Worth Reading - 4/8

1. Eugenics is back. Now it's designer babies. While we certainly have the ability to modify the human gene or simply select the "best" human genes, this does not imply that we should do so. However, there appears to be a movement in the UK to do just that:

A hundred years ago the eugenic mission involved a handful of crude tools: bribing the ‘right’ people to have larger families, sterilising the weakest. Now stunning advances in science are creating options early eugenicists could only dream about. Today’s IVF technology already allows us to screen embryos for inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis. But soon parents will be able to check for all manner of traits, from hair colour to character, and choose their ‘perfect’ child.

The era of designer babies, long portrayed by dystopian novelists and screenwriters, is fast arriving. According to Hank Greely, a Stanford professor in law and biosciences, the next couple of generations may be the last to accept pot luck with procreation. Doing so, he adds, may soon be seen as downright irresponsible. In his forthcoming book The End of Sex, he explains a brave new world in which mothers will be given a menu with various biological options. But even he shies away from the word that sums all this up. For Professor Greely, and almost all of those in the new bioscience, eugenics is never mentioned, as if to avoid admitting that history has swung full circle.

The first 10 minutes of this podcast are worthwhile, too:

2. Does the government have a right to know what you support? A recent question of privacy rights in California is raising that question. Government efficiency is good, but it may not trump all individual freedoms.

The state of California argued that its interest in rooting out fraud and abuse is important enough to require charitable organizations to provide the state with big donors’ names, saying that review of donor information helps investigators detect misuse of charities. The foundation — Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative political advocacy group that supports limited government, lower taxation, and free market principles — argued that such disclosures would discourage would-be donors from giving money, out of fear of reprisals. The foundation had ample examples at its disposal of what gives rise to such fears, including witness testimony from several donors who have been harassed and threatened for supporting conservative movements. One witness described being spat on at a right-to-work event. Another testified that he received death threats.
This is how we do things on the Internet, though. We come up with terrible ideas and then immediately push them out into the world where they ruin people’s lives. We do it with tweets, and we do it with new technologies, even when they’re loaded with obvious problems. The main problem, of course, with the “Mic Drop” feature was that it was too easy to use by mistake, but there were other problems as well. There was the fact that they didn’t do enough to educate people about what it would do. And then, there was…well, there was the “mic drop” image itself.

Whatever else you may say about the act of “dropping the mic,” it’s hard to deny that it’s an inherently aggressive act. Owing to rap battles as it does, there’s an implied message to it: “I’ve just said the last word, and I’ve shut you down so effectively that I know I can both surrender my platform and damage some expensive electronics that I don’t own with impunity.”

4. Again with the humor thing. The Babylon Bee struck a chord with a number of folks this week with a piece on quarterly church attendance and a faithless kid. There were some folks riled about it because it hit too near to home. However, it raises a question about absenteeism from church and the message that sends to kids.

Local father Trevor Michelson, 48, and his wife Kerri, 45, are reeling after discovering that after 12 years of steadily taking their daughter Janie to church every Sunday they didn’t have a more pressing sporting commitment—which was at least once every three months—she no longer demonstrates the strong quarterly commitment to the faith they raised her with, now that she is college-aged.

5. This video is of Slavoj Zizek relating political correctness to modern totalitarianism. The point is well taken and worth thinking about. I think that his example of using racial epithets is a poor example. (He uses several, which I do not condone. If that will offend you, then don't click this link.) However, the general chain of logic and the difference in the sort of coercion being used in postmodern argumentation is worth noting.