Transcript: Dr. Michael Banner on Genetics and Human Nature | Dec 11, 2004

Michael Banner stands behind a lectern. He’s in his early forties, clean-shaven and with short receding curly brown hair. He wears a gray suit and tie and a gingham shirt.

He says IF YOU GO TO
THE CINEMA, AS I DO FROM TIME TO
TIME, YOU WILL REALISE OR KNOW
AND EVEN IF YOU DON'T GO TO
THE CINEMA, YOU'LL KNOW THAT
SOME OF THE BIGGEST FILMS OF THE
LAST FEW YEARS, HAVE EVIDENCED
AN EXTRAORDINARY FASCINATION
WITH MYTHS OF EVIL, STRUGGLE AND
SALVATION.
SAY, TWO OF THE BIGGEST FILMS OF
THE PAST FOUR, FIVE YEARS,
CERTAINLY IN EUROPE, AND I GUESS
IN NORTH AMERICA, HAS BEEN “THE
MATRIX, AND ITS SEQUELS, AND THE
LORD OF THE RINGS, AND IT'S
SEQUELS.
BUT THERE ARE COUNTLESS OTHER
FILMS WITH THE SAME SORT OF
THEMES, THEMES ABOUT--
THEMES OF EVIL, STRUGGLE AND
SALVATION.
AND WHAT THESE FILMS EVIDENCE,
PLAINLY, IS A STRONG CULTURAL
SENSE OF THE DEEPLY PROBLEMATIC
CHARACTER OF HUMAN EXISTENCE,
AND IN PARTICULAR, A SENSE OF A
NEED TO FIND MEANING AND
PURPOSE.
ONE OF MY THEOLOGICAL COLLEAGUES
IN...
OR FROM THE U.K., BUT NOT IN--
WELL RECENTLY IN AMERICA, BUT
FROM THE U.K. ORIGINALLY, JOHN
MILLBANK, HAS REFERRED TO THE
PATHOS OF MODERN THEOLOGY.
AND AT LEAST ONE ELEMENT OF THE
PATHOS OF MODERN THEOLOGY, ONE
OF THE MYSTERIES OF OUR AGE, WE
MIGHT SAY ABOUT THEOLOGY, IS
HOW, IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, IN
THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THERE IS
PLAINLY A SEARCH FOR MEANING,
THEOLOGY HAS CONSPIRED TO RENDER
ITSELF, IN POPULAR EYES, ALMOST
WHOLLY UNINTERESTING, AND HAVE
COME TO INHABIT SOMETHING OF AN
INTELLECTUAL GHETTO, JUST WHEN
THE TERRITORY, WHICH IS PROPERLY
ITS OWN, IS BEING PORED OVER BY
ALL SORTS OF OTHER PEOPLE IN ALL
SORTS OF OTHER DISCIPLINES.
THERE'S SOMETHING OF A MYSTERY
THERE.

A caption reads “Michael Banner. University of Edinburgh. Genetics and Human Nature. Wycliffe College. September 21, 2004.”

Michael says ONE AREA OF
TERRITORY PROPER TO THEOLOGY,
BUT ALSO THE SUBJECT OF
CONSIDERABLE NON-THEOLOGICAL
INTEREST, IS THE TERRITORY I'VE
TAKEN, ADDRESSED IN MY TITLE,
THE TERRITORY OF GENETICS AND
HUMAN NATURE.
HERE THERE IS INDEED, A GENERAL
SENSE OF A PROBLEM, EVEN A SENSE
OF A CRISIS, WHICH RAISES ISSUES
PLAINLY--
WHICH PLAINLY
HAVE ALL THE MARKS OF BELONGING,
WHETHER OR NOT EXCLUSIVELY, TO
THEOLOGY.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE MORAL STATUS
OF NATURE, ABOUT OUR STANCE
TOWARD THE GIVEN WORLD, AND
TOWARDS OUR HUMAN NATURE IN
PARTICULAR.
THIS IS, OF COURSE, THEOLOGICAL
TERRITORY PAR EXCELLENCE, AND
THEOLOGY, IF IT IS TO OVERCOME
THE PATHOS OF ITS SEEMING
CULTURAL IRRELEVANCE, HAS TO
OFFER AN ACCOUNT OF THE HUMAN
GOOD IN SUCH A WAY AS TO BRING
WHAT LIGHT IT CAN TO BEAR ON THE
CONCERNS, PROBLEMS AND ANXIETIES
OF OUR WIDER CULTURE.
NOW IN THE REMARKS I'M GOING TO
MAKE THIS EVENING, I WANT TO TRY
TO MAP OUT THIS TERRITORY,
ALBEIT IN A PRELIMINARY WAY.
I WANT, THAT IS TO SAY, TO
INDICATE WHAT I TAKE TO BE THE
DISTINCTIVE CONTRIBUTION OF
THEOLOGY TO THE TOPIC OF HUMAN
NATURE AND GENETICS, AND TO DO
SO, FIRST OF ALL BY REFERRING TO
A BOOK, WHICH THOUGH I DON'T
THINK IT'S OF VERY GREAT
INTELLECTUAL SIGNIFICANCE, IN
FACT I'M SURE IT'S NOT OF VERY
GREAT INTELLECTUAL SIGNIFICANCE,
NONETHELESS IS WHAT THE VATICAN
WOULD REFER TO AS A SIGN OF THE
TIMES.
THAT IS TO SAY, IT'S A BOOK, AND
THE RELATED LITERATURE OF WHICH
IT IS A PART, HELPS US TO
UNDERSTAND NOT JUST THE CONCERNS
OF OUR CONTEMPORARY WORLD, BUT
ALSO, I WILL SUGGEST, THE
PARTICULAR VOCATION OF THEOLOGY
IN THE CONTEXT OF THE CONCERNS
AND ANXIETIES OF OUR
CONTEMPORARY WORLD.
SO I WILL FOLLOW THIS BOOK A
LITTLE WAY, I WILL NOTE HOW IT
HELPS AND HOW IT DOESN'T HELP,
AND THEN I WILL GO ON TO
CONSIDER, AS BEST I CAN, WHAT
MORE MIGHT BE SAID ABOUT THE
PROBLEMS IT THROWS UP FROM A
THEOLOGICAL POINT OF VIEW.
NOW MORE THAN TEN YEARS AGO NOW,
FRANCIS FUKUYAMA, A VERY WELL
KNOWN SORT OF UBER-INTELLECTUAL,
WELL KNOWN ALL OVER THE WORLD.
I THINK HE APPEARED ON THE FRONT
OF TIME MAGAZINE, WHICH IS THE
ULTIMATE SORT OF ACCOLADE FOR AN
ACADEMIC.
UM, FRANCIS FUKUYAMA ANNOUNCED
AND WELCOMED WHAT HE CALLED THE
END OF HISTORY.
A RATHER MISLEADING TITLE, BUT
WHAT HE MEANT WAS, THE HISTORY
WHICH HAD ENDED, WAS THE HISTORY
OF DEEP IDEOLOGICAL CONFLICT IN
THE POLITICAL REALM.
ACCORDING TO FUKUYAMA, THE
COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET EMPIRE
WAS SIMPLY THE FINAL GASP OF AN
EMPIRE WHICH HAD BEEN VERY LONG
IN THE DYING, LIBERAL DEMOCRACY
AND IT'S ACCOMPANYING AND
CHARACTERISTIC FREE MARKET
ECONOMICS WERE EVERYWHERE
TRIUMPHANT, AND MORE TO THE
POINT, HE SAID, UNCHALLENGED.
THAT WAS THE END OF HISTORY.
NOW HE WENT ON--
HAS SAID MORE RECENTLY THAT THE
EVENTS OF SEPTEMBER THE 11th,
FOR ALL THE SIGNIFICANCE WITH
WHICH THEY'VE BEEN IMBUED, DID
NOT UNSETTLE THIS THESIS.
ISLAMIC RADICALISM, IS, AND I
QUOTE HIM, “BUT A DESPERATE
REAR GUARD ACTION THAT WILL, IN
TIME BE OVERWHELMED BY THE
BROADER TIDE OF MODERNISATION.”
BUT STRANGELY, WHILST HE,
CONTRARY TO A LOT OF POPULAR
DISCUSSION OF IT, WHILE HE
DISCOUNTS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF
ISLAMIC RADICALISM, HE TAKES
VERY SERIOUSLY THE BIOTECHNOLOGY
REVOLUTION, AND INDEED, SAYS
THAT THE BIOTECHNOLOGY
REVOLUTION THREATENS HIS
ORIGINAL THESIS ABOUT THE END OF
HISTORY.
IN HIS BOOK, “OUR POST HUMAN
FUTURE,” PUBLISHED IN LATE 2002,
FUKUYAMA OFFERS AN ACCOUNT OF
THIS REVOLUTION AND THE THREAT
WHICH IT POSES.
AND HIS CENTRAL THOUGHT IS THIS,
AND I QUOTE HIM, “ONE IMPORTANT
REASON FOR WORLDWIDE CONVERGENCE
ON LIBERAL DEMOCRACY, HAS TO DO
WITH THE TENACITY OF HUMAN
NATURE.
FOR WHILE HUMAN BEHAVIOUR IS
PLASTIC AND VARIABLE, IT IS NOT
INFINITELY SO.
AT A CERTAIN POINT, DEEPLY
ROOTED NATURAL INSTINCTS AND
PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOUR REASSERT
THEMSELVES TO UNDERMINE THE
SOCIAL ENGINEERS' BEST LAID
PLANS.”
THESE DEEPLY ROOTED NATURAL
INSTINCTS THAT FUKUYAMA REFERS
TO THERE, THE PATTERNS OF
BEHAVIOUR, ARE EXPRESSED, SO HE
SAYS, IN THE FORMING OF
FAMILIES, FOR EXAMPLE, AND IN
THE ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY.
LIBERAL DEMOCRACY, SO HE ARGUES,
IN ALLOWING THE EXPRESSION OF
THESE INSTINCTS AND PATTERNS,
EMERGES AS THE ONLY VIABLE AND
LEGITIMATE POLITICAL SYSTEM.
YET THE BIOTECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION
PUTS INTO OUR HANDS POWERS OF
SOCIAL ENGINEERING OF A
RADICALLY NEW KIND, HE SAYS,
SUCH THAT WE HAVE IT WITHIN OUR
GRASP TO ALTER HUMAN NATURE.
THUS, IF HUMAN NATURE SHAPES AND
CONSTRAINS THE POSSIBLE KINDS OF
POLITICAL REGIMES THERE ARE IN
THE WORLD, A TECHNOLOGY POWERFUL
ENOUGH TO RESHAPE WHAT WE ARE,
MAY HAVE, HE SAYS MALIGN
CONSEQUENCES FOR LIBERAL
DEMOCRACY AND FOR THE NATURE OF
POLITICS ITSELF.
NOW I DON'T FIND FUKUYAMA'S
ARGUMENT ENTIRELY CLEAR THERE,
BUT WHATEVER MAY BE THE EXACT
LOGIC OF HIS ARGUMENT, WHAT IS
CLEAR, I SUGGEST, IN THIS BOOK,
IS THAT HIS APPRECIATION OF THE
THREAT POSED BY BIOTECHNOLOGY IS
A GOOD DEAL MORE SUBTLE THAN IS
COMMON.
THE LACK OF SUBTLETY IN THE
DEBATE ABOUT BIOTECHNOLOGY
EXISTS, I WOULD SAY, ON BOTH
SIDES OF THE DEBATE.
I'M SURE THERE ARE MORE THAN TWO
SIDES.
I THINK IT
WAS ENGLES, THOUGH IT MIGHT HAVE
BEEN MARX, BUT ONE OR OTHER OF
ENGLES OR MARX MADE THE RATHER
WONDERFUL REMARK THAT IT'S THE
HEIGHT OF OPEN-MINDEDNESS IN AN
ENGLISHMAN TO THINK THERE ARE
TWO SIDES TO EVERY QUESTION.
I'M SURE THERE ARE MORE THAN TWO
SIDES TO THIS QUESTION, BUT ON
THE TWO SIDES OF THE DEBATE
ABOUT GENETIC ENGINEERING,
BIOTECHNOLOGY, THERE IS A LACK
OF SUBTLETY.
ON THE ONE
HAND, THOSE WHO SPEAK WITH ALARM
ABOUT THE POSSIBILITIES
PRESENTED BY THE NEW GENETICS
OFTEN LATCH ON TO THE MOST
OUTLANDISH OF THINGS WHICH MIGHT
BE DONE, SUCH AS CLONING
DICTATORS.
WHENEVER I'M ASKED ONTO RADIO OR
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT GENETIC
ENGINEERING, CLONING, PEOPLE
ALWAYS WANT TO KNOW ABOUT
CLONING DICTATORS.
I'M NOT SURE WHY, BUT THEY DO.
WE MIGHT CALL THAT THE BAD
SCIENCE SIDE OF THE DEBATE, AND
WE'LL COME BACK TO THAT.
ON THE OTHER HAND, SO WE'VE GOT
THE BAD SCIENCE SIDE OF THE
DEBATE WHICH ISN'T VERY SUBTLE,
WE'VE ALSO GOT WHAT I THINK OF
AS THE BAD ETHICS SIDE OF THE
DEBATE, WHERE THERE ARE MANY WHO
SEEK TO REASSURE US ABOUT THE
USE OF TECHNOLOGY, REASSURING US
IN A WAY WHICH CLEARLY
DEMONSTRATES THAT THEIR CALM
DEMEANOUR IN THE FACE OF OUR
SCIENTIFIC FUTURE, IS CHIEFLY A
MATTER OF THEIR DEEP MORAL
INSENSIBILITY.
SO THAT'S THE BAD ETHICS SIDE OF
THE DEBATE, AND I'LL SAY
SOMETHING ABOUT BOTH THOSE, BUT
IT'S THE DISTINCT MERIT OF
FUKUYAMA'S WORK THAT HE DOESN'T
COMMIT EITHER OFFENCE, WHICH IS
TO SAY THAT HIS SENSE OF THE
CONCERN IS BASED ON A VERY
REALISTIC APPRAISAL OF REAL
POSSIBILITIES AND NOT ON SCIENCE
FICTION, AND FURTHER, THAT EVEN
WHEN HE HAS THESE HIGHLY
PLAUSIBLE SCENARIOS, TO HAND,
HE'S NOT REASSURED BY THE
CALMING NOISES OF
BIOTECHNOLOGY'S MORALLY
INSENSITIVE APOLOGISTS.
LET ME SAY SOMETHING ABOUT BOTH
SIDES.
FUKUYAMA IS VERY CLEAR THAT
BIOTECHNOLOGY, IN THE SENSE HE'S
DISCUSSING IT, THE WIDER
REVOLUTION IN BIOLOGY, EMBRACES
MUCH MORE THAN GENETIC
ENGINEERING, AND THAT THE THREAT
IT POSES IS NOT THE THREAT OF
CLONED DICTATORS.
AS HE POINTS OUT, AND IT NEEDS
POINTING OUT QUITE OFTEN, MANY
OF THE HEADLINES EXPRESSING FEAR
ABOUT CLONING, REST UPON A
PLAINLY MISTAKEN UNDERSTANDING
OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF GENES AND
CHARACTER.
WHATEVER WE THINK ABOUT THE
INTERACTION OF GENES AND THE
ENVIRONMENT, WHATEVER WE THINK
IN DETAIL, WE CAN SAY WITH
ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE, IS THAT
HITLER'S TWIN BROTHER, OR
HITLER'S CLONE, WHETHER CREATED
ALONGSIDE HIM IN THE WOMB, IF IT
HAD BEEN A NATURAL PHENOMENA, OR
AFTER HIM IN A TEST TUBE, WOULD
NOT HAVE BEEN DESTINED, BY HIS
GENES, TO BE AN ANTI-SEMITIC
MILITARIST, BRINGING DEATH AND
DESTRUCTION ON MILLIONS.
HIS GENES WOULDN'T HAVE DESTINED
HIM TO THAT, DEALING A DEATH
BLOW AT ONE FELL SWOOP, TO THE
STORIES THAT THE ENGLISH
NEWSPAPERS LOVE, THAT WE HAVE
A--
WELL I USE THE NEWSPAPER
LOOSELY, CALLED THE SUN.
IT'S PART OF UM...
I SHOULDN'T PERHAPS MENTION THE
PERSON WHOSE EMPIRE IT'S PART
OF, BECAUSE HE MIGHT OWN THE
TELEVISION CHANNEL I'M DUE TO
APPEAR ON, WHICH WOULD BE A FAUX
PAS.

