world we are living in. it is standard practice for a pregnant woman in much of the world to test for dozens of genetic diseases or complications. Often the slightest suspicion or indication of a genetic defect can lead to the end of a pregnancy. “In Europe about 92% of all pregnancies where Down Syndrome is detected are then terminated.”(Knoepfler, Paul) The decision to terminate a pregnancy is without a doubt a incredibly personal but it is important to acknowledge reality that we are already pre selecting humans based on medical decisions. There is no use in pretending this will change so we have to act carefully and respectively when going forward.
It is understandable to be skeptical in this so called ‘Friendly Eugenics’ especially regarding traits beyond genetic diseases and defect. What about inherent traits that are overly valued due to society deeming some inherent traits over others. Traits such as skin color, eye color, and hair color. There already is clear prejudice and biases around race in our society. Society already perpetuates certain stereotypes regarding these inherent traits. Beliefs such as “Lighter skin is more beautiful then darker skin color” are in essence echoed through societies. Now what happens when the social majority shape public opinion and force minority through idealistic pressures into looking more like them or whatever society deems is the ideal “model”. Could society even lose a sense of individuality regarding one’s self identity through appearance. Perhaps everyone might just come to the same idea trends of what is the best look. Wouldn’t everyone want the best looking offspring or would they just want whatever society says is the ideal look. Well what happens when everyone is on the same bandwagon, will there still be that sense of individualism when everyone’s choosing the few best “model types”(Knoepfler, Paul).
Now let’s take a bad actor like hitler and could you imagine what it would’ve been like if he had access to this incredible technology. He Certainly would of used this technology to go about genetically engineering his ideal of his perfect race. Id imagine things would of been a lot easier for hitler if he was able to selectively edit the genes that he valued. I’m also pretty sure he would have his ideal pure race of all white, blond haired, blue eyed, “Super race”. And What if hitler’s original plan wasn’t through means of a holocaust like eugenics but rather this ‘Friendly Eugenics’ If hitler being the bad actor he is he would most certainly be able to get a lot further with his plans for a super race if he was pursuing genetic modifications behind closed doors in a possible secret lab, instead the route of horrible inhumane atrocities that prompted other countries into war. He would’ve most likely gotten somewhere with his plans, it’s even scarier to think of the possibility of genetic engineering in this regard because what is stopping bad actors like hitler from creating what they deem their “super race” or even worse a generation of genetically modified super soldiers.
These reasons alone will have people tempted in calling for a ban to genetic editing and research. That would certainly be a mistake. “Banning human genetic engineering would only lead to the science wandering off to places where jurisdiction and rules that were uncomfortable with.” (Knoepfler, Paul). we don’t want bad actors like hitler doing what they want behind closed doors. Only by participating we can make sure further research is guided by caution, reason, oversight, and transparency. Only then we can move forward in a productive way.