Third proposition speech
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. One member of the opposition made an extremely good point. When citing Rabelais, he reminded us that great scientific advances should be matched by even greater ethical questioning. Genetic engineering is such a breakthrough. As is, it is only a tool: a tool that could be used for good, as it could be used for evil. Our goal here is to demonstrate that, indeed, and contrary to what the opposition concluded, this technology would be used for good. This precludes, in our opinion, its complete rejection. (Continues below the fold.)
Third opposition speech
Third opposition speech
Ladies and gentlemen, I will address the main clash points between our team who oppose the motion of having designer babies, and that of the proposition. The first clash point is regarding the definition, as in whether the prospect of "cosmetic surgery" should be included in the debate. (Continues below the fold.)
Third proposition speech
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. One member of the opposition made an extremely good point. When citing Rabelais, he reminded us that great scientific advances should be matched by even greater ethical questioning. Genetic engineering is such a breakthrough. As is, it is only a tool: a tool that could be used for good, as it could be used for evil. Our goal here is to demonstrate that, indeed, and contrary to what the opposition concluded, this technology would be used for good. This precludes, in our opinion, its complete rejection.
Everyone seems to agree on some points. I will first of all give a brief recap of them. I will then elucidate the clash points that revolve around values. They are the most enduring, the most difficult to solve, and the most important to grasp in order to take an informed decision. I am convinced that the treatment I will give them here will convince you that the proposition should be accepted.
But first, everyone seems to agree that some form of genetic engineering, broadly construed, is good. A girl or a boy born with a spina bifida, and doomed to die in the first few years of life, or born without a brain, and thus unable to express any form of conscience, display such a grave and life-threatening impairment that an early abortion is of course almost always prescribed, and almost always followed by the mother. Therefore, the debate is not about the desirability per se of techniques to avoid this kind of condition, be they PGD, IVF, or any kind of means we might invent and experiment with in the future. It is a problem of threshold. Namely: what count as a genetic disease? And what disease is so severe, so likely to bring sorrow and pain, and so difficult to fix once the incriminated genes are there, that it should be prevented with the selecting out of those genes?
The determination of this threshold should not be left to the individual conscience, because it deals with human dignity as its core. We, the proposing team as well as the members of the opposition, thus further agree on this point: the techniques used to implement the kind of screening aforementioned should be subjected to a heavy load of regulation.
Now that we have established a common battle field, let’s turn to the main points of contention. I decided to focus on three major clash points: Is life worth living with a debilitating disease? Would diversity disappear with massive genetic engineering? Would the moral obligation felt by parents to systematically try to enhance their babies with such means be the first step to worrisome developments—like, for instance, a revival of eugenics?
Let’s start with the problem of knowing the worth of a life. Since this is in our opinion the crux of the matter, we will delve into it more deeply than for the other clash points. Solon warned us that we cannot say that a life has been fulfilled before it ends; could we make a judgment about the desirability of a life before it even begins? The opposition discussed the interesting case of Stephen Hawking. Of course he is a genius (this shouldn’t be a reason to keep him alive and burn all the other invalids). And of course he is happy to be here. But the question isn’t whether somebody would be happy, after being born, to be born, but whether he or she should be born in the first place.
David Benatar, in his extremely controversial Better Never Have Been Born, makes the point that not to be born is always better than to be born. His philosophical argument, extremely analytical in nature, is to say that, while being born brings both pleasure and pain, not being born cannot bring pain, and thus there is an irreducible asymmetry between those two alternatives. Of course, it does not mean that we should all commit suicide, because we are all already born. The analysis of this asymmetry is particularly relevant here, because it simply means that the example of Stephen Hawking is just irrelevant.
To make the point more forcefully, let’s take an analogy which, I hope, is less controversial. Imagine that, after a terrible accident when you fall off a cliff, your spinal cord is severed, and you are left unable to walk again. Imagine that this accident leads you to overcompensate, to live a life even more fulfilling than, in your opinion, if you weren’t plagued by this condition. Does it mean that we shouldn’t prevent people falling off cliffs, because they could anyway lead a fulfilling life when impaired? Destroying our proposition with this kind of argument is like pretending that, by giving my analogy, I am trying to persuade you that we should kill all the already invalids.
The second major clash point was about diversity. Would genetic engineering eradicate diversity? Would genetic engineering eradicate surprise and pleasure? Would genetic engineering be as if everyone were being baptized and nobody happy to be so? What this argument amounts to, is that the diversity of deficiencies is benefiting society. Let’s put aside the point that deficient people could accomplish great things: this has been rebutted in the previous paragraph. Let’s put aside the fact that such a stance could come from envisioning being jealous towards one’s neighbor, who has been enhanced while one weren’t because one’s parents lacked prudence. What then is there to rebut?