The audience laughs.

Michael says BUT ANYWAY, THE SUN NEWSPAPER
SPECIALISES IN HEADLINES SUCH
AS, “GENE FOR DIVORCE
DISCOVERED.”
THIS IS BAD SCIENCE, JUST AS
WORRYING ABOUT HITLER'S CLONED
TWIN.
MORE TO THE POINT, I MEAN MORE
TO THE POINT, NOT ONLY DOES
GENETIC ENGINEERING NOT ACTUALLY
THREATEN WHAT NEWSPAPER
HEADLINES MIGHT SUGGEST, MORE TO
THE POINT, GENETIC ENGINEERING,
IN THE VERY PARTICULAR SENSE
THAT IT'S USED WHEN PEOPLE THINK
ABOUT CLONING, IS A LONG WAY
FROM BEING AN EFFICIENT AND
EFFECTIVE PROCEDURE.
AND IT IS FAR LESS SIGNIFICANT
IN OUR IMMEDIATE FUTURE THAN THE
MORE GENERAL POSSIBILITIES THAT
ARE OPENED UP BY GENOMIC
SCIENCE.
AND FUKUYAMA MENTIONS THREE
PATHWAYS TO THE FUTURE, AS HE
CALLS THEM, WHICH ARE MORE
IMMEDIATELY TROUBLING THAN ANY
WORRIES ABOUT CLONING.
FIRST OF ALL, WHAT FUKUYAMA
CALLS THE SCIENCES OF THE BRAIN,
WILL MERELY BY PROVIDING A MUCH
BETTER KNOWLEDGE OF GENETIC
FACTORS, OPEN UP POSSIBILITIES
FOR A EUGENICS OF PARENTAL
CHOICE, NOT OF STATE COERCION,
WHICH WILL BE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE.
THIS EUGENICS MIGHT BE AIMED AT
ELIMINATING WHATEVER ATTRIBUTES
ARE LINKED WITH IDENTIFIABLE
MARKERS, WHATEVER THOSE
ATTRIBUTES MIGHT BE.
AND THIS EUGENICS, THE EUGENICS
OF PARENTAL CHOICE, AIMED AT
ELIMINATING WHATEVER IS FELT
UNDESIRABLE, WOULD BE AN
EXTREMELY POWERFUL EUGENICS, NOT
LEAST BECAUSE IT WOULD BE ONE OF
CHOICE, NOT OF COERCION.
SECOND, HE SAYS, NEURO-
PHARMACOLOGY, USING KNOWLEDGE OF
THE CHEMISTRY OF THE BRAIN
ITSELF, FURTHERED BY WIDER
GENETIC KNOWLEDGE, WILL ENABLE
US TO MANIPULATE AND MODIFY THE
BRAIN'S WORKINGS, AND MAY WELL
ENABLE US TO ACHIEVE STARTLING
EFFECTS WITHOUT ANYTHING LIKE
GENETIC ENGINEERING.
SO ALREADY THE EXISTENCE OF
PSYCHOTROPIC DRUGS, DRUGS SUCH
AS PROZAC, RAISE PROSPECTS FOR
THE MANIPULATIONS OF BEHAVIOUR
WHICH POSE HARD AND ILL
ADDRESSED QUESTIONS, ABOUT THE
USE OF DRUGS TO ENHANCE NORMAL
ATTRIBUTES OR TO ERADICATE THOSE
WHICH ARE DEEMED SOCIALLY
UNDESIRABLE.
AND THE THIRD AREA HE MENTIONS,
THE NEW BIOLOGY AND ITS
APPLICATIONS IS ALREADY HERE AND
NOW BEING APPLIED WITH IMMENSE
FOCUS AND ENERGY, TO THE
PROBLEM, AND THAT WORD WOULD BE
IN QUOTATION MARKS, TO THE
PROBLEM OF AGING.
WHETHER, AND AGAIN HERE'S SOME
QUOTATION MARKS -- WHETHER
“SUCCESS” IN DEALING WITH “THE
PROBLEM” OF AGING DELIVERS A
LARGE INCREASE IN A FIT, HEALTHY
AND ACTIVE POPULATION, IN THEIR
80s OR 90s, OR SIMPLY DELIVERS A
LARGE INCREASE IN THE POPULATION
IN THEIR 80s OR 90s, OTHER THAN
FIT AND HEALTHY, THE DEMOGRAPHIC
SHIFTS AND ITS SOCIAL AND
ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES ARE
PROFOUND AND IMMENSE.
SO SHOULD WE WORRY ABOUT THESE
REAL, NOT SCIENCE FICTION
POSSIBILITIES, THESE
POSSIBILITIES THAT THE NEW
GENOMIC SCIENCE ARE OPENING UP
TO US, FUKUYAMA IS VERY
SCEPTICAL ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY
OF GAINING ASSISTANCE FROM THOSE
WHO MIGHT BE EXPECTED TO
ARTICULATE THESE WORRIES.
I QUOTE HIM, HE SAYS, “IN ANY
DISCUSSION OF CLONING, STEM CELL
RESEARCH, GERM LINE ENGINEERING
AND THE LIKE, IT IS USUALLY THE
PROFESSIONAL BIO-ETHICIST WHO
CAN BE RELIED ON TO TAKE THE
MOST PERMISSIVE POSITION OF
ANYONE IN THE ROOM.
I SORT OF FEEL LIKE WONDERING
WHETHER THERE WASN'T A BISHOP
PRESENT, BECAUSE THAT'S
GENERALLY, I FIND, IN A
DISCUSSION, YOU CAN NORMALLY
RELY ON A BISHOP TO TAKE THE
MOST PERMISSIVE ATTITUDE OF
ANYONE IN THE ROOM.
BUT ANYWAY THAT'S BY THE WAY.
FUKUYAMA SAYS
MANY BIO-ETHICISTS HAVE BECOME
NOTHING MORE THAN, AND I QUOTE
HIM, “NOTHING MORE THAN
SOPHISTICATED AND SOPHISTIC
JUSTIFIERS OF WHATEVER IT IS THE
SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY WANTS TO
DO, HAVING ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE OF
THEOLOGY OR METAPHYSICS TO BEAT
BACK CRITICISMS BY ANYONE COMING
OUT OF THOSE TRADITIONS, WHO
MIGHT OBJECT MORE STRENUOUSLY.
WELL THAT
SEEMS A LITTLE BIT JAUNDICED, A
LITTLE BIT HARSH.
THERE ARE SOME NOTABLE ETHICISTS
WHO SAY A LITTLE BIT MORE THAN
THAT, BUT IT WOULD BE HARD
GENERALLY TO DISAGREE WITH
FUKUYAMA, AND HIS DESPAIR OF
ASSISTANCE FROM BIO-ETHICS,
WHICH IS OFTEN IN A BAD WAY.
THE DOMINANT VOICES IN BIO-
ETHICS HAVE BEEN EITHER
UTILITARIAN, OR KANTIAN.
UTILITARIANS PRIDE THEMSELVES ON
TRAVELLING LIGHT, MORALLY
SPEAKING, WITH A PREFERENCE FOR
A THEORY WHICH MAKES NO SENSE OF
THE VOCABULARY OF EVERYDAY MORAL
DISCOURSE.
SO THEY'RE ABLE TO ADOPT NOT
ONLY A RATHER A PERMISSIVE
ATTITUDE TO ALMOST ANY
DEVELOPMENT YOU CARE TO MENTION,
THEY'RE ALSO POSSIBLE ON THE
BASIS OF THEIR THEORY, ABLE TO
ADOPT A WHOLLY SNEERING ATTITUDE
TO MORAL ANXIETIES WHICH COME
FROM TRADITIONAL SOURCES.
THERE ARE SOME CLASSIC EXAMPLES
OF THAT GENRE I COULD POINT YOU
TO, IF YOU'RE INTERESTED.
KANTIANS, ON THE OTHER HAND, GET
MORE OF A HANDLE ON THE PROBLEM,
BUT THEIR VERY CHARACTERISTIC
CONCERN, THE CHARACTERISTIC
CONCERN OF KANTIAN BIO-ETHICISTS
IS AUTONOMY.
AND AUTONOMY IS NOT THE CHIEF
ISSUE AT STAKE, ACCORDING TO
FUKUYAMA, AND I THINK HE'S
RIGHT, IN THE PROBLEM OF
BIOTECHNOLOGY.
BUT WHAT IS AT STAKE?
FUKUYAMA THINKS THERE IS MUCH AT
STAKE, AND THAT WHAT IS AT STAKE
MATTERS VERY MUCH.
HE THINKS THAT RELIGIOUS
BELIEVERS OFTEN TAKE A CRITICAL
STANCE TOWARD THE NEW
TECHNOLOGY, AND HE SAYS HE'S
INTERESTED IN THEIR ARGUMENTS,
BUT IN THE END, THEY WON'T
PERSUADE ANY WHO DON'T START
FROM A RELIGIOUS STARTING POINT,
SO HE PUTS THEM TO ONE SIDE.
HE FINDS UTILITARIAN ARGUMENTS
WANTING, HE FINDS KANTIAN
ARGUMENTS WANTING, AND SAYS THAT
THE DEEPEST FEAR IN THIS AREA IS
A FEAR, AND I QUOTE HIM, “THAT
WE WILL, IN SOME WAY, THROUGH
BIOTECHNOLOGY, LOSE OUR
HUMANITY.
THAT IS, WE WILL LOSE SOME
ESSENTIAL QUALITY THAT HAS
ALWAYS UNDERPINNED OUR SENSE OF
WHO WE ARE AND WHERE WE ARE
GOING, DESPITE ALL THE EVIDENT
CHANGES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN
THE HUMAN CONDITION THROUGH THE
COURSE OF HISTORY.
WORSE YET,” STILL QUOTING HIM,
“WE MIGHT MAKE THIS CHANGE
WITHOUT RECOGNIZING THAT WE HAVE
LOST SOMETHING OF GREAT VALUE.
WE MIGHT THUS EMERGE ON THE
OTHER SIDE OF A GREAT DIVIDE
BETWEEN HUMAN AND POST HUMAN
HISTORY, AND NOT EVEN SEE THAT
THE WATERSHED HAS BEEN BREACHED,
BECAUSE WE LOSE SIGHT OF WHAT
THAT ESSENCE WAS.”
AND SO, FOR THE KEY QUESTION, HE
ASKED HIMSELF, WHAT IS THE HUMAN
ESSENCE THAT WE MIGHT BE IN
DANGER OF LOSING?
“FOR A RELIGIOUS PERSON,” HE
