Ronald Bailey on Political Philosophy, Transhumanism

An article of general interest to transhumanists and healthy life extension advocates is to be found at Reason Online. Ronald Bailey takes on the "democratic socialist" arm of transhumanist thought:

Technologies dealing with the birth, death and the meaning of life need protection from meddling - even democratic meddling - by others who want to control them as a way to force their visions of right and wrong on the rest of us. Your fellow citizens shouldn't get to vote on whom you have sex with, what recreational drugs you ingest, what you read and watch on TV and so forth. Hughes understands that democratic authoritarianism is possible, but discounts the possibility that the majority may well vote to ban the technologies that promise a better world.

However, even as he extols social democracy as the best guarantor of our future biotechnological liberty, Hughes ignores that it is precisely those social democracies he praises, Germany, France, Sweden, and Britain, which now, not in the future, outlaw germinal choice, genetic modification, reproductive and therapeutic cloning, and stem cell research. For example, Germany, Austria and Norway ban the creation of human embryonic stem cell lines. Britain outlaws various types of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to enable parents to choose among embryos.


Furthermore, Hughes's analysis is largely free of economics - he simply ignores the processes by which wealth is created and gets busy redistributing the wealth through government health care and government subsidized eugenics. After reading Citizen Cyborg, you might come away thinking that Hughes believes that corporations exist primarily to oppress people.

Healthy life extension research - in effect, the right to live - is currently suffering from socialist ideals, just like all other branches of medical research. Socialism itself brings inefficiency, oppression, poverty and lack of freedom, slowing and blocking research that will lead to longer, healthier lives.


I do not believe in the "democratic socialism" stuff at all. However, I would think twice before attacking James Hughes. He is doing a good service of promoting transhumanism in melieus that might otherwise not be very receptive to it. This can only be good.

The reality is that there are still people out there who are quasi-left as well as conservative christians. Promoting transhumanist agenda to these people in a manner that they can identify with it is certainly a useful thing to do.

Also keep in mind that James Hughes is Canadian and that he is mainly promoting life extension and tranhumanism in places like Canada and Europe, where most people are of a socialistic bent to begin with.

In this, he is quite useful.

Posted by: Kurt at May 12th, 2005 10:14 AM

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