We don’t think that diversity, which is a great thing and, according to Hannah Arendt’ The Human Condition, the basis of civil society, should come at the cost of some people being plagued by genetic diseases. Diversity should be searched for in difference among equals. Saying that having disabled people onboard is good for diversity is like saying that poor people contribute to a society’s being plural. If the poor were there in the first place, of course they should be invited to the democratic process (and actually, they don’t need to be invited, because they already belong to this process by right). But should we “invent” the poor for the sake of it? Should we refrain to prevent genetic diseases just because it will fulfill our ethereal ideal of diversity?
The third clash point was about the moral obligation of parents to enhance their babies, and the slippery slope towards eugenics that we could go down. We think that the opposition forgot that eugenics is about coercion, concerns itself with people already born, and discriminates and divides them. Our proposition, on the other hand, is about alleviating human suffering (that could, and thus should, be prevented!). Conflagrating our proposition and eugenics thus amounts to equate, say, social democracy and communism: both warrants state intervention, but they administer different doses.
To conclude, I would like to say that scientific discovery has always been welcomed with fear and misunderstandings. It has been the case with the computer, compared to an unstoppable behemoth in the 1960s and with industrialization in general, powered by those “dark satanic mills” so frightfully described by William Blake. Let’s not behave like Luddites on the subject of genetic engineering. Let’s see this tool as a new means to better the human condition, and alleviate unneeded suffering.
Thank you very much, and please vote for us.
Third opposition speech
Ladies and gentlemen, I will address the main clash points between our team who oppose the motion of having designer babies, and that of the proposition.
The first clash point is regarding the definition, as in whether the prospect of "cosmetic surgery" should be included in the debate. The proposition has clearly stated that they do not include the cosmetic prospect, as they believe that with proper regulation, what our team has stated about the risks and the problems that can arise from this technology is unnecessary. They also talks about the "fundamental" distinctions between therapy and enhancement, giving the example of Adam Nash, who is the first designer baby born with the purpose of saving his sister's life. As opposition our stand is clear: how will the proposition implement rules and regulations when this technology is matured and available to the general public? On what basis shall it be banned, when we have cosmetic surgery legalized almost everywhere in the world? Hence, while we do not condemn or belittle the possible future of the PDG with respect to curing hereditary diseases, we believe that this technology will also bring much confusion as we will have the power to customize the looks of our children, making human "customizable" like Dell computers! The proposition has overlooked that while the birth of Adam Nash is a significant step in the genetic medical history, it has also sparked huge debates about the ethical use of the PDG technology, and a survey done shortly after has shown that about 80% of the people are worried that this technology can get out of control in the future. We share their concern and we firmly believe that so do you. Designer babies will have devastating effect on the human race, we believe that even the proposition does not want to see it happen.
The second clash point of the debate is that the proposition keeps their argument based on their perception that we as opposing team, are against the idea of curing hereditary disease. However it is the technology i.e. PDG which we are opposing but not the purpose of it. PDG already can allow us to change the physical appearance by changing or choosing the desired genes, and we see it as a potential to bring disasters to the human race as it can reduce the variety in the gene pool. As stated by my team member FS that there is already a disproportion of the males to females in China due to the ability to check for the sex of the unborn child. If we allow PDG to develop further, the problem will persist with the possibility to "design" the babies. It is interesting to note that the proposition team acknowledge the possibility of checking for the gender of the child before birth, however it is definitely not the "variety" which is stated by the proposition team. What is real variety, is the variation of the genetic combination due to the natural selection, which will ensure our survival in case of a catastrophe. PDG on the other hands, will greatly reduce this variation, hence leads to the reduce in the gene pool for the human race, and ultimately endanger our survival. Hence, I am here to make it clear for the last time that we do not deny the possible achievement that PDG can bring, but we also hope to ring the alarm of what this technology can bring to the human race in the future. Designer babies should not be the way to go in the future.
Lastly, I should reinforce one of the point mentioned by my teammate that it is unethical to deny a potential life just because he has a hereditary disease. No one is in position to say that this child's future will only be filled with pain and hence the value of life is diminished. There are many people who live their lives to the fullest despite having illness which cannot be cured. Stephen Hawking is a good example, as my teammate has already mentioned. Another example will be Stephen Wiltshire, a famous architectural artist with over 23k likes on Facebook, who suffers from autism which has a strong genetic basis. These people not only live their lives to the fullest, they also serve as an example, an inspiration, to millions of people worldwide. Can we say they do not have a value of life?
Say no to designer babies, say no to PDG. Thank you very much and vote for us!