Saturday, June 06, 2015

An ethicist's nightmare

There are ethical problems with some research. Let's take, for example, selective breeding of human beings. The issues surrounding racism are made a lot easier by the fact that there is really no such thing as a superior race. But, if we started breeding superior human beings, then there would be a superior race in reality. Then what would our duties of the superior race be to the inferior race? That would be an ethicist's nightmare. 

But a certain famous scientist keeps playing around with the idea. 

31 comments:

Heuristics said...

Define 'superior'

B. Prokop said...

Reminds me of a science fiction novel I read many years ago (I forget the title, but the author was Jack Vance), in which immortality had been medically achieved, but the procedure for obtaining it was so costly that only the very richest could afford to become immortal (as well as those deemed "worthy" of being made so). The world rapidly became divided between the (basically proletarian) mortals and the (elitist, ruling class) immortals - with predictably awful consequences.

The actual appearance of a Master Race amongst us would be an unmitigated catastrophe. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the attempt will soon be made (probably within a generation or two). At least I won't live to see it, though I weep for my great grandchildren.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Ilíon said...

VD: "The issues surrounding racism are made a lot easier by the fact that there is really no such thing as a superior race."

Oh, silly! There are any number of "superior race(s)" ... it all depends upon the metrics one is using to define or delineate "superior".

Ilíon said...

oops, sorry about that 'VD' above

VR: "Then what would our duties of the superior race be to the inferior race? That would be an ethicist's nightmare."

It would be "an ethicist's nightmare" nightmare because "ethics" is about coming up with rationales to "explain" how it is that immoral behavior is really moral, after all.

Races don't have moral duties to races. Individuals have moral duties to individuals, and those don't change just because one's race is superior according to this metric, rather than that.

B. Prokop said...

What are your metrics, Ilion, that would indicate the existence of a "superior" race in the Real World today? I don't know of any.

Superior cultures, yes. But races? Can't see it.

Ilíon said...

Do you (singular and plural) practice at this? Is there some special class one takes to learn to un-read what another has written so clearly?

Do you remember the last time you beat your wife, B.Prokop?

B. Prokop said...

It would have been sometime before she died, literally in my arms, with our daughters weeping at the foot of her bed, from pancreatic cancer some 6 years ago. Care to apologize for that remark, Ilion?

Dan Gillson said...

Bob,

Your wife may have been a poor topic for Ilíon's question, but I think the point he was trying to make was that your question about what metrics he would use to determine which race is superior is leading, and it misses his point. I wouldn't take it personally.

Crude said...

Then what would our duties of the superior race be to the inferior race? That would be an ethicist's nightmare.

Oh, as if ethicists aren't entirely willing to recommend the abominable if the abominable is popular.

B. Prokop said...

"I wouldn't take it personally."

I did, and he needs to apologize - abjectly, and now.

Ilíon said...

No, fool, you apologize for your dishonesty.

B. Prokop said...

Where was I dishonest? You wrote There are any number of "superior race(s)" ... it all depends upon the metrics one is using to define or delineate "superior". So, since you brought up metrics and implied there was a choice between metrics, I was curious as to which ones you were using. Height? Weight? Skin and/or hair color? Shape of one's eyelids? Size of one's nose?

Crude said...

Size of one's nose?

Requesting to know which race has the biggest noses, please. And which is the least intelligent.

Let's make this topic more awkward, quickly!

B. Prokop said...

To quote Elaine in Seinfeld: "Should we be talking about this?"

Crude said...

To quote Elaine in Seinfeld: "Should we be talking about this?"

Joking aside? Yes, we should.

Because there's a thing about evolution and equality: you can't have both.

Ilíon said...

Leftists gotta lefticate

B. Prokop said...

Dang! I tried to be nice to you, Ilion, but look what it got me. Now I'm gonna have to just go back to calling you out on your support for Hell's Own Governing Constitution - something you never did repudiate.

By the way, it was (and remains) an honest question. No "gotcha" intended. If, as you say, there are metrics by which one race can be deemed "superior" to another, what are they? I genuinely wish to know.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Crude said...

Bob,

If, on average, a member of race X is 5 inches taller than race Y, is there an answer to the question 'Which race's members are, on average, taller between X and Y?'

B. Prokop said...

Hey, I'm not the one who said there were metrics by which one could rate the races as being superior (or, by extension, inferior) to each other. You should be directing this question to Ilion.

But in answer to your (presumably leading, but at this point I can't figure out where to) question: yes.

Dan Gillson said...

Some things never change.

Ilíon said...

^ Awww, you figured out my "experiment"?

B. Prokop said...

I haven't. What was it?

John Doe said...

Ilion, your complete lack of compassion is truly disgusting. You could have easily apologized, and replaced your example of a loaded question with a different but equally effective example, one which wouldn't dig deep at a fellow poster's personal tragedy. But you did not. You felt it more important to win debate points. Why anyone puts up with you is beyond me.

B. Prokop, I am sorry for your loss.

William said...

Humans have bred dogs to be the most phenotypically diverse of mammalian species. But is there a dog breed superior to all others? I doubt it. Maybe your own dog is the best breed?

So it might become with people-- if we could freely choose traits, there would be diversity still, and your son might be the best type of man for you, I suppose. And we would still have the same moral choices with our parents and grandparents as we do now.

B. Prokop said...

Having had two dogs myself (shepherd/husky mix and pointer/lab mix), and having been around countless others, I can say with confidence that mutts make the best dogs. The purebreds are all pain in the necks.

But all in all, I prefer cats.

Edward T. Babinski said...

How about animals with more human-like consciousness?

Stem cells from a human brain were injected into the brain of an embryonic rat and were not rejected but seemed to be functioning fine there. What if the rats brain stem cells were removed en masse and replaced early on with human brain stem cells?

Edward T. Babinski said...

How about enhancing human intelligence with direct input from computers? We are already doing that via the slow interface of computers and cell phones.

William said...

Ed,

Buitin tools in people? Just make sure that the person is whole (as a human) when they fail.

Animals like rats with partially human cognitive parts? How would you like to be a retarded midget that lacks opposable thumbs and from which a large percentage of ordinary humans instinctively cringe? No thanks.

DougJC said...

Victor,

"The issues surrounding racism are made a lot easier by the fact that there is really no such thing as a superior race. But, if we started breeding superior human beings, then there would be a superior race in reality"

Under naturalism, the idea of "superior" associated with "high IQ" is quite problematic when we consider that intelligent computating will likely be passing human intelligence capacity in just a handful of decades. Will we, then, quietly submit to our silicon overlords?

My view is that naturalism must use consciousness as the sole measure of value and worth of a being. This raises ethical questions about animal treatment obviously. It raises ethical questions about exploring consciousness models in computing. It also raises questions about consciousness itself whether there are degrees of consciousness, and if so whether the "intensity" of consciousness should be proportional to the assigned value of a being. I don't have the answers.

Victor Reppert said...

So, would you say that we have no ethical obligations to zombies, since they lack consciousness?

DougJC said...

Victor,

"So, would you say that we have no ethical obligations to zombies, since they lack consciousness?"

Assuming zombies can exist, yes, I would say we have no ethical obligation to them. But I'm more of the view that the philosophical zombie is impossible (meaning that we will eventually be able to derive a computational/mathematical model of self-awareness that, if present in any thing, is taken as proof of consciousness; if absent, is taken as proof of absence of consciousness).