SAID, “IT MIGHT HAVE TO DO WITH
THE DIVINE SPARK OR GIFT THAT
ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE BORN WITH.
FROM A SECULAR PERSPECTIVE, IT
WOULD HAVE TO DO WITH HUMAN
NATURE.”
WELL, I'VE COME SOME WAY WITH
FUKUYAMA, HE'S ALERTED US TO THE
REAL ISSUES OF BIOTECHNOLOGY,
NOT CLONED DICTATORS, BUT VAST
POWERS OF SOCIAL CHANGE,
AFFECTING THE PHYSICAL AND
EMOTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF
INDIVIDUALS AND THE SOCIAL AND
DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE OF WHOLE
POPULATIONS.
AND HE HAS PROPERLY NOT BEEN
CONSOLED BY THOSE WHO WOULD, TOO
READILY, CONSOLE HIM.
HE INSISTS THERE IS A PROBLEM,
HE CORRECTLY SPECIFIES IT, AND
HE THINKS IT'S A PROBLEM OF
HUMAN NATURE.
TO CALL THIS BOOK A SIGN OF THE
TIMES, IS TO SPEAK OF ITS
GENERAL CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE,
AND I COULD MENTION-- WILL
MENTION OTHERS WHO WE COULD HAVE
FOLLOWED TO THIS POINT AS WELL.
TO NAME THREE SIGNIFICANT
VOICES, MICHAEL SANDEL, THE
HARVARD POLITICAL THEORIST, LEON
KASS, WHO'S CHAIRMAN OF THE
PRESIDENT'S BIO-ETHICS COUNCIL,
AND MORE SIGNIFICANT PERHAPS IN
EUROPE, JERGEN HABERMAS.
ALL OF THESE THREE ARRIVE AT
REALLY QUITE SIMILAR CONCERNS.
THERE IS A GENERAL SENSE OF
THERE BEING A GREAT CRISIS
CREATED BY THE GENOMIC
REVOLUTION.
FUKUYAMA IS ONE VOICE AMONGST
THEM, SOUNDING THE ALARM.
HE'S NOT, HOWEVER, PERHAPS THE
BEST AT SPECIFYING EXACTLY WHAT
GROUNDS THERE ARE FOR THIS
ALARM.
BIOTECHNOLOGY, HE INSISTS, AND
REPEATS, THREATENS HUMAN NATURE,
AND SO, THREATENS FORMS OF
POLITICAL LIFE WE VALUE, BUT THE
DETAILS REMAIN UNCLEAR.
SANDEL, HOWEVER, IS MORE
PRECISE, AND I THINK HE SAYS
SOMETHING THAT FUKUYAMA WOULD
AGREE WITH.
SANDEL'S ARGUMENT IS THAT
BIOTECHNOLOGY ALLOWS AND INDEED
INVITES US TO MAKE AND REMAKE
OURSELVES, AND OTHERS, TO MAKE
HUMAN NATURE A PROJECT RATHER
THAN TO ACCEPT IT AS A GIVEN.
THAT IS THE FUNDAMENTAL SHIFT
THAT SANDEL SEES, HUMAN NATURE
UNDER BIOTECHNOLOGY BECOMES A
PROJECT NOT A GIVEN.
AND IF WE EMBARK UPON THIS
PROJECT WHOLESALE, WE WOULD
TRANSFORM OUR MORAL LANDSCAPE.
I QUOTE HIM, “IF BIOENGINEERING
MADE THE MYTH OF THE SELF MADE
MAN COME TRUE, REALLY TRUE, IT
WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO VIEW OUR
TALENTS AS GIFTS, FOR WHICH WE
ARE INDEBTED, RATHER THAN
ACHIEVEMENTS FOR WHICH WE ARE
RESPONSIBLE.”
THAT'S HIS CLAIM.
IF WE REALLY EMBARKED UPON
BIOTECHNOLOGY BIOENGINEERING, WE
WOULD MAKE THE MYTH OF THE SELF
MADE MAN COME TRUE, OR AT LEAST
SEEM TO COME TRUE, AND WE WOULD
COME TO VIEW OUR TALENTS LESS AS
GIFTS AND MORE AS ACHIEVEMENTS.
NOW THIS WOULD MATTER, HE SAYS,
BECAUSE THERE ARE THREE VALUES
IN OUR SOCIAL LANDSCAPE, WHICH
ARE CRUCIAL, WHICH WOULD BE
THREATENED BY THIS SHIFT, AND
THESE THREE VALUES -- VERY
STRANGE, THAT SANDEL, A
POLITICAL THEORIST MENTIONS
HUMILITY AS THE FIRST ONE.
HUME, DAVID HUME, A SCOTTISH
PHILOSOPHER REFERRED TO AS THE
MONKISH VIRTUE.
HE MENTIONED, SANDEL, A
POLITICAL THEORIST MENTIONS
HUMILITY AS ONE THAT WOULD BE
THREATENED, THE OTHER ONE WOULD
BE ONE HE CALLS RESPONSIBILITY,
AND THE THIRD, SOLIDARITY.
HUMILITY, HE SAYS, EXISTS IN OUR
SOCIAL LANDSCAPE AND IS
CULTIVATED IN OUR SOCIAL
LANDSCAPE BY OUR SENSE THAT OUR
TALENTS AND ABILITIES ARE NOT
WHOLLY WORKS OF OUR OWN, WE ARE
NOT WHOLLY SELF MADE.
AND RESPONSIBILITY IN OUR SOCIAL
WORLD IS LIMITED JUST BECAUSE OF
THIS FACT, JUST BECAUSE WE DON'T
THINK WE ARE ALL SELF MADE, SO
THAT, TO PUT IT BLUNTLY, WE
DON'T SIMPLY BLAME--
WE DON'T SIMPLY, WE MAY DO IT,
BUT WE DON'T SIMPLY BLAME
UNDERACHIEVERS.
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS LIMITED
IN OUR CONTEXT, WE TAKE
RESPONSIBILITY FOR OTHERS.
SO, HE SAYS, AND IT MIGHT BE THE
SAME POINT IN ANOTHER WAY,
SOLIDARITY IS FOSTERED WHEN WE
REALISE THAT GOOD FORTUNE IN
LIFE, IS A MATTER OF, AMONGST
OTHER THINGS -- AMONGST OTHER
THINGS, BUT IS AMONGST OTHER
THINGS, A MATTER OF GENETIC
CHANCE.
ALL THIS -- ALL THIS SOCIAL
WORLD WITH ITS CHARACTERISTIC
VALUES OF HUMILITY,
RESPONSIBILITY-- LIMITED
RESPONSIBILITY, AND SOLIDARITY,
ALL THIS, PROJECTS OF GENETIC
ENGINEERING AND GENETIC
MODIFICATION ARE IN DANGER OF
SWEEPING AWAY, FOR WE WOULD
BECOME MORE-- OR WE WOULD COME
TO BELIEVE OURSELVES MORE OUR
OWN MAKERS WITH GREATER
RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR DEFECTS,
BECAUSE WE COULD HAVE ELIMINATED
THEM, AND FOR THOSE OF OUR
CHILDREN, AND WITH LESS
INCLINATION TO FEEL A SOLIDARITY
WITH OTHERS, SINCE THIS
SOLIDARITY DEPENDS UPON A SENSE
OF THE CONTINGENCY OF FORTUNE
WHEN WHAT WE WOULD BE DOING,
WOULD BE TRYING TO SWEEP AWAY
THE CONTINGENCY OF FORTUNE.
SANDEL PUTS IT, I THINK RATHER
FELICITOUSLY IN ONE SENTENCE,
AND I QUOTE HIM, “MERITOCRACY
LESS CHASTENED BY CHANCE, WOULD
BECOME HARDER AND UNFORGIVING.”
UKUYAMA AND
OTHERS, SANDEL I'VE MENTIONED,
IDENTIFY A PROBLEM AND SOME OF
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS
PROBLEM ARE WELL SPECIFIED, I
THINK, BY SANDEL.
THE PROBLEM IN ONE OF HUMAN
NATURE IN THE SENSE OF HUMAN
SOCIAL LIFE.
THAT WHICH
MATERS AND WHICH IS THREATENED
BY GENETIC ENGINEERING, IS NOT
THE POSSESSION OF A PARTICULAR
SET OF GENES, THAT DOESN'T
MATTER.
IT'S NOT EVEN THE POSSESSION OF
A PARTICULAR SET OF HUMAN
ATTRIBUTES, IN A SHALLOW SENSE.
WHAT IS THREATENED ON THIS
ANALYSIS, IS NOT BIOLOGY BUT
CHARACTER, NOT INDIVIDUALS AS
SUCH, BUT A SOCIAL WORLD OF A
PARTICULAR KIND.
ONE WHICH DEPENDS UPON AND
FOSTERS VIRTUES AND
CHARACTERISTICS WHICH WE
PROPERLY VALUE.
THIS IS THE HUMAN NATURE, THE
HUMAN SOCIAL LIFE WHICH WILL BE
LOST OR MAY BE LOST.
I WANT TO NOTICE NOW, HOWEVER,
TO MOVE ON, A PARTICULAR
DIFFICULTY, WHICH I CAN GET AT--
IT'S A VERY OBVIOUS QUESTION, BY
ASKING WHETHER SANDEL'S ARGUMENT
OR FUKUYAMA'S ARGUMENT, THESE
ARGUMENTS, ARGUMENTS LIKE THEM
ARE THEY GOOD ARGUMENTS?
NOW THAT SEEMS A VERY OBVIOUS
QUESTION, BUT OF COURSE IT'S A
RATHER AMBIGUOUS QUESTION, IS IT
A GOOD ARGUMENT.
I'M ALWAYS STRUCK -- THERE'S A
CERTAIN PUBLISHER, I THINK IT'S
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS,
ACTUALLY, I READ MANUSCRIPTS
FROM TIME TO TIME.
AND THEY SEND A STANDARD SHEET
ASKING YOU TO REPORT ON THE
MANUSCRIPT THAT YOU'VE READ.
AND THERE'S ONE QUESTION, THAT
ALWAYS SEEMS TO ME TO BE TWO
QUESTIONS, BUT IT'S ALWAYS
PRESENTED AS ONE QUESTION AND
YOU TICK THE BOX.
IT SAYS, IS THIS A GOOD BOOK,
AND WILL IT SELL?

