Friday, 21 November 2008

Barbarous acts promoted through The Times again

A rather disturbing eugenicist article by Matthew Syed appeared in yesterday's Times newspaper. (I have blogged before about the radically anti-life agenda which The Times has been pursuing recently.) Mr Syed said, among other things, that:
  • "the belief that humanity is the ultimate expression of moral worth" is absurd;
  • "anthropocentric reasons" are not "moral reasons";
  • while "animals and humans are importantly different" (Mr Syed doesn't explain how) we humans have a "preposterously overblown sense of species pride";
  • "blurring the distinction between humans and animals [is] a positive blessing";
  • "the human genome is [not] ethically special" and that "humans are precious ... because of our capacities, not our genes".
Mr Syed's motivation for his assault on the sanctity of human is clear from some of this other comments, that:
  • through human genetic engineering "[i]t may be possible to enhance capacities such as perception, intelligence, even lifespan", and hopefully "of enjoying life free from disease";
  • genetic engineering of human beings is no morally different to natural means of improving children's exam results;
  • "we can have no principled objection to even radical genetic modifications providing that they improve lives or reduce suffering";
  • there is no moral difference between creating human-animal hybrids and transplanting animal organs into humans.
On that last point, Mr Syed has confused the adding to a whole human being of a small amount of tissue containing animal genes - an action which doesn't change the recipient's totally human genetic identity - with the creation of a new being of a genetic identity which is dubious (more or less depending on the extent of the human-animal mixing).

More generally, Mr Syed should be told that the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created three years after the second world war because "disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind" (preamble). And which barbarous acts did the declaration's authors particularly have in mind? The ones which had only just ended, those perpetrated by Nazism. Those barbarous acts included medical experiments (pictured) aimed at enhancing human capacities, in which certain groups of human beings were treated worse than animals. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler argued that it is essential for human progress that some humans be treated worse than animals:

"[F]or the formation of higher cultures the existence of lower human types was one of the most essential preconditions, since they alone were able to compensate for the lack of technical aids without which a higher development is not conceivable. It is certain that the first culture of humanity was based less on the tamed animal than on the use of lower human beings ... Only pacifistic fools can regard this as a sign of human depravity."

In debates about euthanasia and assisted suicide, it is sometimes argued that it should be allowed for suffering humans to be put down, just as it is allowed for suffering animals to be put down. (I have blogged before about the danger to humans of equating humans and animals.) It is interesting to note that:
  • the German euthanasia programme, in which those deemed to lack adequate physical or mental capacities were put down, was started by eugenicists before the Nazis came to power;
  • the Nazi regime actively promoted assisted suicide e.g. through a propaganda fiction film centered on the woman with multiple sclerosis (like Debbie Purdy and her husband);
  • Hitler himself issued the first order for a so-called mercy killing on request (a father had petitioned for his disabled son to be killed);
  • the use of gas in Auschwitz was a direct import and extension of the euthanasia programme (the gassings were described as "medical matters" in one war-crimes trial).
In conclusion, if we are going to uphold human rights and avoid more repetitions of the barbarous acts of the last century, we must must everywhere condemn the transhumanism of Mr Syed and his eugenicist ilk.