Let’s Get Small

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For those not enlightened enough to find this option appealing, these philosophers also discuss the “pharmacological enhancement” of qualities like empathy and altruism, traits that are more conducive to positive attitudes toward the environment. When the Atlantic interviewer questioned whether it isn’t problematic to biologically produce a belief in a person, Liao corrects him; it’s not about inserting a belief, it’s about enabling people to overcome their “weakness of will” and make the right choice:

We are interested only in voluntary modifications, and we certainly don’t want to implant beliefs into anyone. But even then, those beliefs might still be considered yours if they arise from a kind of ramping up of your existing capacities, and so perhaps that could obviate that problem.

Neither he nor his colleagues approve of any coercive human engineering; they favor “individual choices, not technocratic mandates.” Of course, it’s not voluntary for the children whose parents have made such irreversible choices for them. But Liao points out that it’s for their own good:

The reason we are even considering these solutions is to prevent climate change, which is a really serious problem, and which might affect the well-being of millions of people including the child. And so in that context, if on balance human engineering is going to promote the well-being of that particular child, then you might be able to justify the solution to the child.

Regarding those who don’t feel a thrill running up their leg at this idea, Liao dismisses such resistance as a natural sort of “status quo bias”; in other words, those people are simply clinging to old ways of thinking.

The Atlantic interview sparked some online outrage from readers toward Liao and his co-authors, Oxford’s Anders Sandberg and Rebecca Roache, for their eyebrow-raising proposals – the trio was compared to Nazi eugenicists, for example. In a separate interview about that reaction, the paper’s authors hastened to reiterate, as Liao did in his interview, that they do not necessarily advocate such speculations. “Philosophers… spend a lot of time discussing views that they do not necessarily endorse,” explained Roache. “It’s part of the learning process.”

Liao acknowledges that “our proposal to encourage having smaller, but environmentally-friendlier human beings is prima facie outlandish,” but points out that when we dismiss outlandish ideas too quickly, we may be leaving ourselves “vulnerable to dismissing useful and valuable” ones. Even the journal that published the paper described its ideas as “a series of Swiftian philosophical thought experiments.” “None of us are deep greens or totalitarian,” added Sandberg. “We are fairly typical liberal academics thinking about the world.”

When “typical liberal academics” start thinking about the world, beware. They operate from the assumption that manmade global warming is a fact, that humans are inherently detrimental to the planet, and that the right thing to do is to conform everything about our existence for the sake of Earth’s ostensible well-being. That includes floating the idea of a “voluntary” reduction in the number and size of our children. These bioethicists themselves may not be totalitarian, but there are plenty of radical environmentalists who are, and who take such ideas seriously. You don’t need cat’s eyes to see the danger in that.

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  • http://NoPinchFor.com Larry

    The only group that I know of that is not decreasing in size is Muslims. I know the German and French birth rate is less than 2.1, which is the rate that is required to maintain a given population. So, are they suggesting that we just need to get Muslims to have fewer and smaller children in order to protect the environment? After all, most of the other groups will eventually disappear because of their low birth rate.

    • Chiggles

      But are they getting any shorter?

  • kafir4life

    We're going to engineer desirable traits genetically, and parents can get abortions on demand for reasons that may be considered personal. What will the liberals say when those methods are used to eliminate gay?

  • Eric G

    Professor Liao should be proud of North Korea, whose citizens are now on average several inches shorter than their South Korean counterparts. They use fewer resources daily and rarely eat meat. During routine famines, they creatively eat grass and tree bark, and have shorter lifespans than most countries in the world. Sounds like an environmental utopia for Professor Liao.

  • Schlomotion

    It is a shame that intellectual oligarchs casually announce their bright ideas to genetically manipulate human beings to make them smaller, weaker, and more docile, with less of a zest for life. These ideas naturally emanate from small docile people who work in cubicles and drive small cars already. It is equally shameful that these drones of Margaret Sanger are used by the Oil Lobby and the Israel Lobby to perpetuate the LIE that global temperatures have not risen as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The figure is approximately two degrees. Two is a small number as far as counting to a zillion goes, but it is a large number in terms of human life. Don't think so? Raise your body temperature from 98.6 to 100.6 and see if you feel like writing an essay .