The audience laughs.

Michael says I ALWAYS WANT TO DIVIDE THAT,
AND SAY, IT'S A GOOD BOOK, AND
IT WILL NOT SELL, OR IT'S A BAD
BOOK AND IT WILL SELL VERY WELL.
I MEAN PLAINLY THERE WERE THOSE
POSSIBILITIES.
NOW WHEN YOU SAY OF SOMEONE'S
ARGUMENT, IS IT A GOOD ARGUMENT?
THERE'S AN AMBIGUITY IN THAT,
TOO.
YOU MIGHT MEAN, IS IT A GOOD
ARGUMENT, IN THE SENSE, SHOULD
IT WORK?
BUT YOU MIGHT MEAN IS IT A GOOD
ARGUMENT IN THE SENSE, WILL IT
WORK?
AND PLAINLY THE TWO ARE QUITE
DIFFERENT THINGS AS THE WORLD
IS.
SHOULD SANDEL'S ARGUMENT WORK?
SHOULD THIS APPEAL TO FORMS OF
SOCIAL LIFE WE VALUE AS
THREATENED BY BIOTECHNOLOGY AND
BIO-ENGINEERING, SHOULD THAT
APPEAL TO THESE FORMS OF SOCIAL
LIFE?
SHOULD THAT CAUSE US TO WORRY
ABOUT THE GENOMIC REVOLUTION,
AND INDEED, SHOULD IT ENCOURAGE
US TO FIND WAYS OF GOVERNING
THIS TECHNOLOGY SO AS TO PREVENT
ITS WIDESPREAD APPLICATION?
SHOULD THESE ARGUMENTS WORK?
WELL THAT'S A VERY BIG QUESTION,
IT'S A QUESTION ABOUT THE
NATURE, LIMITS AND FORCE OF
MORAL ARGUMENT, AND I'M GOING TO
SAY THERE'S NO TIME TO PURSUE IT
JUST NOW, AND IN FACT, I DON'T
THINK IT MATTERS FOR THE NEXT
REASON I'M GOING TO GIVE.
SHOULD IT WORK, IS ONE QUESTION,
WILL IT WORK IS ANOTHER, AND I
THINK VERY CERTAINLY, THAT IT
WILL NOT.
I WANT TO NOTICE THEN, WHY THE
ARGUMENT WILL NOT WORK, A
CERTAIN PATHOS, NOT THIS TIME
THE PATHOS OF THEOLOGY, WHICH,
GOD KNOWS HAS HAD ITS SHARE OF
PATHOS IN THE 20th CENTURY, BUT
NOT THE PATHOS OF THEOLOGY, BUT
A PATHOS OF THIS SORT OF
ARGUMENT, BY WONDERING HOW IT
WORKS.
THE PATHOS, I THINK IS THIS.
THE VERY MOTIVES AND FORCES
WHICH HAVE LED TO THE CREATION
OF THE POWERFUL SCIENCE WHICH IS
UNDER DISCUSSION, ARE THE VERY
MOTIVES WHICH DRIVE IT FORWARDS
NOW.
OR TO PUT IT THE OTHER WAY
ROUND, THE SOCIETY WHICH WAS
MOVED, FIRST OF ALL, BY
SENTIMENTS OF HUMILITY, REGARD
FOR HUMILITY, SOCIAL ACCEPTANCE
AND SOLIDARITY, WOULD NOT BE A
SOCIETY, SURELY, INTERESTED AS
OURS IS, AND HAS BEEN
HISTORICALLY, FOR A LONG TIME,
INTERESTED EMOTIONALLY,
MATERIALLY AND IMAGINATIVELY IN
A PROJECT OF MASTERY OF NATURE
OF WHICH MODERN DAY GENOMIC
SCIENCE IS THE MOST DIZZYING
EXAMPLE.
THE FORCE OF THE--
THE PRACTICAL FORCE OF SANDEL'S
ARGUMENT, THAT IS TO SAY,
DEPENDS ON ITS APPEALING TO A
SOCIETY WHICH, EX HYPOTHESI, HAS
BEEN MOVED BY QUITE DIFFERENT
SETS OF MOTIVES.
IF IT WERE MOVED BY THE MOTIVES
HE APPEALS TO, WE PROBABLY
WOULDN'T HAVE THE HUGE
INVESTMENT, EMOTIONALLY,
INTELLECTUALLY, IN COUNTLESS
WAYS THAT WE'VE HAD IN THE
PROJECT OF MASTERY OF NATURE,
SINCE THE 16th, 15th CENTURY,
WHENEVER YOU DATE THAT PROJECT.
THE PATHOS THEN, IT SEEMS TO ME,
IS THE PATHOS OF, IT MIGHT BE A
COUNSELLOR WHO IS TRYING TO WEAN
A SOLITARY CLIENT FROM A
DEPENDENCE ON PORNOGRAPHY BY
DESCRIBING AND APPEALING TO THE
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GENUINE
RELATIONSHIP, AS PROMISING
MUTUALITY, SPONTANEITY AND
EMOTIONAL DEPTH, WHEN WHAT HAS
PRODUCED THE DEPENDENCE ON
PORNOGRAPHY IN THIS CLIENT, IS A
VALUATION OF THE OPPOSITES.
NOT MUTUALITY, BUT ABSOLUTELY
POWER, NOT SPONTANEITY, BUT
RELIABLE ROUTINE, NOT EMOTIONAL
DEPTH BUT CLINICAL
SUPERFICIALITY.
THE PATHOS OF A COUNSELLOR
DESCRIBING A WONDERFUL LOVE
AFFAIR TO SUCH A CLIENT IS
OBVIOUS, AND I SUSPECT THE
PATHOS IS THE SAME FOR SANDEL,
FUKUYAMA AND ALL THESE OTHERS,
WHO PROPERLY WORRY ABOUT
SOLIDARITY, HUMILITY AND SOCIAL
GENEROSITY.
PERHAPS THE ARGUMENT SHOULD
WORK, PERHAPS--
OR CERTAINLY WE WOULD LIKE THE
ARGUMENTS TO WORK.
BUT ON THE FACE OF IT, THERE
SEEMS TO ME LITTLE REASON TO BE
OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THINKING THESE
APPEALS WILL WORK AGAINST THE
VALUES WHICH HAVE GOT US TO THIS
POINT, AND EXPLAIN THE STATE
WE'RE IN.
IT'S A SORT OF PULLING YOURSELF
UP BY THE BOOTSTRAPS WHEN YOU
HAVE NO BOOTSTRAPS, WHICH IS NOT
VERY PROMISING.
THERE IS A VERY OLD JOKE ABOUT A
CLERGYMAN, HE'S THERE IN HIS DOG
COLLAR -- I DON'T KNOW WHETHER
YOU SAY DOG COLLAR IN AMERICA.
I SAID THIS TO SOMEONE RECENTLY,
AND THEY REACTED, OKAY, FINE --
OKAY, DOG COLLAR.
THERE'S A CLERGYMAN ON A PLANE
IN A DOG COLLAR, AND THE PLANE
IS IN TROUBLE, IN DIFFICULTIES
AND EVERYBODY STARTS TO PANIC.
AND THEY TURN TO THE CLERGYMAN
AND SAY, YOU'RE A CLERGYMAN, DO
SOMETHING RELIGIOUS.
AND HE TAKES A COLLECTION.
[Audience laughter]
NOW, I THINK I'VE ANALYSED THE
PROBLEM PRETTY WELL, AND THE
STATE WE'RE IN PRETTY WELL, AND
WE COULD JUST TAKE A COLLECTION,
GEORGE.
I THINK WYCLIFFE WOULD BE GLAD,
WOULDN'T IT?
BUT LET ME TRY AND SAY, RATHER
THAN JUST STOPPING AND SAYING
LET'S NOW TAKE A COLLECTION, LET
ME JUST TRY AND SAY SOMETHING
MORE, WHAT THEOLOGY MIGHT SAY TO
THE SENSE OF MORAL CRISIS
PROVOKED BY THE NEW GENOMICS.
CAN IT DO ANYTHING OTHER THAN,
SO TO SPEAK, TAKE A COLLECTION,
IN THE FACE OF OUR CURRENT
CULTURAL PERPLEXITY.
IT IS, I
BELIEVE, CHARACTERISTIC OF GOOD
MORAL THEOLOGY, WHICH IS TO SAY
NON-PELAGIAN MORAL THEOLOGY,
THAT TO USE A DISTINCTION KARL
BART MADE, IT'S CHARACTERISTIC
OF MORAL THEOLOGY THAT IT
EXAMINES ASPECTS OF OUR SOCIAL
AND PERSONAL LIFE, OUR MORAL
LIFE, NOT ONLY UNDER THE
CATEGORY, MUST NOT, BUT UNDER
THE HEADING, NEED NOT.
I'LL PUT IT
ANOTHER WAY.
A NON-PELAGIAN MORAL THEOLOGY
RECKONS WITH THE FACT THAT THE
MORAL LAW MEETS US, NOT ONLY,
NOT CHIEFLY AS WE ARE MET BY
SUCH DEMANDS AS, DO NOT WALK ON
THE GRASS, DO NOT SMOKE IN THE
LOBBY, OR NO PARKING.
THE MORAL LAW, AS IN, NO SMOKING
IN THE LOBBY, OR, NO PARKING, OR
DO NOT WALK ON THE GRASS, MEETS
US AS A SIMPLE MATTER OF
CHOOSING OBEDIENCE TO A SIMPLE
COMMAND.
IT DOESN'T MEET US EXISTENTIALLY
IN CRISIS, SO TO SAY.
AND TO REFER BACK TO THE
NEWSPAPERS, IN ENGLAND, IN THE
U.K., HOW MUCH MORE
SOPHISTICATED AND EDIFYING WOULD
BE THE DISCUSSION IN PAEDOPHILIA
IN THE U.K., IF PEOPLE
UNDERSTOOD THAT A PAEDOPHILE IS
NOT MET BY THE COMMAND NOT TO
ABUSE CHILDREN, AND YOU OR I ARE
MET BY THE COMMAND, DO NOT WALK
ON THE GRASS.
WE MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE A SOCIETY
WITH SOME SENSE OF EMOTIONAL
EMPATHY AND SYMPATHY FOR THOSE
WHO FIND THEMSELVES IN THESE
CIRCUMSTANCES, RATHER THAN A
SOCIETY WHICH IS SIMPLY
RETRIBUTIVE IN RELATION TO THEM.
THE MORAL LAW, ANYWAY, FOR ALL
OF US, DOESN'T MEET -- LEAVE
PAEDOPHILES TO ONE SIDE, THE
MORAL LAW IN GENERAL DOESN'T
MEET US AS THE COMMAND, DO NOT
WALK ON THE GRASS.
THE MORAL LAW MEETS US IN SO
MANY MATTERS, DISABLED FROM
GIVING A SIMPLE YES OR NO TO ITS
DEMANDS, UNLESS WE EXPERIENCE A
PRIOR AND DEEPER LIBERATION.
