Wednesday, March 4, 2009

8 ’Adhar 5769: Learn What Your Name Means Day

Greetings.

Relevant to Divine Misconceptions:
  1. Some people in the US military do not seem to get this whole “freedom of religion” business: “Questions Raised Anew About Religion in Military”.
  2. “Fertility Doctor Will Let Parents Build Their Own Baby”, “Fertility clinic to offer custom-designed babies”, “"Designer Babies" Ethical?”, “Are Designer Babies Arriving?”, and “Make Way for Designer Babies”: Summary: Until now, it has been possible to choose embryos for a specific sex or not to have specific genetic diseases using preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Now Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg of Manhattan and Los Angeles is offering genetic screening for other traits as well, e.g., eye color. Whether he can deliver is one question, though even if he cannot, eventually someone will be able to. These articles betray a number of religio-philosophical errors in the debate on the subject:
    1. Asking whether anything is “ethical” is the wrong question. Ethics are artificial rules set up to avoid breaking moral and legal rules. Since ethical rules are only meant as a safeguard to avoid breaking other rules, they can be changed as necessary. The real question is whether it is moral to create designer babies. (The answer as to whether making designer babies is legal is “yes”.)
    2. Some make a “slippery slope” argument, i.e., they argue that even if there is nothing wrong with creating designer babies, permitting it will only cause horrible problems down the line. Frankly, this line of thought is downright paranoid. Nobody really knows in what direction this technology will develop, so to assume the results will be a disaster, e.g., a class of the “genetically perfect” versus everyone else, is unwarranted. (The whole notion of “perfect” in anything but a mathematical sense is itself flawed.) If we reject a technology for what people might do wrong with it, we also reject what people might do right with it. All those making this argument, no dessert for you tonight.
    3. Some argue that genetic engineering is “playing God” and therefore wrong. The problem with this is that humanity has been “playing God” ever since they began to domesticate animals and plants. Every domesticated species has been changed from its wild form through selective breeding; in some, such as dogs and maize, the modifications have made them almost unrecognizable. Even humans themselves are subject to selective breeding. Every time anyone chooses a mate with even the least interest in producing offspring, one is selecting what genes one’s offspring may have; after all, barring mutations, one’s offspring’s genes can only come from oneself and one’s mate. Thus if one wants strong children, one should marry someone strong. If one wants intelligent children, one should marry someone intelligent. If one wants creative children, one should marry someone creative. And so on. Granted, environment does play a major role in the results and which genes the children end up with are not guaranteed, but people can—and do—“design” their children even without resort to genetic engineering, and arguably they have been doing so (or those doing matchmaking for them have been doing so) for all of human history. I am not aware of anyone ever having attacked the traditional methods of sexual and artificial selection in human breeding (when participation is voluntary) as immoral. Given that genetic engineering is only a shortcut to the same results, why should it be considered any less moral? Granted, parents choosing a hair color for their children are being vain and foolish, but why should we condemn parents trying to make their children smarter and more talented, especially if they have the wisdom to know that genes alone are not enough and that the children will need intellectual stimulation and encouragement as well? May future generations of humanity be more gifted than ours! Those of you against “playing God”, stand in the corner until supper time, and no dessert for you either.

      NOTE: Your humble blogger so far has not been successful in getting married and producing offspring. If you happen to be or know someone who may be an appropriate match for Aaron, please let him know. He is seeking an intelligent and creative Orthodox Jewish woman with a compatible worldview. More information available upon request. Eccentrics welcome.
  3. More problems with freedom of religion: “Despite opposition, Afghan Christians worship in secret”, “Nigeria: Bauchi Riot Victims' Tales of Horror!”, and “UZBEKISTAN: 'You call white black and black white'”.
Today’s news and commentary:
Today’s weird thing is the MacOS iPhone Project. Everyone knows that the iPhone, as it comes out of the box, runs a version of Mac OS X. This project makes it run Mac OS 7. Enjoy and share the weirdness.

Aaron
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