Progressive Urged to Prepare for Post-Human Future
by Richard Hayes


Washington, D.C.-Decisions we make now about rapidly developing genetictechnologies could radically reshape human society and lead to radical libertarianism, quasi-religious patriarchy, or other undesirable cultural outcomes, according to the March/April issue of World Watch magazine. To avert these futures, sustainability-minded individuals and organizations must commit to bringing emerging genetic technologies under effective national and international oversight, Richard Hayes writes in "Our Biopolitical Future: Four Scenarios" (Register to download at:

"The ability to manipulate human nature...destabilizes both the biological and the social foundations of the human world," Hayes observes, describing the potential impacts of human genetic alteration on core progressive values. New frameworks are needed for progressives to envision a world in which abortion rights and medical research are protected, while applications of genetic science that open the door to profoundly undesirable outcomes are prohibited.

In recent years, developments concerning new human genetic technologies
have been interpreted in many countries largely through the familiar
frameworks of abortion politics and the culture wars. While religious conservatives were among the most vocal early opponents of human cloning, stem cell research, and related procedures, many liberals and progressives reflexively assumed that the enlightened position was to embrace these technologies.

"While understandable, this is nonetheless simplistic and misleading.
The same genetic technologies that might be used to prevent or cure many
widespread diseases and debilitating conditions will allow forms of genetic manipulation that could endanger equality, social justice, human rights, and other core progressive values," Hayes writes.

Hayes outlines four scenarios in which predominant values of libertarianism and communitarianism on both the left and right help shape visions of a "post-human" future. The more clear-sighted that individuals and organizations today can be about those possible futures, the easier it will be to figure out what we are called to do now, writes Hayes.

"After the horrific experience of the 20th century with eugenics and genocide, could any country call for creation of a genetically 'superior' population without immediate and massive international censure? One would hope not. But for the past decade reputable scientists, bioethicists, and others have been actively promoting a revival of eugenic sensibilities and practices, and have received
plaudits rather than protests from their peers and the press. In a world that is far from overcoming its propensity for racism, xenophobia, and warfare, this is more than worrisome," says Hayes.