THE MUST NOT, OF THE MORAL LAW,
THAT IS TO SAY, WE HEAR ONLY TOO
WELL AND CLEARLY, BUT WE WILL
ONLY DO WHAT THE MORAL LAW ASKS,
THERE WILL ONLY BE OBEDIENCE
WHERE WE LEARN, FIRST OF ALL,
THAT WE NEED NOT, WHEN PRIOR TO
THE CALL FOR OBEDIENCE, WE ARE
LIBERATED FROM AND FREED FROM
THE COMPULSIONS AND DRIVES WHICH
PUSH US ON.
IT IS, I BELIEVE, THE PARTICULAR
TASK OF THEOLOGY TO GO FURTHER
THAN FUKUYAMA AND THE OTHER
MORALISTS I'VE REFERRED TO IN
JUST THIS RESPECT.
IT'S THE TASK OF THEOLOGY, THAT
IS TO SAY, NOT SIMPLY TO APPEAL
TO ARGUMENTS, HOWEVER GOOD THEY
MAY BE, HOWEVER THEIR ACTUAL
FORCE, WHICH WOULD HAVE
PREVENTED OUR BEING IN THE STATE
WE'RE IN, BUT RATHER TO TRY AND
UNDERSTAND WHY WE HAVE GOT TO
THE STATE WE'RE IN, WHY THESE
ARGUMENTS DO NOT WORK, BECAUSE
OF THE MOTIVE FORCES WHICH LIE
DEEPER.
KARL RAHNER, I HOPE OFFEND NO
ONE IN SAYING A TRULY APPALLING
DOGMATICIAN IN MY VIEW, TRIED TO
SELL US SOMETHING IN THE '60s
CALLED TRANSCENDENTAL THOMISM.
MANY OF US THOUGHT WE NEEDED
NEITHER THOMISM, NOR
TRANSCENDENTAL VERSION OF IT, SO
THE COMBINATION WAS PRETTY
UNAPPEALING ALTOGETHER, BUT A
TRULY APPALLING DOGMATICIAN IN
MY VIEW, BUT A REMARKABLY
PRESCIENT MORAL THEOLOGIAN AT
TIMES, AND IN AN ARTICLE WRITTEN
A VERY LONG TIME AGO, CALLED,
“THE PROBLEM OF GENETIC
MANIPULATION,” RAHNER WROTE
THIS, “GENETIC MANIPULATION IS
THE EMBODIMENT OF THE FEAR OF
ONESELF, THE FEAR OF ACCEPTING
ONESELF AS THE UNKNOWN QUANTITY
IT IS.
WHAT, IN ACTUAL FACT, IS THE
DRIVING FORCE BEHIND GENETIC
MANIPULATION?
WHAT SORT OF PERSON IS DRIVEN TO
IT?
THE ANSWER WOULD BE, IN THE
FIRST PLACE, THAT THE DRIVING
FORCE IS HATE OF ONE'S DESTINY,
AND SECONDLY, THE SORT OF PERSON
DRIVEN TO EMPLOY GENETIC
MANIPULATION, IS THE MAN WHO, AT
HIS INMOST LEVEL, IS IN DESPAIR,
BECAUSE HE CANNOT DISPOSE OF HIS
EXISTENCE.”
WELL, THERE'S A LOT MORE TO BE
SAID ABOUT THAT, BUT IN
PRINCIPLE AND OUTLINE, THAT
SEEMS TO ME WELL SAID, AND IT
MAKES THE POINT, I THINK, THAT
THE TASK OF CHRISTIAN LIFE AND
THOUGHT, IN RELATION TO THE
GENOMIC REVOLUTION AND THE
THREATS IT POSES, IS NOT FIRST
OF ALL, TO RAISE A VOICE IN
AGREEMENT WITH FUKUYAMA, SANDEL
OR CASSEL, HOWEVER GOOD THOSE
VOICES MAY BE, HOWEVER TIMELY
THEIR WARNINGS, HOWEVER
PERTINENT THEY ARE, AND HOWEVER
APPOSITE IS THEIR DIAGNOSIS OF
OUR CRISIS.
IT'S NOT THE FIRST THING OR THE
ONLY THING FOR CHRISTIAN
THEOLOGIANS TO DO.
IT IS, IN FACT AND INSTEAD, THE
TASK OF CHRISTIAN LIFE AND
THOUGHT, TO ADDRESS THE FEARS,
FEARS OF OURSELVES AND FEARS OF
OUR DESTINY, WHICH MOTIVATE THE
PROJECTS OF MAKING AND UNMAKING
AND REMAKING, WHICH HAVE GIVEN
US THE POWER OF CONTEMPORARY
GENOMICS, A POWER WHICH WILL NOT
BE FETTERED BY SIMPLE APPEAL TO
MOTIVE PLAINLY AT ODDS WITH
THOSE FORCES WHICH HAVE BROUGHT
US TO THIS POINT.
CONSTRUCTIVELY, WHAT DOES THIS
MEAN?
ONE OF THE INTERESTING ELEMENTS
AMONGST THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
TO USE THAT VATICAN PHRASE, IS
JUST THE SENSE OF A CULTURE, OUR
CULTURE, GRASPING AFTER
METAPHORS AND IMAGES AND
NOTIONS, WHICH ARE, SO TO SPEAK,
CULTURALLY OUT OF BOUNDS.
WHAT I MEAN IS THIS.
IT'S HARD TO PICK UP A BOOK OR
AN ESSAY ON THE THEME OF
GENETICS AND ITS MORAL
CHALLENGES, HARD TO PICK UP A
BOOK ON BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES AND
THEIR ETHICAL SIGNIFICANCE,
WITHOUT FINDING QUESTIONS POSED
ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD RELATE TO
OUR GIVEN NATURE.
QUESTIONS INTENDED TO CAUSE US
TO PAUSE BEFORE WE EMBARK UPON
ANOTHER STEP, TAKE ANOTHER STEP
ON THE PROMETHEAN PATH ON WHICH
WE SEEM TO BE SET, TOWARDS
MAKING OURSELVES ANEW.
HARD TO OPEN A BOOK WITHOUT
FINDING WORDS ABOUT GIVEN
NATURE, PROMETHEAN PROJECTS AND
SO ON.
BUT PLAINLY, THE NOTION OF THE
GIVENNESS OF NATURE, HUMAN OR
OTHERWISE, IS NOT AVAILABLE TO
CONSISTENT SECULAR THOUGHT, JUST
BECAUSE THERE IS NO GIVER FOR
CONSISTENT SECULAR THOUGHT.
I'M ALWAYS STRUCK BY THE NUMBER
OF PEOPLE WHO TALK ABOUT THE
CREATION WHILST CLAIMING TO DENY
ANY KNOWLEDGE OR BELIEF OF THE
CREATOR.
CUT OFF FROM ITS THEOLOGICAL
SOURCES, THERE IS LITTLE OBVIOUS
SENSE, INDEED, I THINK THERE IS
ALMOST NO SENSE TO BE MADE OF
THE IDEA OF THE GIVENNESS OF
NATURE, THERE'S NO ONE TO GIVE
IT.
ONCE HUMAN
NATURE IS THOUGHT OF AS BUT THE
CHANCE OUTCOME OF BLIND AND
RANDOM FORCES, THE NOTION THAT
THE VALUE OF HUMAN NATURE
DERIVES FROM ITS BEING GIVEN,
MUST GO OUT OF THE WINDOW,
SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS NOT GIVEN.
JAMES RACHELS, A CLEAR SIGHTED,
IF, FOR THAT REASON, SLIGHTLY
CHILLING ADVOCATE OF A
RESOLUTELY SECULAR MORALITY, HAS
REFERRED TO HUMAN DIGNITY--
AND I THINK
IT'S A RATHER FELICITOUS, BUT AS
I SAY, CHILLING PHRASE.
HE'S REFERRED TO HUMAN DIGNITY
AS THE IDEA OF HUMAN DIGNITY, AS
THE MORAL EFFLUVIUM OF A
DISCREDITED METAPHYSICS.
IT'S A WONDERFULLY FELICITOUS
BUT CHILLING PHRASE, THE IDEA OF
HUMAN DIGNITY, AS THE MORAL
EFFLUVIUM OF A DISCREDITED
METAPHYSICS.
SO WE MIGHT SAY, AND I THINK HE
WOULD HAVE TO SAY, OF THE NOTION
OF THE GIVENNESS OF HUMAN
NATURE.
IN SECULAR TERMS, THE NOTION OF
THE GIVENNESS OF HUMAN NATURE IS
THE MORAL EFFLUVIUM OF A
DISCREDITED METAPHYSICS.
THE LAST THEOLOGICAL WORD MIGHT
BE THE FIRST, IF ONE HAD BEGUN
IN A DIFFERENT WAY, AND THIS IS
THIS.
THAT THE LIFE AND VITALITY OF
THE NOTION OF THE GIVENNESS OF
HUMAN NATURE, AS OF THE LIFE AND
VITALITY OF THE NOTION OF HUMAN
DIGNITY, DEPENDS, I WOULD ARGUE,
ON GIVING LIFE TO THE NOTION OF
GOD'S GOOD CREATION.
WE WILL ONLY GAIN THE FREEDOM I
SPOKE OF EARLIER, THE FREEDOM
WHICH WILL COME, NOT FROM A MUST
NOT, I DON'T THINK THERE IS ANY
FREEDOM UNDER THE HEADING, MUST
NOT, IN RELATION TO
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND GENETIC
ENGINEERING, INSOFAR AS OUR
SOCIETY HEARS ONLY A MUST NOT,
IT WILL CONTINUE DOWN THE PATH.
THERE IS A FREEDOM FROM THIS
PROJECT, OR FREEDOM TO APPRAISE
THE PROJECT IN AN OPEN WAY, WHEN
WE HEAR A, NEED NOT.
JUST AS THIS LANGUAGE, AS THE
LANGUAGE OF GIVER AND CREATION
CEASES TO BE A RELIC FROM A ONCE
CHRISTIAN PAST, BUT INSTEAD
BECOMES AN AFFIRMATION OF WHAT
IS HELD TO BE A CURRENT TRUTH,
THAT NATURE, HUMAN AND
OTHERWISE, CONFRONTS US, NOT AS
RAW MATERIAL, ON WHICH WE MUST
IMPOSE OUR PURPOSES, OR WHICH
MUST SUBMIT TO OUR PROJECTS IF
IT IS TO HAVE ANY FORM OR
MEANING, BUT THERE IS, IN HUMAN
NATURE, AS THE WORK OF A GOOD
GOD, A MEANING AND PURPOSE WHICH
IS OUR TASK TO DISCERN AND
HONOUR, AND NOT, FIRST OF ALL,
TO IMPOSE.

