Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Possibilities and science

I must admit I was shocked when I heard it:
If there is a possibility that doing this we can cure something is enough for me to do it.
That was what a friend said talking about modifying human germinal lines.

A week later, discussing about transhumanism another friend told me that "Science will solve all problems".

This two sentences were said some months ago but I still have them fixed and would like to write about them.

First of all I follow a principle: Just because we can do something we have not to do it. As an example no one  would give a friend with pine nuts if he/she is allergic to them. We don't do it because it is not good for him/her. The reasons why we do something are as important as why we don't do something. In this case (modifying human germinal lines) we have the possibility to gain the piece of knowledge to cure some big deseases (cancers, senescence, autoinmmune diseases...) but at the cost of losing the common biological definition of our humanity.

For me modifying a human is not about the risks and benefits of doing but the reasons that lead to do that modification, if the reasons are bad, or weak we don't really gain anything, we don't solve a problem. At most we could suggest a new tool to do, but not solving a problem, and even on the pool of problems modifying the germinal line of humans won't solve many of the hardest problems of people: what should I do, and why should I do that, I am acting correctly, could I be better?


  1. Well, I have many objections to your arguments.

    First of all, what do you define as "bad or weak" reasons? I personally consider "removing" many congenital diseases as a "good" reason, although I understand that this is a controversial matter. What someone considers to be a weak reason may be a very strong reason to someone else.

    You are right that modifying humans at the germinal level won't solve all of our problems, certaintly not the ones you described there. It won't improve my Internet connection either. You fell into a Straw man fallacy there (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man). No one is trying to solve those problems (those are personal/moral problems and not all of us share them, btw).

    Also, consider that what you imply as a "common biological definition of our humanity" may not be common to all of us. For starters, not to me, as I don't even know what that definition is.

    You were right in saying that science will not solve all of our problems, though. That's not the purpose of science either.

    1. Hi anon,

      Thanks for reading the post and presenting your objections!

      Well as an example of a bad reason to modify the human genetics would be to make people suffer more to overcome the flu, and as a weak argument I consider to modify humans to avoid diseases. The first example is not clear/evident which Good may come from it, while on the second one you impose your view on your descendents while, as you said, they might not consider it as important as you do.

      I might not have expressed myself well about modifying human germinal lines related to solving all our problems. In fact they are not related at all, but these two sentences triggered this post. However, as you said, there are other problems or questions that science can't answer. I would argue that we do share some of those problems even if they reflex in a personal way.

      When I wrote "common biological definition of our humanity" I was thinking about that from humans born humans, which usually have 23 chromosomes distinct to others, and develop some common features as two arms, two legs, a head... which usually have conscious and can abstract things, and have freedom.

      I am glad we agree on the last point :). BTW what is the purpose of science?


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