Saturday, March 19, 2005

Inconveniences in the "state of nature":

No I wasn't joking when I wrote this, but I'm surprised at the reaction.

Personally, I think one of the great inventions of Western society is the science that allows us to transcend nature. Up until recently virtually every couple knew what it was like to lose a child shortly after childbirth; now that's the exception, not the rule.

Isn't getting a bug, a germ and dying part of the natural process?

From talking to many women, childbirth itself is not too fun an experience; but it's simply part of reality. So if you want kids, you deal with it.

I look forward to the day when babies are born in artificial wombs because that's going to save the women of this world so much pain.

Social conservative Marty McKeever responded: "Please tell me you're joking." Then a socially liberal commenter concurred with Marty.

The first analogy that comes to mind is breast-feeding. Baby formula -- a scientific invention -- allows many women to escape what they would otherwise regard as a major inconvenience.

But there is a pretty big distinction between breast-feeding and child-birth: Child-birth is a much, much greater inconvenience.

Another commenter wrote:

What has changed is the power and efficiency with which we can manipulate nature. Which carries with it a correspondingly important responsibility to make prudent choices about which technologies to pursue, and how to use them once we have them (see, nuclear weapons). Your flippant attitude that effectively says, "hey, if we can do it, let's try it!" is the height of irresponsibility.

Yes we should try it. *Try* being the operative word. No one is preventing women from breast-feeding; nor should they. There could be major advantages for parents to grow their babies in artificial wombs. We wouldn't allow for it unless we knew the process to be safe. And in all likelihood, science will bring us to a point where artificial wombs are much safer for both the mother and the baby than natural childbirth.

And no one should force those parents who want to do it the "natural" way to use artificial wombs. Although one day, natural childbirth might be regarded as a much riskier thing to do. Women are still dying from complications in childbirth you know.

Of course there are consequences for human nature of which we should be aware.* But the Leon Kass-Francis Fukuyama, "just say no" attitude prevents us from fully realizing the benefits of technological progress.

I think Russell Kirk so perfectly exemplified this point of view that he was almost a parody of it. Wes McDonald, Kirk's biographer, stated that the three modern inventions that Kirk thought had the most pernicious effect on human society were 1) the automobile, 2) the telephone, and 3) the computer.

Kirk didn't even own a refrigerator for God's sake. The man literally wanted us to live as they did on Little House on the Prairie. Or maybe even that era was too technologically advanced for Kirk.

*To bring back a point Fukuyama makes; one of the effects on human nature from artificial childbirth may be a great reduction, perhaps the elimination of the homosexual orientation. Fukuyama and John Derbyshire, although not speaking in the context of artificial wombs, have noted that if homosexuality has biological origins and one day we figure out such biology, we will likewise be able to "cure" it by altering our human physiology. And if people are truly "born gay," then this cure will likely be given before the gay fetus is born. Fukuyama, it should be noted, unlike Derbyshire laments this possibility.

Some pretty credible science speculates that male homosexuality is caused (or a genetic predisposition is triggered) by a hormone imbalance, in-utero. All fetuses are default female. And an XY fetus is literally turned into a male or "masculinized" by being bombarded with hormones, in-utero. And this process is very delicate and hence prone to biological error. Homosexuality may be caused by such an error. If we grow babies in artificial wombs, science will certainly make sure that this hormonal process will occur without such "glitches" that are more likely to occur naturally.


Marty said...

kewl! Comments! ;)

John Howard said...

>And this process is very delicate and hence prone to biological error. Homosexuality may be caused by such an error.

Uh-oh, Jon, I think the StopDrLaura people are designing as we speak...

John Howard said...

>If we grow babies in artificial wombs, science will certainly make sure that this hormonal process will occur without such "glitches" that are more likely to occur naturally.

Of course, this was discovered to be a problem in Brave New World, so they had to introduce errors into the batches of fetuses so that a properly diverse society could be maintained.

Jonathan said...

Re: Biological Error.

I chose my language carefully. Notice how I said that homosexuality may be "caused" by a biological error. Not that homosexuality WAS the biological error.

Re: Brave New World. Did that really happen in the book? I never read it. I suppose I should one day.

It's interesting that that book, along with many others probably raised issues that continued on into scientific and ethical debates and subsequently appeared in many later works of science fiction.

One (comic) book series that I did read was John Byrne's "The World of Krypton" where Byrne details the history of Krypton before it exploded.

Because he is a science fiction buff, he "borrows" much from other sources as he shows Krypton, which probably looks something like a Brave New World.

They had their own "clone" wars, where using clones as spare parts created their own ethical problems. Eventually science progressed to the point where Krypton didn't need to clone to solve health problems.

And people didn't die on Krypton, except in freak, rare, unexpected circumstances. Because they didn't die, population had to be controlled by forbidding births. Only every once in a blue moon could a new Kryptionian be born and when they were, it was in artificial wombs of course.

And Kal El was one of the last, if not the last Kryptonian to be born.

Amazing that I read the 4-part series only once and that was 17 years ago when I was 14 and I still remember all that.