Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scientific Rationale, Objectivism, and Disability

There's an interesting essay in the Washington Post today, one written by conservative think-tanker Michael Gerson. It begins with a look at the ugly utilitarian mindset of Nobel prize-winner James Watson, and the recent controversy surrounding his remarks about people of African descent.

Watson's colleagues at the Federation of American Scientists found his comments "racist, vicious and unsupported by science" -- all true. But they could not have found those views surprising. In 2003, Watson spoke in favor of genetic selection to eliminate ugly women: "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great." In 2000, he suggested that people with darker skin have stronger libidos. In 1997, Watson contended that parents should be allowed to abort fetuses they found to be gay: "If you could find the gene which determines sexuality and a woman decides she doesn't want a homosexual child, well, let her." In the same interview, he said, "We already accept that most couples don't want a Down child. You would have to be crazy to say you wanted one, because that child has no future."

Later in the essay, Gerson wrote about another scientist. "And it leads inevitably to discrimination. British scientist Robert Edwards has argued, "Soon it will be a sin of parents to have a child that carries the heavy burden of genetic disease." A sin. Which leaves disabled children who escape the net of screening -- the result of parental sin -- to be born into a new form of bastardy and prejudice."

What I find immensely interesting was Gerson's call for progressives to recapture liberalism, but I do think the questions surrounding eugenics are not so much about political or social philosophy as they are about the Randian objectivist utilitarianism that dominates the culture of the mega-corporations driving the world's economy.

"Science" -- as an entity -- serves those utilitarian values permeating that culture.

Within the Randian aspect of capitalist culture (or even the social state culture of modern Europe), science's place is to be its servant. Science by its very nature works for utilitarianism. Science then by its nature is an integral part of Randian objectivism. Why should we be surprised that individual scientists adhere to the cultural values in which they live -- and prosper?

And in that culture, people with disabilities are regard either as less productive than the norm or an outright drain.

Liberals see the state as the solution in this cultural war. I see the state as one more agent of objectivism.

I choose to be a Progressive, by which I mean I distrust a concentration of wealth, influence, and an overweaning utilitarian regard for the individual.

See Josie Byzek's New Mobility blog post on this subject " ... if he’s right, then … then … that means … well … what if people don’t want little girl disabled babies who may or may not be either black or gay … isn’t that their right? … "

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