The audience applauds.

A slate appears with the caption “Question and answer session.”

A man in a black suit says WOULD YOU SAY SOMETHING
MORE PLEASE, ABOUT THE
RELATIONSHIP OR NOT, BETWEEN
GENES AND CHARACTER?

Michael says WELL I'M SURE
I COULD SAY A LITTLE BIT MORE,
BUT I PROBABLY COULDN'T SAY IT
VERY PRECISELY OR NEATLY.
THERE'S UM, THE NOTION THAT
THERE'S A GENE FOR DIVORCE,
IS...
PLAINLY ABSURD, I WOULD SAY, IN
THIS SENSE, THAT WE ALL KNOW, IN
SAY, THE BREEDING OF FARM
ANIMALS, THAT CERTAIN
ATTRIBUTES, CERTAIN ATTRIBUTES
THAT WE DESIRE, ARE ASSOCIATED
WITH CERTAIN GENES, BUT VERY
FEW.
SO IT MIGHT BE THAT-- WE MAY NOT
EVEN WANT THESE CHARACTERISTICS
BUT IT MAY BE THAT POSSESSING
HORNS IN CATTLE, IS CONTROLLED,
MAY BE--
I'M NOT SAYING IT IS CONTROLLED,
BUT IT MAY BE POSSESSED BY A
SINGLE GENE.
MAYBE THE COLOUR OF THE COAT OF
AN ANIMAL IS CONTROLLED BY A
SINGLE GENE.
IT MAY BE THAT EYE COLOUR IS
CONTROLLED BY A SINGLE GENE.
BUT ANY TRAITS THAT WE'RE
TYPICALLY INTERESTED IN, EVEN IN
FARM ANIMALS, LIKE LEANNESS OF
MEAT, ARE CONTROLLED BY MANY
GENES.
NOW, WE KNOW THAT IN HUMANS,
THERE ARE CERTAIN, WHAT WE THINK
OF AS GENETIC DISABILITIES,
CYSTIC FIBROSIS, WAS MENTIONED
EARLIER, HUNTINGTON'S, AND SO ON
AND SO ON, A LOT OF GENETIC
DISEASES WHICH ARE CONTROLLED BY
SINGLE GENES.
BUT TYPICALLY, MOST HUMAN
ATTRIBUTES AND TRAITS, ARE
SHAPED AND INFLUENCED BY A WHOLE
RANGE OF GENES, AND BY THE
ENVIRONMENTAL CIRCUMSTANCES IN
WHICH THEY OPERATE.
SO IN OTHER WORDS, MY POINT
ABOUT HITLER WAS...
COULD I DECLARE AN INTEREST, I
AM A CLONE MYSELF, BUT A NATURAL
CLONE, IN THE SENSE THAT I HAVE
AN IDENTICAL TWIN BROTHER.
SO, BUT HAD HITLER HAD AN
IDENTICAL TWIN BROTHER, I MEAN,
HAD HE BEEN A NATURAL CLONE, AS
OPPOSED--
OR HAD HE BEEN CLONED, THERE IS
NO REASON TO THINK THAT HIS
BROTHER, GROWING UP EVEN IN THE
SAME FAMILY, WOULD HAVE BEEN AN
ANTI-SEMITIC MILITARIST WITH
DESIGNS ON CENTRAL EUROPE.
THE LINK THERE WITH THE GENES
AND THE BEHAVIOUR IS JUST TOO
TIGHT.
THAT'S NOT HOW GENES OPERATE,
AND IT WOULD BE CRAZY, I THINK,
INDEFENSIBLE TO ARGUE THAT THEY
DO.
THAT'S WHY I ALSO THINK THAT
WHEN YOU SEE A HEADLINE FOR
GENES FOR HOMOSEXUALITY, THERE'S
ALSO SOMETHING FUNNY GOING ON.
BUT I WON'T GO INTO THAT NOW,
UNLESS SOMEONE MAKES ME GO INTO
IT, BUT THE NOTION FOR A GENE
FOR HOMOSEXUALITY SEEMS TO ME TO
BE SOMETHING OF AN ABSURDITY AS
WELL.

A clergy man says PROFESSOR BANNER, I
WONDER IF YOU COULD SAY
SOMETHING ABOUT HOW YOU WOULD
MAKE THE CASE FOR A HUMAN NATURE
THAT IS IN SOME SENSE GIVEN,
RATHER THAN UH, IMPOSED UPON
HUMANITY, HOW YOU WOULD MAKE
THAT, I GUESS BOTH WITHIN THE
CHURCH TODAY, AND PERHAPS EVEN
MORE DIFFICULT, WITH EVEN MORE
DIFFICULTY, IN THE KIND OF
SECULAR MILIEU IN WHICH YOU
WORK.

Michael says I ALWAYS HAVE
A SENSE WHEN PEOPLE ASK
QUESTIONS LIKE THAT, THEY KNOW--
YOU PROBABLY KNOW THE ANSWER.
AND YOU COULD PROBABLY GIVE A
BETTER ANSWER THAN I COULD.
BUT I'LL DO MY--
YOU ASKED IT WITH A CERTAIN SORT
OF UM, CONFIDENCE THAT I
THOUGHT SUGGESTED YOU KNOW-- NO,
OKAY.
TWO QUESTIONS IN THE CONTEXT OF
THE CHURCH, I JUST WONDER, I'M
SORT OF SLIGHTED TROUBLED AS TO
WHY IT WOULD BE A PROBLEM MAKING
IT IN THE CHURCH.
I UM...
TAKE IT THAT THE DOCTRINE OF
CREATION -- I MEAN I CAN'T SPEAK
FOR THE CHURCH IN CANADA, BUT WE
STILL HAVE THE CREEDS IN THE
U.K.
AND WE LOSE BITS AND PIECES OF
THEM.
THERE WAS A PROPOSAL RECENTLY, I
THINK IT PROBABLY WASN'T IN
REALITY, BUT SOMEBODY SAID,
INSTEAD OF THE CREEDS BEGINNING,
“I BELIEVE...,” WE'D CHANGE IT
TO, “I HAVE A FUNNY FEELING
THAT....”
[Audience laughter]
BUT ANYWAY, UM...
WE STILL, WE STILL--
WE MIGHT BEGIN, “I HAVE A FUNNY
FEELING THAT...” BUT ANYWAY, THE
DOCTRINE OF CREATION SEEMS TO
ME, FOR ALL THE DIFFICULTIES
WITH WHAT THAT-- HOW THAT IS
SPELLED OUT IN A CONTEMPORARY
CONTEXT, IS AN AFFIRMATION OF
THE FAITH THAT OUR CREATED
NATURE IS CREATED, IS GIVEN.
AND THEREFORE, WE ARE NOT--
WE DO NOT NEED TO REGARD
OURSELVES AS RAW MATERIAL, WHICH
IS EITHER NEUTRAL, OR WORSE THAN
NEUTRAL, BAD UNTIL WE'VE MADE
SOMETHING OF IT.
IN ONE SENSE,
WE AND OUR NATURES ARE GIVENS,
THAT'S WHAT THE DOCTRINE OF
CREATION ASSERTS, AND WHAT THE
SABBATH ASSERTS, AND THE
INVITATION BY GOD, TO HUMANS
TO ENTER INTO THE SABBATH BEFORE
THEY BEGIN THEIR WORK -- BEFORE
THEY BEGIN THEIR WORK, IS TO
BEGIN THEIR WORK, WITH A SENSE
OF THE GOODNESS OF THE CREATED
ORDER.
I'M ALWAYS
WORRIED BY SCIENTISTS WHO TALK
ABOUT GOD--
WHO TALK ABOUT OUR NEED TO
COMPLETE CREATION, AS IF GOD
SORT OF TIRED, I MEAN THE BIBLE
IS REALLY TRYING TO TELL US THAT
GOD WAS REALLY TIRED ON THE
SEVENTH DAY, AND NEEDED TO GET
SOME PEOPLE TO HELP HIM.
I MEAN, I THINK THE SYMBOL OF
THE SABBATH IS THE SYMBOL OF THE
COMPLETENESS OF THE CREATED
ORDER IN ONE SENSE AND ITS
GOODNESS.
SO THAT'S WHAT I'D SAY IN THE
CHURCH, I DON'T KNOW WHETHER
THAT'S RIGHT.
IN A SECULAR CONTEXT, I DON'T
BELIEVE THAT UM...
I CAN WIN AN ARGUMENT WITH
PEOPLE WHO ARE RESOLUTELY
SECULAR.
WHAT I DO FIND HOWEVER, IS THAT
PEOPLE WHO ARE RESOLUTELY
SECULAR OR SAY THEY ARE
RESOLUTELY SECULAR, WILL OFTEN
AGREE TO ARGUMENTS THAT THEY
HAVE NO BUSINESS AGREEING TO, IN
A POLICY CONTEXT.
AND I DON'T THINK IT'S MY
BUSINESS TO SAY TO THEM, HOLD ON
A MINUTE, IF YOU REALLY FOLLOWED
UP YOUR CONVICTIONS, YOU
WOULDN'T BE SIGNING UP TO.
SO I THINK, JUST TO TAKE ONE
EXAMPLE, I THINK RESPECT FOR THE
CREATED ORDER IN THE SENSE OF
THE ENVIRONMENT, IS IMMENSELY
DIFFICULT FOR SECULAR THOUGHT.
IT'S A VERY POPULAR MOVEMENT AND
APPEAL, AND IF I FIND MYSELF IN
A POLICY CONTEXT, ARGUING FOR
PEOPLE TAKING YOU KNOW, NATIONAL
PARKS SERIOUSLY AND CHERISHING
THEM, I DON'T THINK IT'S MY
DUTY TO SAY TO SECULAR THINKERS,
I DON'T THINK YOU HAVE ANY BASIS
FOR SAYING THAT.
IF THEY SIGN UP -- IN OTHER
WORDS, IF I ASSERT A CONCLUSION
AND THEY GO ALONG WITH IT FOR
BAD REASONS, I WOULDN'T BE
CONCERNED AT THAT POINT TO STOP
THEM.
BUT I DON'T BELIEVE THAT
THEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT CAN MAKE
ITS WAY EVERYWHERE AT ALL TIMES.
I THINK IN FACT, NOT.
I THINK AS SECULAR THOUGHT
BECOMES MORE CONSISTENT AND
RIGOROUS, PEOPLE ARE ASKING
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DIGNITY OF
HUMAN LIFE, ABOUT THE SACREDNESS
OF HUMAN LIFE, WHICH WOULD HAVE
BEEN UNTHINKABLE 30 OR 40 YEARS
AGO.

A middle aged man with a beard says SIR, YOU'VE USED THE
TERM EUGENICS IN YOUR
DISCUSSION, AND I PERCEIVED IT
TO BE USED IN WHAT WE COULD CALL
A NEUTRAL WAY, AND YET, IN SO
MANY WAYS, THE TERM EUGENICS HAS
SO MANY NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS,
PARTICULARLY FROM THAT PERIOD OF
THE 1900s TO 1920s, AND YET WE
USE EUGENICS IN TERMS OF
SELECTIVE BREEDING FOR DAIRY
CATTLE, AND BEEF CATTLE ETCETERA, TO
GOOD RESULTS, BENEFICIAL RESULTS
FOR OUR SOCIETY.
AND YET, WHEN WE LOOK AT
EXAMPLES OF EUGENICS WITHIN OUR
OWN HUMANITY, WE FIND FAR MORE
NEGATIVE THAN POSITIVE RESULTS.
AND I JUST THINK MOST RECENTLY
OF THE PRACTISE IN CHINA OF
FAVOURING MALE OFFSPRING THAT IS
ACTUALLY DISRUPTING THE SOCIAL
BALANCE OF CHINA FOR THE FUTURE
GENERATION.
DO YOU SEE THIS EUGENICS OF
CHOICE AS BEING SOMETHING
POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE FOR FUTURE
GENERATIONS?

