Thursday, February 21, 2013

Transhumanism & Eugenics

I am sick and I am too tired to read or write much, but I think it's important to mention Eugenics. In my post about Humanism I already wrote that I doubt that Transhumanism will bring equality, because the rich will have access to new technology and the poor will not. I am German and because of history I am critical of anything claiming to be the "solution" for all. The fanatic Atheists of today scare me as much as religious fundamentalists. I don't see the difference. I always wonder how come that scientists, whose profession is to doubt everything, can end up making the same mistake all humans are prone to: believing in something and being unable to let go of it even if it is proven wrong. I am not saying that all the promises of Transhumanism couldn't work out for the greater human good. But shouldn't then already all our technology have done the same for all humanity?
It didn't because we live in a system that is not made to benefit all, no new technology will change that. So much progress where did it lead us? Not to a world with less poverty and no children dying of hunger. Even if now these deaths seem unnecessary.

In my first Mooc "Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Human Mind" the topic of Eugenics came up too. First it showed up in reading "Herland"by Charlotte Perkins Gillman and everybody seemed to hate her utopian vision of an all female community in unisono because it implemented Eugenics. I didn't because I think it was a feminist thought experiment in the context of her times, which were strongly pro Eugenics. The weird thing is, nobody cared for H.G. Wells Eugenic background ( H.G. Wells’s Eugenic Thinking 1892-1944 ) (2 - H. G. Wells and Population Control: From a EugenicPublic Policy to the Eugenics of Personal Choice)  at all, everybody loved him and people didn't want to know about it. What scared me most was that in discussing this topic my peers were convinced that something like Eugenics could never ever happen today.
I believe this is the only mindset that makes it possible that it can...

Did you know who coined the term "Transhumanism"? It was Julian Huxley the brother of Aldous trying to find a new friendlier word for Eugenics after the war (1957). Julian was also the first director of the UNESCO (and many more institutions!*), and in this position he wrote a paper entitled "UNESCO Its Purpose and Its Philosophy" in 1946. Remember that is after the second world war endend and the Concentration Camps and Dr. Mengele's Experiments were exposed.

Here are some hair raising excerpts of this paper:

“There are instances of biological inequality which are so gross that they cannot be reconciled at all with the principle of equal opportunity. Thus low-grade mental defectives cannot be offered equality of educational opportunity, nor are the insane equal with the sane before the law or in respect of most freedoms. However, the full implications of the fact of human inequality have not often been drawn and certainly need to be brought out here, as they are very relevant to Unesco’s task. [...]"

"This has quite other implications; for, whereas variety is in itself desirable, the existence of weaklings, fools, and moral deficients cannot but be bad. It is also much harder to reconcile politically with the current democratic doctrine of equality. In face of it, indeed, the principle of equality of opportunity must be amended to read “equality of opportunity within the limits of aptitude.

"At the moment, it is probable that the indirect effect of civilisation is dysgenic instead of eugenic; and in any case it seems likely that the dead weight of genetic stupidity, physical weakness, mental instability, and disease-proneness, which already exist in the human species, will prove too great a burden for real progress to be achieved. Thus even though it is quite true that any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for Unesco to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that now is unthinkable may at least become thinkable."

“The Age of the Common Man: the Voice of the People: majority rule: the importance of a large population: – ideas and slogans such as these form the background of much of our thinking, and tend, unless we are careful, towards the promotion of mediocrity, even if mediocrity in abundance, and at the same time, towards the discouragement of high and unusual quality."

Indeed some seem to see themselves always more equal than others...

This is just a small excerpt, but I guess it's enough to show why I am concerned.
I don't believe in any one solution not even science. Science can be incredibly cruel.
And people seem to somehow forget: Science is not infallible! Quite the opposite. It might be more reliable than believe systems but it is not always right and has been rewritten a million times.
For me to be human is to think with your head and your heart.
If Science and Technology are used and judged with this as a guiding light in mind then and only then can they be hugely beneficial for all humankind.

I really wonder why the BBC and Stephen Hawkins and all the other scientists (who probably had no influence in this anyway) called the documentary I posted under Transhumanism and Humanoids "Brave New World", when they are talking about supposed to be great innovations for humanity?
I also realized that people start to categorize "Brave New World" not as a dystopian novel anymore but a dystopian/utopian novel...

Aldous Huxley author of Brave New World speaking at U.C. Berkeley in 1962.

"Aldous Huxley uses this speaking opportunity to outline his vision for the 'ultimate revolution', a scientific dictatorship where people will be conditioned to enjoy their servitude, and will pose little opposition to the 'ruling oligarchy', as he puts it. He also takes a moment to compare his book, "Brave New World," to George Orwell's "1984" and considers the technique in the latter too outdated for actual implementation. "There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution." -- Aldous Huxley, Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961"

*now that I know about Julian Huxley being also deeply involved in the Humanist movement I find it hard to know what to think anymore...

"Sir Julian Sorell Huxley FRS[1] (22 June 1887 – 14 February 1975) was an English evolutionary biologist, eugenicist and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century evolutionary synthesis. He was Secretary of the Zoological Society of London (1935–1942), the first Director of UNESCO, and a founding member of the World Wildlife Fund. Huxley was well known for his presentation of science in books and articles, and on radio and television. He directed an Oscar-winning wildlife film. He was awarded UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for the popularisation of science in 1953, the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society in 1956,[1] and the Darwin–Wallace Medal of the Linnaean Society in 1958. He was also knighted in that same year, 1958, a hundred years after Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace announced the theory of evolution by natural selection. In 1959 he received a Special Award of the Lasker Foundation in the category Planned Parenthood – World Population. Huxley was a prominent member of the British Eugenics Society and its president from 1959–1962."wiki

I found the documentary I wanted to post before:
Homo Sapiens 1900
I found it to be full of information I didn't know about...
It covers the history of Eugenics in the US, Sweden, Germany and the Soviet Union.

#edcmooc, #Transhumanism, #dystopia, #Eugenics, #JulianHuxley, #AldousHuxley, #SocialDarwinism
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