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: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4906).
"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
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
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