Alexander Nekvasil on Thu, 11 May 2000 01:41:54 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> THE POLITICS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED HUMANS ( writes:

>      Can it get worse than this?  Yes. In Germany last year an
> uproar ensued following statements by noted philosopher Peter
> Sloterdijk that the failure of "Habermasean social democracy" now
> leaves human genetic engineering (which he referred to as
> "Selektion," a word associated with Nazi genocide) as the only means
> for humanity to improve its lot.

Objection, short version.  Juergen Habermas hates Michel Foucault,
abysmally. Juergen Habermas has friends in the media.  Friends in the
media tell Habermas Sloterdijk has made speech with a
Foucauldian/Nietzschean stance.  Habermas cries fascism!  German
weekly "Die Zeit" prints a commentary in that sense along with a tasty
morphing of the photographs of Sloterdijk and Nietzsche.  Now
Sloterdijk is angry.  Habermas should have spoken to him directly, not
to the public, because this is one of the postulations of Frankfurt
School.  Frankfurt School is dead, Sloterdijk says.  Other
philosophers join the debate, among them Manfred Frank, German
spearhead against what he calls "neo-strucuturalism" or "Neo-French"
thinking, and Ernst Tugendhat, analytic philosopher.  Tugendhat is the
one whom _selection_ reminds of concentration camps.

Objection, long version.  On the occasion of a symposion devoted to
Heidegger and Levinas Peter Sloterdijk gave a quite artistical and
pompous speech (he is an admirer of Schlegel and other such
romantics.)  The main course of it is as follows.

Heidegger's letter to Beaufret about humanism.  If we only listend to
being!  But so, humanism is at its end.  S. agrees.  What was
humanism?  Books, mainly, written to friends in the future; later, a
canon of books, mostly a national one, taught to educate (tame!)
people.  The book is vanishing.  Will the opposite of humanism take
its toll, bestiality?  Problem of the media.  The circus communicates
the Roman empire, the book communicates the national state and the
intellectual.  But what now?  S. suggests to elaborate a canon of
"anthropo-techniques" (including, but not limited to, genetical
engineering.)  Reading, and the book, is probably itself a suspicous
such technique; there is only a tiny step from the lection to
se-lection, because the latter was probably always implied in the
former.  The classroom, the state: Plato's metaphor of the politician
as shepherd.  Nietzsche's remarks about the "breeders of humans" (some
of them make humans bigger, some make them smaller) -- on this plane
the deliberation about anthropo-techniques would have to be situated.

That's the gist, off the top of my head, at least.  Habermasian social
democracy was not mentioned at all; selection means in German in about
the same it means in English -- and the special meaning it had in the
concentration camps is acknowledged in S.'s speech, albeit in a much
more radical way than Habermas concedes in his political philosophy.

In my view the Sloterdijk debate is one more example (after the Popper
gambit and the Golo Mann intrigue) of Frankfurt School's own, and
special, hm, dispositifs.  I suggest you remove Sloterdijk from the
place he has in your article.  He does not deserve it.