Michael says YEAH, I
MENTIONED IT IN PASSING AND
DIDN'T DISCUSS IT, SO I'M GLAD
OF THE OPPORTUNITY TO SAY
SOMETHING MORE ABOUT IT.
I THINK THERE'S BEEN--
I MEAN EUGENICS HAS, AS YOU SAY,
IN RECENT YEARS.
I DON'T KNOW WHEN WE'D SAY
RECENT IS, PROBABLY SINCE
NINETEEN FORTY -- SOMETHING, HAS
BEEN USED PEJORATIVELY.
VERY STRANGELY, VERY STRANGELY,
AND AGAIN, YOU MENTIONED THIS,
PREVIOUS TO THAT, IT WAS VERY
RARELY USED PEJORATIVELY, AND
I'VE NOT HAD THIS MISFORTUNE
MYSELF, BUT ONE OF MY PhD
STUDENTS, FOR HER PhD, READ THE
RECORDS OF THE LAMBETH
CONFERENCE OF 19, WHENEVER IT
WAS, WHEN THEY PASSED THE UM,
MOTION OR WHATEVER THE RIGHT
TERM IS, WELCOMING THE USE, OR
ALLOWING THE USE OF
CONTRACEPTION.
AND WHAT'S INTERESTING ABOUT THE
DEBATES THERE, IS THAT THOSE WHO
ARGUED FOR THE USE OF
CONTRACEPTION, AND THOSE WHO
ARGUED AGAINST, WERE ALL--
I WAS GOING TO SAY, TO A MAN,
AND I CAN SAY TO A MAN, CAN'T I,
TO A BISHOP -- ALL OF THEM USED
EUGENIC ARGUMENTS.
WHAT'S INTERESTING IS THEY USED
THEM--
THEY ALL USED EUGENIC ARGUMENTS,
BUT TO OPPOSITE POINTS.
SOME ARGUED THAT CONTRACEPTION
SHOULD BE GIVEN OUT, BECAUSE IT
WOULD PREVENT THE LOWER RACES
AND THE LOWER CLASSES BREEDING,
AND OTHER PEOPLE SAID IT
SHOULDN'T BE GIVEN OUT, BECAUSE
IT WOULD PREVENT THE HIGHER
CLASSES BREEDING.
BUT THEY WERE ALL ARGUING FROM
EUGENIC PREMISES, THEY JUST TOOK
THE FACTS TO BE DIFFERENT.
NOW SOME PEOPLE I THINK, HAVE
WANTED TO SAY, AND I THINK IN
SOCIETY, IN OUR SOCIETY, THERE
HAS IN ONE SENSE BEEN AN
ACCEPTANCE IN PRACTISE, OF WHAT
WE MIGHT CALL A NON COERCIVE
EUGENICS.
SO THERE'S BEEN A SENSE IN WHICH
PEOPLE HAVE WANTED TO SAY, WHAT
WAS WRONG WITH EUGENICS IN THE
'20s, '30s, AND '40s, WAS THAT
IT WAS IMPOSED.
IT WAS IMPOSED, IT WAS
THEREFORE, WELL NOT THEREFORE,
IT WAS IN ADDITION, UNJUST
BECAUSE IT WAS IMPOSED ON
CERTAIN PEOPLE IN CERTAIN WAYS.
AND SOME PEOPLE, I THINK, AND IN
PRACTICE, OUR SOCIETY IS
FLIRTING WITH THE NOTION THAT A
EUGENICS OF CHOICE WOULD BE A
GOOD THING.
IN OTHER WORDS, NOT THE POLICY
FROM CHINA, BUT SOME PEOPLE, I
THINK ARE FLIRTING WITH THE IDEA
THAT A EUGENICS OF CHOICE WOULD
BE A GOOD THING, BECAUSE THEN,
ALL CHILDREN BORN WOULD THEN BE
WANTED CHILDREN.
AND AS I REMEMBER HEARING A
JUDGE IN ENGLAND SAY ONCE, AN
ILL ADVISED COMMENT, I THOUGHT,
THERE'S NOTHING WORSE THAN BEING
AN UNWANTED CHILD.
I SAID, HOW ABOUT BEING A CHILD
WHO'S MURDERED, OR HOW ABOUT--
LOTS OF THINGS, IT SEEMS TO ME,
ARE WORSE THAN BEING AN UNWANTED
CHILD, BUT ANYWAY--
NOW I THINK THERE'S BEEN A
FLIRTING WITH THE NOTION THAT A
EUGENICS OF CHOICE WOULD BE A
GOOD THING, AND YOU RAISE ONE
PROBLEM WITH THE EUGENICS OF
CHOICE, WHICH IS, IT HAS
UNFORESEEN CONSEQUENCES.
SO INDIVIDUAL CHOICES, AND IT'S
A PROBLEM FAMILIAR IN ECONOMICS.
INDIVIDUALS MAKE CHOICES FOR
GOOD REASONS, BUT THE SOCIAL
CONSEQUENCES ARE BAD.
I THINK THE PROBLEM THAT
FUKUYAMA AND OTHERS ARE TRYING
TO SHOW UP, IS THAT A EUGENICS
OF CHOICE THREATENS -- I USE THE
PHRASE FROM SANDEL -- A VERY
UNFORGIVING SOCIETY, A BLEAK
SOCIAL LANDSCAPE, BECAUSE
INSOFAR AS WE CHOOSE, WE CHOOSE
WHAT WE-- WHAT THERE WILL BE IN
THE WORLD, WE WILL BE
UNACCEPTING AND UNFORGIVING OF
ALL THOSE THINGS WE HAVEN'T
CHOSEN.
AND I THINK THE PROSPECTS
THEREFORE, FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE
HANDICAPPED IN SUCH A SOCIETY,
ARE IMMENSELY BLEAK.

A man in his mid-thirties says HI, MY QUESTION IS ABOUT
YOUR--
I THOUGHT IT WAS YOUR CENTRAL
POINT ABOUT THE MUST NOT AND THE
NEED NOT, AND I WAS REALLY
INTRIGUED BY THAT, BECAUSE--
BECAUSE I--
BECAUSE FROM MY EXPERIENCE OF
WORKING WITH SCIENTISTS, THEY
DON'T THINK ABOUT PROMETHEAN
THINGS, THEY DON'T THINK ABOUT--
LIKE, I WORKED WITH A GUY WHO
LIKED CAT VIRUSES, AND HE GOT
REALLY EXCITED ABOUT CAT
VIRUSES, AND HE JUMPED UP AND
DOWN WHEN HE FOUND A RESULT.
AND I WAS JUST THINKING, SO IF
WE'RE GOING TO TELL HIM THAT HE
NEED NOT, BUT IF WE CAN POINT
HIM IN A DIRECTION OF SOMETHING
THAT HE CAN EXPLORE FOR SOME
GOOD, I MEAN I DON'T SEE WHY HE
WOULDN'T, BUT I JUST WAS
WONDERING IF YOU COULD SAY
SOMETHING MORE ABOUT THE NEED
NOT, LIKE, WHAT DOES THAT LOOK
LIKE, YEAH.

Michael says UM, LET ME
TAKE AN ANALOGY WHICH WILL
PROBABLY PROVOKE MORE--
MIGHT PROVOKE A CERTAIN SORT OF
UM, REACTION, BUT ANYWAY I'LL DO
IT BECAUSE I THINK IT'S
ILLUSTRATIVE.
THE DISCUSSION IN THE U.K., I
CAN'T SPEAK FOR NORTH AMERICA,
BUT THE DISCUSSION IN THE U.K.
AROUND INFERTILITY HAS TAKEN THE
PROBLEM OF INFERTILITY AS GIVEN.
THE PROBLEM OF INFERTILITY AS
GIVEN, IS THAT COUPLES MUST HAVE
CHILDREN IF THEY WANT THEM, AND
THE PROBLEM IS TO ENABLE THEM TO
HAVE CHILDREN.
IT SEEMS TO ME THERE'S A--
THE PROBLEM IS, MUST.
AND THEN
THERE'S A MORAL DISCUSSION WHICH
GOES ALONG THE LINES -- AND IT'S
A PERFECTLY SERIOUS MORAL
DISCUSSION, WHICH OF THE MEANS
WHICH MIGHT ENABLE THEM TO HAVE
CHILDREN, ARE LISTED, ARE
ACCEPTABLE OR NOT.
WHICH ONES ARE OKAY TO USE AND
WHICH ARE NOT.
IS SURROGACY OKAY, IS IN VITRO
FERTILISATION OKAY, SO WHAT'S
TAKEN AS GIVEN IS THAT THE AIM,
OVERCOMING INFERTILITY IS A GOOD
THING, AND THE DISCUSSION IS
ABOUT THE MEANS.
I THINK THAT
ANY COUPLE BEING, AS IT WERE, AT
THAT STAGE, NEED TO ENCOUNTER
THE QUESTION, THEY NEED TO ASK
THEMSELVES THE QUESTION, IN WHAT
SENSE IS INFERTILITY A PROBLEM?
IN OTHER WORDS, A SOCIETY WHICH
SIMPLY LEAPS INTO THE ARMS OF
THE PROBLEM AND OFFERS SOLUTIONS
TO IT, IS TO MY MIND, THE SAME
AS A SOCIETY, WHICH I'M AFRAID
THE U.K. HAS BEEN RECENTLY,
WHICH HAS TREATED THE PROBLEM OF
EUTHANASIA AS A GIVEN, AND HAS
ALMOST POSED IT AS, WHAT WILL WE
DO WITH ALL THESE OLD PEOPLE WHO
ARE A DRAIN ON SCARCE RESOURCES,
RATHER THAN ASKING WHAT SORT OF
SOCIETY--
AND THEN IS VERY IMPRESSED BY
THE FACT, VERY IMPRESSED BY THE
FACT THAT 65 PERCENT OF OLD PEOPLE SAY
THAT THEY'RE INTERESTED IN
EUTHANASIA.
I WANT TO ASK THE QUESTION, WHAT
SORT OF SOCIETY IS IT THAT HAS
CREATED A CLASS OF OLD PEOPLE
WHO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES AS A
DRAIN ON SCARCE RESOURCES AND
THINK THAT TO RECEIVE CARE IS
DEMEANING, OKAY?
SO WHAT I'M SAYING IS, THAT A
DISCUSSION OF EUTHANASIA, WHICH
IS, IS IT ACCEPTABLE, IS IT NOT
ACCEPTABLE, IS MISSING
SOMETHING.
I'D SAY THE SAME ABOUT A
DISCUSSION OF INFERTILITY, YOU
KNOW, I.V.F, OR NOT I.V.F.
I MEAN, FINE, THEY'RE GOOD
DISCUSSIONS, [Inaudible] BUT WHY
ARE WE GOING DOWN THIS ROUTE,
WHAT'S DRIVING US.
NOW YOUR GUY YOU MENTIONED,
WHO'S INTERESTED IN CAT VIRUSES,
I MEAN I'VE GOT LOTS OF FRIENDS
WHO ARE SCIENTISTS, THEY'RE
GREAT PEOPLE.
I'M NOT SUGGESTING THAT THERE'S
ANY SORT OF MALEVOLENCE, I'M NOT
THINKING THAT THEY ALL DRINK
THIS FUNNY LIQUID AT NIGHT AND
HAIR SPROUTS UP ON THE BACKS OF
THEIR HANDS...
[Audience laughter]
AND THEY HOWL AT THE MOON.
I ABSOLUTELY AGREE WITH YOU.
WHAT I'M SAYING IS, SOCIALLY,
AND I DON'T THINK IT'S EASY, IN
FACT I THINK IT'S REALLY A
PROBLEM, AND I'M NOT OPTIMISTIC
ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THIS.
WE SOMEHOW NEED TO STEP BACK AND
ASK, WHY ARE WE GOING IN THIS
DIRECTION, WHAT IS DRIVING US IN
THIS DIRECTION.
SO WE'RE NOT ASKING THE
QUESTION, IS THIS LICIT OR NOT,
IS IT ACCEPTABLE OR NOT, BECAUSE
MANY OF THE THINGS THAT ARE
BEING DONE, TO MY MIND, PLAINLY
ARE, IN ONE SENSE, ACCEPTABLE.
SOME OF THE THINGS THAT ARE
BEING DONE.
WE NEED TO ASK A QUESTION ABOUT
WHY ARE WE, AS A SOCIETY,
INCREASINGLY GOING DOWN THIS
ROUTE OF MASTERY, WHICH I WAS
SUGGESTING, ENTERTAINING, IS
BASED ON A FEAR AND A
NON-ACCEPTANCE OF OURSELVES AND
HUMAN NATURE.
A SOCIETY WHICH DIDN'T HAVE
THOSE FEARS, WOULD BE INTERESTED
IN DIFFERENT THINGS, EVEN IF
INDIVIDUALS WITHIN IT MIGHT BE
INTERESTED IN THEM.
I HOPE THAT'S CLEAR, I'M...
IT MAY BE WRONG, BUT I HOPE IT'S
CLEAR.
[Chuckles]

A woman in her late thirties says HI, THANK YOU VERY
MUCH FOR YOUR TALK.
AS SOMEONE WHO HAS HAD A BABY IN
THE LAST YEAR, IT WAS REALLY
INTERESTING TO ME TO SEE THE
PRESSURES THAT THERE ARE ON
PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING THROUGH
THIS PROCESS, THIS 40 WEEK
PROCESS TO CREATE THIS PERFECT
LIFE BEING.
AND THERE'S SORT OF AN
ASSUMPTION THAT YOU WILL WANT TO
DO THAT, AND YOU HAVE TO BE THE
ONE TO SAY, NO, NO, I DON'T WANT
THAT TEST, I DON'T WANT THAT
TEST, AND IT'S QUITE DIFFICULT
TO--
WHEN THE DIFFERENT TECHNOLOGIES
ARE PRESENTED TO YOU, TO S NO,
I'M NOT INTERESTED IN THAT.
THE IMPLICATION IS, WELL DON'T
YOU WANT THIS PERFECT BEING OR
THIS BETTER BEING AT THE END OF
THE 40 WEEKS.
SO THAT'S THE COMMENT.
IT'S QUITE SUBTLE, AND IF
SOMEONE'S NOT TERRIBLY EDUCATED,
YOU CAN GO THROUGH AND SUDDENLY
FIND YOURSELF IN AN ETHICAL--
AN AWFUL ETHICAL SITUATION
WITHOUT EVEN REALISING IT,
BECAUSE THE SORT OF ASSUMPTION
IS THAT YOU WOULD NOT WANT TO
HAVE A BABY WITH ANY SORT OF
ABNORMALITY WHATSOEVER.
UM, THAT LEADS ME TO MY
QUESTION.
WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN TO DO IN THE
MIDST OF ALL OF THIS
BIOTECHNOLOGY, ON A PERSONAL,
EVERYDAY LIVING LEVEL?
HOW ARE WE TO ENGAGE THESE
DIFFERENT ISSUES IN OUR DAY TO
DAY LIVES -- ANY SUGGESTIONS?