    • UCSPanther


    • ronniedee

      Exactly what is your point? Are you against manipulating humans to better fit into the New World these elitists want? Are you against the Oil Lobby and the Israel lobby because they don’t believe the biggest LIE perpetrated on the World . . . ever?

      So, you are a believer in the Hockey Stick graph and the manipulation of weather data by norming the figures and arbitrarily inserting numbers for missing data, then destroying the ORIGINAL data so no REAL scientist can substantiate this THEORY!

      Just like all liberals, theory becomes fact based on flawed and missing data just because you say so. Anyone who disagrees with this stupidity hates Mother Earth, wants to see the polar bears and seals die and does not understand scientific inquiry . . . Twisted rhetoric does not make you correct, it just makes you out to be a liar.

      • Schlomotion

        Yes. I am in fact a firm believer in the thermometer and the direction of up generally pointing in an upward direction, while it's eternal opposite, down, tends to always extend in the other direction. I am OK with reading a graph and knowing an exponential growth curve when it's plotted on a chart using data gathered from thermometers over time.

        • Western Canadian

          No, you are a scientific illiterate who believes in sound bites, and is much to dense to actually comment with any understanding on the issue of changing climate. Yes, it is marginally warmer now than during the little ice age, but cooler than it was during the medieval climate optimum. Literally thousands of peer-reviewed papers confirm these prior global temperatures. You are a rather dim individual, or more accurately a dim member of an unthinking herd who has been encouraged to think that his endless ignorance makes him superior to the masses. You are pathetic.

          The raw data does not agree with your ignorance based claims, only after it has been manipulated by Hansen (1.5 million plus $), and his clones in England (make Hansen look like a piker. The same Hansen who has been falsifying the temp record in the US for the 1930s and other decades, is one of the ‘scientists’ that louts like you actually take seriously… You are beyond pathetic. No temperature increase since 1998, and small cooling since about 2005 is what has really happened.

          • Schlomotion

            This reminds me of people saying there is no recession, because of they myriad ways you can look at the stock wave. Yet, here we are.

  • pagegl

    Liao and his friends just need to tell the sun to cool it… climate change problem solved.

  • ronniedee

    When every human being is reduced to the size of midgets we will become food for all those wonderful creatures we reduced ourselves to save.

    Did it ever occur to these “typical liberal academics” that what they think is the “right thing” for people to do is not even close to what NORMAL average people KNOW is the “right thing” to do? Of course not . . .

    I have come to the conclusion that all liberals are Sociopaths and need some mind altering drugs to help them learn empathy toward their fellow humans; to stop the pathological lying; and to stop believing that they are the only ones who count and everyone else are “useful idiots” to get them what they want . . .

  • Rifleman

    "No Officer, I'm tall, I'm tall."

    "One day when I was REALLY small…"

    That headline really jumped out at me, lol.

  • Lady_Dr

    It should all be voluntary – that is if you truly believe in saving the planet by driving a smaller car, having no children, or having only small ones, etc., etc. – PLEASE, PLEASE just shut up and go for it. I'm so very happy that the libtards are not reproducing themselves biologically – now we need to tear down their madrasses.

  • citizen65

    Look at it this way. In two generations, we will breed out environmental wack jobs. The First generation will max out at 4 feet and be unable to find wives. Their parents, realizing they will never have grandchildren will donate to their children's desires to eliminate future insane ideas. Meanwhile, the original environmentalists will not be able to pass on their views to their progeny.

  • samarastt

    A new paper entitled: Why smaller humans are in our future discusses the same topic but suggests changes in our nutrition to produce healthier and smaller humans. It was published in Policy Innovations, a magazine published on-line by the think tank, Carnegie Council.