Eugenics Performed By A Blind, Idiot God
(Azathoth, Lovecraft’s famous blind, amoral, idiot God.)
Crosspost of this.
I’m hugely in favor of gene editing and other actions that would improve the welfare of future people. If we could perform genetic engineering that made future people smarter, happier, and less likely to get diseases, I’d be in favor of it. This assumption is controversial. Many people think there’s something immoral about changing the genes of humans, even in ways that are expected to improve their quality of life. They think that such an idea sounds too much like the clearly objectionable coercive eugenics of the Nazis, for instance.
But you know what would be almost as bad as eugenics performed by Nazis—eugenics performed by a totally random, amoral selector. This eugenicist wouldn’t have cruel ideas about Aryan superiority, for instance—instead, they have a bizarre fetishism of reproduction. This selector performs eugenics so that only those who reproduce a lot—and also help out their kin—are likely to pass on their genes.
Such a selector is wholly unconcerned with human welfare. It makes it so that humans can’t empathize with those far away, because warring with native tribes is effective. It makes it so that men are naturally more aggressive than women, committing 96% of homicides, all because in the evolutionary past it was beneficial—it enabled more efficient fighting, for instance.
In fact, this selector has selected for individuals who are likely to engage in “rape . . . infanticide, abuse of low-status individuals, and murdering all those people over there and taking their stuff.” It selects for individuals who reproduce frequently, rather than those who are good, moral, or even happy.
In fact, in some other species, things are even worse. Some species give birth to hundreds of millions of eggs, many of whom contain sentient beings almost all of whom die a horrible painful death at a young age. This selector makes it so that male ducks have corkscrew penises so that they can rape female ducks more efficiently.
This predictor has been operating for billions of years. Their amorality results in them designing both all sorts of horrifying, rapidly multiplying bacteria and viruses that kills lots of people and animals alike and various defense mechanisms. But after millions of years, it offers for you to take over their job. Rather than selecting for prolificness alone, you can affect which beings exist in the future with moral goals in mind! You can make it so that future beings are likely to be happy, kind, and just. Isn’t this an improvement?
But this is the world that we live in. Selection pressures exist as an inevitable fact of life. Evolution has shaped our behaviors. Our choice is not between selected behaviors and unselected behaviors. It is between behaviors selected by parents who have their children’s best interests in mind, who want their children to be kind, happy, and healthy, and selection at the hands of the blind, idiot, Darwinian god, who has been practicing social Darwinism for millions of years, where only those who pass on their genes have their traits reproduced.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should practice the kind of harmful, coercive eugenics practiced by the Nazis. It doesn’t mean we should prevent anyone from reproducing. But it does mean we should empower parents with the option of gene editing to improve their children’s lives, rather than banning it. It means we should see making future people happier and more moral as a worthwhile goal.
The amoral god that selects only for having many offspring has turned over the reigns to us. We can leave its ghastly designs in place, or instead change them to improve the lives of the future. I think this is not a hard choice.