I realized yesterday evening that there might be a nice connection between two recent posts, the first on exploitation and the second on eugenics. These words have some notable characteristics in common.
Eugenics and exploitation are both frequently invoked in discussions of ART. They are also both heavily freighted with meaning, much of it accrued over time. And they are to some degree conversation stoppers: It’s hard, if not impossible, to be in favor of eugenics or exploitation.
This leads me to wonder if the words are useful in meaningful conversation about what sorts of ART should be permitted. (I think I should distinguish meaningful conversation from public political debate. In the latter deployment of persuasive rhetoric is undoubtedly valuable.) It seems to me essential that conversations, if they are to be meaningful, must focus on the acceptability of the underlying conduct rather than on incendiary terminology.
If there as agreement about the acceptability (or unacceptability) of particular conduct, then it can more readily be categorized as exploitation or not, eugenics or not. But starting with the label doesn’t really advance anything. Instead, I think it just ups the ante and makes communication more difficult. That’s what leads me to wonder if the words get in the way.
I don’t mean to suggest that I don’t think there’s exploitation out there. Clearly there is–and here is an example of something I think we probably all agree qualifies.
It is because this is a fairly extreme case that I feel reasonably comfortable saying that we’ll agree it’s exploitation. It’s at one end of a spectrum. But as you move down the spectrum to something more like middle-ground cases, I think there’s probably much we disagree on, and I’m not sure one person calling it exploitation advances our understanding.