Alexander Nekvasil

>      Supporters of human germline engineering and the new techno-eugenics
> have established a number of institutes that encourage public acceptance
> of their program.  At UCLA the Program in Medicine, Technology and Society
> (MTS), noted above, is currently promoting the notion of aging as a
> disease that can be cured through germline engineering.  The Extropy
> Institute, also in Los Angeles, supports "evolutionary advance by using
> technology."  At their annual conference last year in Berkeley, the
> Extropy Institute held strategy sessions on how to organize politically to
> advance the post-human agenda, and on how to talk to the press and public
> about human genetic modification in ways that build support and diffuse
> opposition.  In Maryland the Human Biodiversity Institute recently
> presented a seminar on the prospects for genetically modified humans at a
> Hudson Institute retreat attended by former British Prime Minister
> Margaret Thatcher.  These institutes are small but growing.  No comparable
> efforts are underway to counter their influence. 
>      The biotech industry is actively developing the technologies that
> would make it possible to offer human germline engineering on a commercial
> basis.  This work is almost completely unregulated.  Geron Corporation of
> Menlo Park, California, holds patents on applicable human embryo
> manipulation and cloning techniques.  Advanced Cell Technologies (ACT) of
> Worcester, Massachusetts, announced last year that it had created a viable
> human/bovine embryo by implanting the nucleus of a human cell into the egg
> of a cow.  No laws exist that would have prevented this trans- species
> embryo from being implanted in a woman's uterus in an attempt to bring a
> baby to term.  The baby would contain a small but significant proportion
> of cow genes. 
>      Chromos Molecular Systems, Inc., in British Columbia, is developing
> artificial human chromosomes that would enable the engineering of multiple
> complex traits.  People whose germlines were engineered with artificial
> chromosomes, and who wanted to pass complete sets of these to their
> children intact, would only be able to mate with others carrying the same
> artificial chromosomes.  This condition, called "reproductive isolation",
> is the primary criteria that biologists use to classify a population as a
> separate species.
>      Given the enormity of what is at stake, and the fact that the
> advocates of the new techno-eugenics are hardly coy about their
> intentions, it is remarkable that organized opposition has been all but
> absent.  Why is this? 
>      In part it's simply that the most critical technologies have been
> developed only within the last three years or so, and there hasn't been
> time for people to fully understand their implications and respond.
>      Also, the prospect of genetically engineering the human species is
> categorically beyond anything that humanity has ever before had to
> confront.  People have trouble taking these issues seriously -- they seem
> fantastical, or beyond the pale of anything that anyone would actually do
> or that society would allow.  As a consequence there exist no self-
> identified constituencies of concern, and no institutions in place to
> effectively focus that concern. 
>      Further, attitudes concerning human genetic modification don't fit
> neatly within the familiar political categories of right/left or
> conservative/liberal.  The more useful set of categories is
> libertarian/communitarian.  The libertarian right and libertarian left are
> typically less concerned about human genetic modification, which they can
> accept as a property right or as a personal right, respectively.  By
> contrast, the communitarian right and communitarian left tend to be
> strongly opposed, the former typically for reasons grounded in religious
> beliefs and the latter out of concern for human dignity, social equity and
> solidarity.  This unfamiliar alignment impedes quick and confident
> responses by opponents. 
>      Finally, although people intuit that the new genetic technologies are
> likely to introduce profound social and political challenges, they also
> associate these technologies with the possibility of miracle cures,
> notably for the many tragically fatal inheritable conditions.  Before any
> sentiment in favor of banning certain uses of genetic technology can take
> root, people will have to come to understand that doing so would not
> foreclose means of preventing or curing genetic diseases.
>      At the policy level we will need global bans on altering the genes we
> pass on to our children, and on reproductive human cloning.  We'll also
> need effective, accountable systems for regulating human genetic
> technologies that may have some beneficent uses but could be dangerously
> abused.
>      These policies and systems are already in effect in a number of major
> countries.  France and Germany have banned both germline engineering and
> cloning, the Council of Europe is working to have these banned in all 41
> of its member countries, and Canada is expected to ban germline
> engineering and cloning within a year.  The United Nations, UNESCO, and
> the Group of Seven industrialized nations have called for a global ban on
> human cloning.  Great Britain has a Human Fertilization and Embryology
> Authority (HFEA) which licenses all research and commercial enterprises
> whose activities involve use of human eggs, sperm or embryos.  The HFEA is
> frequently cited as a model for other countries.
>      If we are to realize such policies in the United States and
> worldwide, is imperative that strong, coordinated civil society efforts
> toward these ends be initiated, and soon. As noted, little infrastructure
> to support such efforts currently exists.  We will need to establish
> national and global-scale education and advocacy organizations, research
> and media centers, and more.  Success in adopting the policies described
> above will enable us to avoid the worst threats posed by the new human
> genetic technologies, and will allow us to better use our tremendous
> scientific and technological gifts in support of a healthy, sustainable
> and equitable human future.
> *********************
> ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Richard Hayes -- E-mail 
> <> -- is coordinator of the
> Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies
> (see below).  He formerly served as assistant political
> director and national director of volunteer development for
> the Sierra Club.
> ************************************************************
>      The Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies is
> helping alert and inform the leadership of civil society organizations
> about the new human genetic technologies, and about steps we need to take
> to prevent their misuse.  If you or your organization would like to
> schedule a meeting, presentation or workshop; subscribe to the Exploratory
> Initiative's free email newsletter; receive its list of publications; or
> for other inquiries about becoming involved, please E-mail Marcy Darnovsky
> at <>. 
> Exploratory Initiative on the New Human Genetic Technologies
> 466 Green Street
> San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
> E-mail: <>
> Phone: +1-415-434-1403
> Fax:   +1-415-986-6779
> Books Opposing the new techno-eugenics: 
> o  Andrews, Lori.  _The Clone Age: Adventures in the New
>      World of Reproductive Technology_.  New York: Henry
>      Holt, 1999.
> o  Appleyard, Bryan.  _Brave New Worlds: Staying Human in
>      the Genetic Future_.  New York: Viking, 1998.
> o  Hubbard, Ruth and Elijah Wald. _Exploding the Gene Myth_.
>      Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
> o  Kimbrell, Andrew.  _The Human Body Shop: The Engineering
>      and Marketing of Life_.  New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
> Books Supporting the new techno-eugenics: 
> o  Pence, Gregory E.  _Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?_
>      Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.
> o  Silver, Lee.  _Remaking Eden: How Cloning and Beyond Will
>      Change the Human Family_.  New York: Avon, 1997.
> Web Sites Opposing the new techno-eugenics: 
> o  Council for Responsible Genetics, http://www.gene-
> o  Campaign Against Human Genetic Engineering,
> O  Genetic Engineering and its Dangers: 
> Web Sites Supporting the new techno-eugenics: 
> o  UCLA Program on Medicine, Technology and Society (Gregory
> Stock, director),
> o  Extropy Institute:
> [1] "Theological Letter Concerning the Moral Arguments,"
> June 8, 1983, presented to the U.S. Congress.  Foundation on
> Economic Trends, Washington, DC.
> [2] Silver: L. Silver.  1997.  _Remaking Eden: How Cloning
> and Beyond Will Change the Human Family_ (New York: Avon
> Books), pp. 4-7, 11.
> [3] Watson: Gregory Stock and John Campbell, eds., 2000. 
> _Engineering the Human Germline_ (New York: Oxford
> University Press), pp. 79, 85.
> [4] Pence: G. Pence, 1998.  _Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?_
> (New York: Roman & Littlefield), p. 168.
> [5]
> [6] Thurow: L. Thurow, 1999.  _Creating Wealth: The New
> Rules for Individuals, Companies and Nations in a Knowledge-
> Based Economy_ (New York: Harper Collins), p. 33.
> [7] Fukuyama: F. Fukuyama, "Second Thoughts: The Last Man in
> a Bottle," _The National Interest_, Summer 1999, pp. 28, 33.
> **********************************************************
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