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Steven Pinker says ‘dignity’ is a stupid concept!

Saturday, 10 May, 2008

The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker has a wondrous piece in The New Republic titled “The Stupidity of Dignity“. I think this is a must read for anyone who is interested in bioethics. It’s right up there with Leon Kass and his ‘Wisdom of Repugnance’ (which was also published in The New Republic in 2001).

Here is an excerpt, although I could have chosen many more paragraphs to use because they are all good.

“The sickness in theocon bioethics goes beyond imposing a Catholic agenda on a secular democracy and using “dignity” to condemn anything that gives someone the creeps. Ever since the cloning of Dolly the sheep a decade ago, the panic sown by conservative bioethicists, amplified by a sensationalist press, has turned the public discussion of bioethics into a miasma of scientific illiteracy. Brave New World, a work of fiction, is treated as inerrant prophesy. Cloning is confused with resurrecting the dead or mass-producing babies. Longevity becomes “immortality,” improvement becomes “perfection,” the screening for disease genes becomes “designer babies” or even “reshaping the species.” The reality is that biomedical research is a Sisyphean struggle to eke small increments in health from a staggeringly complex, entropy-beset human body. It is not, and probably never will be, a runaway train.”

Read the full article here. Better yet, print it out and read it every night before bed.

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One comment

  1. Could just as easily have Richard Dawkins’ or Julius Streicher’s name as the author to that quote.

    The ironic thing is that while Pinker (not his real name) decries the whole idea of a runaway train possibility to eugenic biopolicies (Ger-many? Where’s that?…), he probably endorses abortion in every one of its forms.



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