My Meliorism

Through our intelligence and abilities, humans have the capacity to improve themselves and their surroundings. I don’t think we should ever hesitate to do so. There are those who see human interference with the natural world as “playing god”, parenthetically an expression I don’t see the point of: isn’t god supposed to be good?

Some hold the view that humans shouldn’t interfere with nature. This position is ultimately self-destructive when you analyse it. This type of person wants to return to an agrarian society where we cook on stoves and farm our own food and never touch an electrical device. This type of person might call themselves a “technophobe”. But aversion to technology per se is foolish because people misunderstand what technology means. Technology is any artifice that automates or replaces the work of humans. A computer is technology. A well is technology. A spoon is technology. Farming is technological. A ladder is technology.

On the other hand, to count on your fingers is natural but time consuming. To drink water wherever one finds it is the natural thing to do, but unclean and inefficient. To eat food with your bare hands is what humans did for millennia before tools were invented. To eat fruit and nuts off trees as you come across them without future planning is what many animals do. To eat raw meat is what humans originally did.

On the other hand, humans have invented tools for almost as long as recorded history of our species shows. So, you may counter argue that to invent is natural for humans. Whichever way you look at it, the natural argument against technology is meaningless at best and hypocritical at worst.

Humans have always invented tools to improve their quality of life. Those who object to some forms of technology but not others have the difficult task of trying to explain where the line is, and why.

The idea of interfering with the genetic code scares some people. This fear is not entirely unfounded, if for no other reason that we cannot be sure what certain individuals or governments might do (or have already done) with this technology. But this is not an argument against technology or “interference”, any more than a fusion bomb is a valid argument against nuclear power. If there is a will, there is a way. Science and technology are the ‘way’, but they aren’t responsible for the ‘will’, only people are.

General arguments against ‘excessive’ technological interference are usually grounded on arguments from ethics or religion. I believe some ethical arguments are justified, but most are not. I agree that cloning of human beings should be illegal. I cannot think of any possible advantage to individuals or society than can come from replicating a human being. Even if that person no longer exists, someone related to them almost certainly would, and it is doubtful they would approve. That it could be allowed at all might encourage replication of a living person. Therefore, my argument against human cloning is grounded on what might harm a person or society. Conversely, I have no problem with the cloning of human organs. I have no problem with stem cell research or abortion; (by the way, nature aborts far more pregnancies than humans do.)

Some arguments against technology and science when it comes to human beings are predicated on the notion of a soul. This idea is magical and primitive at worst, and simply metaphorical and poetic at best. It has no place in serious debate.

Human life and nature are not sacred ground. There is nothing magical or spiritual about humans. If we can improve ourselves and society through our technology, then let’s do it. The only criterion for determining morality is whether harm is caused.

Humanity’s greatest advantage is our intelligence which allows us to invent. Inventions make our lives better. They allow us to complete our tasks more efficiently. Technology saves time that we would spend performing mundane chores so we can get on with doing more important things, or even things that are just more fun!

The level at which technology simplifies our lives and removes tedious chores is incredibly higher than it was a century ago. We are right to think of this of progress. Technology, in all multiplicities, is the extension of man, whether it is the body or the brain.

Most importantly, science and technology improve quality of life and health in a very real way. Electricity, clean water, medicine, healthcare, safer tools etc, are directly measurable benefits to people all over the world. Assuming we don’t kill ourselves but continue to work together who knows how much more progress we can make in another hundred years’ time. Even quandaries like global warming and the exhaustion of fossil fuels (born more out of cupidity than advancement) which we created for ourselves, have their solutions in more advanced technology, e.g.: cleaner, renewable, more efficient energy sources.

The only limit to our progression and constraint on how remarkable we make this world lies in our capacity to think and invent, and in our willingness to change. We should constantly push the boundaries of our knowledge and abilities. There is nothing to fear.

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One Response to “My Meliorism”

  1. University Update - Stem Cell - My Meliorism - Thu 9th Aug 07 Says:

    […] Nile Virus Contact the Webmaster Link to Article stem cell My Meliorism – Thu 9th Aug 07 » Posted at evanescent on Thursday, August […]


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