Eugenics and Exploitation: Are These Words In The Way?

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.

5 responses to “Eugenics and Exploitation: Are These Words In The Way?

  1. Why should any kind of ART be allowed? It’s unethical to intentionally create people, and it’s just a fact that it’s exploitative and eugenic, no matter how it is done.

    • I don’t think you really mean it is unethical to intentionally create people, do you? I mean, that happens with some frequency when people actually plan to have children and I cannot think what is wrong with that. I suspect you mean to distinguish between those who concieve children via unassisted intercourse and those who do not? Or maybe between those who use third-party gametes and those who do not? I confess I am not clear. But (and I’m sure this isn’t surprising to anyone) I am unwilling to call all uses of these sorts of ART exploitation and/or eugenics.

      • Yeah, I think planning to have children and having sex in order to procreate is unethical, children should not be created intentionally, they should only be a possible side effect of having sex. If pregnancy results, children should be welcomed into the world as if they chose to be born, so that they can’t blame their parents for intentionally bringing them into the world. This is where their own sense of responsibility comes from, and their gratitude to their parents. The idea that children are intentionally created is repugnant to human dignity, it is slavery happening all around us.

        • Wow. I’m glad you clarified that. It’s going to take a bit of time for me to really think through what you are saying, but at first blush it seems a very odd position to me. Suppose two people know that children can be concieved via intercourse and also know enough about human fertility to know that it is a time when that result is likely. If they have sex hoping that pregnancy will result that’s bad? But if they have sex without thinking about having children at all, that’s okay? It seems such an odd line to draw–sex must be for pleasure only and it if is for the purpose of procreation, it’s unethical?

          But all that said, I suppose I’m glad I understand your point of view.

  2. John I don’t think you can succeed in telling people who can reproduce that they can’t reproduce using a particular method. I do think we can say that they cannot reproduce and expect not to be identified on their children’s birth certificates. I do not think anyone should be recorded as having reproduced to create a child when they did not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s