Michael says WELL I MEAN
THE SORT OF, THERE ARE TACTICS
AND STRATEGY, AREN'T THERE, AND
I UM...
I MEAN THE DAY TO DAY
ENGAGEMENTS OF ARGUMENT, FOR
EXAMPLE, WHICH ARE IMPORTANT
INSOFAR AS ONE FINDS ONESELF
WITH AN OCCASION TO BE--
TO DISCUSS THESE THINGS WITH
SOMEONE, OR IT MAY BE TO
INFLUENCE PEOPLE, HAVE A
CONVERSATION, THEN ONE DOES
THOSE THINGS.
ON THE LARGER PICTURE, I DON'T
KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THE ANSWER IS,
AND I'M NOT OPTIMISTIC ABOUT
WHERE WE'LL BE IN 20 OR 30
YEARS' TIME.
IT SEEMS TO ME WE'VE
INCREASINGLY GOT A SOCIETY WHICH
IS OBSESSED WITH SHALLOW AND
TRIVIAL THINGS, AND A LOT OF THE
BIO-ENGINEERING, OR THE GOOD--
I MEAN PLAINLY, YOU KNOW,
FINDING A CURE FOR CYSTIC
FIBROSIS, IS, IN ANYONE'S BOOK,
A GOOD THING, BUT THERE'S AN
AWFUL LOT OF BIO-ENGINEERING,
GENOMIC REVOLUTION, WHICH IS NOT
ADDRESSING THESE THINGS.
SO WHAT CAN ONE SAY ABOUT IT?
I SUPPOSE ONE OF THE THINGS, AN
ODD THING TO SAY, AND PERHAPS
I'M WAGGING MY FINGER AT MYSELF,
AS MUCH AS ANYONE ELSE.
IT'S QUITE NOTICEABLE THAT ONE
OF THE THINGS THAT KARL BARTHE
AND DIETRICH BAHNHOFFER--
WHAT THEY THOUGHT ONE SHOULD DO
IN THE FACE OF NAZI-- THE RISE
OF NAZISM, IT'S A VERY ODD
THING TO DO.
IT'S AN EXTREMELY ODD THING TO
DO, AND IF I HADN'T CITED THEM
FIRST, WELL YOU MAY LAUGH
ANYWAY, BUT YOU CERTAINLY WOULD
HAVE LAUGHED.
THE THING THEY THOUGHT WAS MOST
IMPORTANT WAS TO DO THEOLOGY,
WHICH WAS TO SAY, TO CONTINUE TO
SPEAK CLEARLY AND ARTICULATELY
ABOUT THOSE--
THE INTELLECTUAL RESOURCES WHICH
PROVIDE US WITH THE MEANS OF
RESISTANCE.
NOW VERY ODD THAT WHAT
BAHNHOFFER WANTED TO DO IN THE
FACE OF EVERYTHING, AND HE COULD
HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED ALL SORTS
OF THINGS, WAS TO GO OFF AND
WRITE A LITTLE BOOK ON ETHICS.
NOW HE COULD HAVE BLOWN UP
BRIDGES, HE COULD HAVE DONE ALL
SORTS OF THINGS, AND THEY WOULD
HAVE BEEN SPLENDID THINGS, BUT
THERE WAS A SENSE IN WHICH
THINKING AND SPEAKING CLEARLY
ABOUT THE THINGS THAT MATTER --
IT CAN SEEM TRIVIAL, BUT I THINK
IS IMMENSELY IMPORTANT, AND IT'S
PERHAPS ABOUT THE ONLY THING WE
CAN DO.
NOW LET ME TAKE AN EXAMPLE FROM
THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT, WHERE
I'VE BEEN QUITE INVOLVED.
THERE IS AN INCREASING -- IN
POLICY DOCUMENTS, IN GOVERNMENT
PAPERS, IN EVERYDAY PARLANCE, A
TALK ABOUT-- THE WORD CREATION
IS GONE, AND PEOPLE TALK ABOUT
THE ENVIRONMENT AND IT'S STOCK.
I DON'T KNOW WHETHER THIS IS
USED IN NORTH AMERICA OR NOT,
BUT THEY TALK ABOUT STOCK, THEY
TALK ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL
CAPITAL, THEY TALK ABOUT
ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES.
SO AN OTTER, OR A POLAR BEAR IS
STOCK, CAPITAL, AND
ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCE.
WELL I THINK ONE NEEDS TO RESIST
THOSE WAYS OF SPEAKING.
AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
THEOLOGY DOES IS TO SPEAK
TRUTHFULLY ABOUT THE HUMAN
CONDITION, GOD AND THE WORLD.
AND I THINK SPEAKING TRUTHFULLY,
AND PROTECTING THAT, IS
IMPORTANT, BECAUSE IT'S THE ONLY
RESOURCE--
WELL, ONLY -- IT'S THE CHIEF
RESOURCE FOR RESISTANCE TO
ALTERNATIVE FORCES.
AND IT'S IMMENSELY IMPORTANT,
BECAUSE, I DON'T KNOW IF YOU'LL
SYMPATHISE WITH THIS, BUT IT'S
TRUE IN THE U.K. CONTEXT.
JUST OCCASIONALLY, CHURCHES GET
COLONISED FROM THE OUTSIDE.
I WAS AT A CONFERENCE RECENTLY
AND PEOPLE WERE VERY ANXIOUS
ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF THE
CHURCH ON PUBLIC MATTERS.
I SAID, WHAT BIG JOKE IS THAT?
I MEAN, THE INFLUENCE OF THE
CHURCH ON PUBLIC MATTERS?
I'M MUCH MORE CONCERNED ABOUT
THE DELETERIOUS EFFECT OF THE
PUBLIC SQUARE ON THE CHURCH.
I MEAN WE'RE NOT-- IT DOESN'T
SEEM TO ME I HEAR POLITICIANS
SOUNDING LIKE CHURCH PEOPLE ALL
THE TIME, I FIND CHURCH PEOPLE
SOUNDING ALL THE TIME LIKE
POLITICIANS.
SO LET'S HAVE A FEW CONFERENCES
ABOUT YOU KNOW, KEEPING THE
POLITICS OUT OF THE CHURCH, NOT
KEEPING THE CHURCH OUT OF
POLITICS.
SO, YOU KNOW, SPEAKING
TRUTHFULLY AND PROTECTING THE
HERITAGE, I THINK IS AN
IMPORTANT TASK.

A woman in her mid-twenties says I'M THINKING ABOUT
SOME SPECIFIC SCENARIOS, SUCH AS
WHEN A MOTHER KNOWS THAT BEFORE
GIVING BIRTH, SHE COULD PROBABLY
DO SOMETHING TO PREVENT SAY,
DOWNS SYNDROME, OR OTHER FATAL
DISEASES, OR WHEN A MOTHER KNOWS
THAT SHE COULD UH...
HELP A CHILD HAVE BETTER HEALTH
OR IMPROVE ON A CERTAIN
CONDITION BY USING CELLS FROM AN
EMBRYO WHICH WOULD INVOLVE THE
TAMPERING OF GENES.
I WONDER WHAT IS A MOTHER TO DO
IF SHE KNOWS THAT THERE ARE
OPTIONS OUT THERE, GENETICALLY
THAT COULD PREVENT WORSE THINGS
FROM HAPPENING FOR THE CHILD?
FROM A THEOLOGICAL STANDPOINT,
WHAT WOULD BE THE SOLUTIONS?

Michael says I THINK-- I
MEAN, IT'S OBVIOUSLY AN
IMMENSELY IMPORTANT AND
DIFFICULT QUESTION.
AND I'LL JUST TRY AND MAKE SOME
GENERAL REMARKS.
WHAT I WANTED TO SAY WAS THAT,
WHAT ONE NEEDS TO CONSIDER IS
THE WIDE FRAMING OF THIS
QUESTION, AND THE SORT OF
BEHAVIOURS THAT ARE APPROPRIATE.
ANY PREGNANT, OR EVEN SOON TO BE
PREGNANT WOMAN WOULD TAKE ALL
REASONABLE PRECAUTIONS AND
STEPS, NOT SMOKING, NOT EXPOSING
HERSELF TO CERTAIN SORTS OF
FOODS, WHICH POSE A RISK, AND SO
ON TO ENSURE THE HEALTH OF THE
CHILD.
THAT SORT OF GOES WITHOUT
SAYING.
AND IF THERE
WERE WAYS OF BEHAVING AND SO ON,
WHICH PROTECTED A CHILD FROM
FUTURE HEALTH PROBLEMS, THAT
WOULD BE THE NORMAL CARE THAT A
MOTHER WOULD SHOW TOWARDS A
CHILD.
NOW THAT'S AT ONE END OF THE
SPECTRUM, AND IS UNCONTENTIOUS.
WHAT I'M SUGGESTING IS, AT THE
OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM, THERE
IS A SORT OF DETERMINATION TO
MOULD THE CHILD, THROUGH
DIFFERENT MEANS.
IT MIGHT BE
THROUGH--
IT MIGHT BE, I MEAN YOU
MENTIONED DESTROYING ONE EMBRYO
TO TREAT ANOTHER.
IT MIGHT BE ALL SORTS OF THINGS,
BUT THERE WOULD BE A
DETERMINATION TO ENSURE A
QUALITY EMBRYO, I'VE HEARD THAT
EXPRESSION USED, A QUALITY
EMBRYO.
WHICH WOULD BE SUGGESTIVE OF A
REFUSAL TO ACCEPT A CHILD AS A
CHILD.
IT WOULDN'T BE SUGGESTIVE OF A
CONCERN FOR THE GOOD OF THE
CHILD, BUT IT WOULD BE A
SUGGESTION TO HAVE A PRODUCT OF
A CERTAIN QUALITY.
NOW THAT ISN'T A SHARP
DISTINCTION.
IT ISN'T A SHARP DISTINCTION.
IT'S A BIG LIKE NIGHT AND DAY.
IT ISN'T A SHARP DISTINCTION.
THERE ARE PARADIGM INSTANCES OF
NIGHT, AND THERE ARE PARADIGM
INSTANCES OF DAY.
AND I THINK THERE ARE PARADIGM
INSTANCES OF MOTHERS SHOWING
PROPER CARE FOR CHILDREN, FOR
THEIR HEALTH AND WELL BEING, AND
THERE ARE--
IF, FOR EXAMPLE, ONE KNEW THAT
DOWNS SYNDROME WERE A MATTER OF
A VITAMIN DEFICIENCY, A MOTHER
WHO MIGHT WELL SEEK TO AVOID
SUCH A DEFICIENCY PRIOR TO
CONCEIVING.
THERE ARE PARADIGM EXAMPLES AT
ONE END, AND THERE ARE PARADIGM
EXAMPLES OF SEEKING A PRODUCT
WHICH WOULD BE UNACCEPTABLE AT
THE OTHER, AND THERE'S A LOT OF
GREY AREA IN BETWEEN.
WHAT I'M TRYING TO POINT TO IS
THE GENERAL TENDENCY, WHICH IS
PUSHING US MORE AND MORE, IT
SEEMS TO ME, AS A SOCIETY, IN
THE DIRECTION OF WANTING
CHILDREN, AND INDEED OTHERS, TO
MATCH UP TO STANDARDS WE'VE LAID
DOWN, AND NOT ACCEPTING THEM IF
WE DON'T.
AND A SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT THAT IS
LIKE THAT WOULD BE VERY
UNFORGIVING, I THINK, IT WOULD
BE A HARSH AND UNFORGIVING
ENVIRONMENT.
BUT I HAVE TO DISCUSS SPECIFICS
AND EXAMPLES WITH YOU, I'M
AFRAID, RATHER THAN--
IF I'M ALWAYS LOOKING AT
PARTICULAR CASES.

The audience applauds.

Watch: Dr. Michael Banner on Genetics and Human Nature