Flat White

The brave new world of ‘moral bioenhancement’

21 August 2020

5:00 AM

21 August 2020

5:00 AM

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t. 

— William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I, ll.  

The Conversation, which promises its readers ‘academic rigour’ and ‘journalistic flair’ (provided you don’t have any reservations at all about the popular climate change narrative), last week managed to incense a large proportion of its own woke readership with a Machiavellian little piece by Parker Crutchfield, Associate Professor of Medical Ethics, Humanities and Law at Western Michigan University.  

‘Morality pills’ may be the US’s best shot at ending the coronavirus pandemic, according to one ethicist is Crutchfield’s self-righteous, virtue-signalling, ‘trust me, I’m a doctor – I’ve got a PhD! playbook for dealing with the recalcitrants who don’t want to adhere to ‘democratically enacted enforceable rules’ – you know, things like wearing a mask.  

Crutchfield’s article is a pitch for ‘moral bioenhancement’ i.e. the use of substances to make you more moral, presumably because many of us are not convinced by the post-modern moral certainties peddled by wokedemic ethicists like Crutchfield 

It opens with: 

COVID-19 is a collective risk. It threatens everyone, and we all must cooperate to lower the chance that the coronavirus harms any one individual.Among other things, that means keeping safe social distances and wearing masks. But many people choose not to do these things, making spread of infection more likely. 

His statement is short on details like actual levels of risk or exactly what threat we’re talking about – infection or death. Also note the use of the word ‘must’, long the province of authoritarian social justice types who really just want everyone to be nicer and more caring. Made in their own images, presumablyAnd for someone who is arguing the case for covert compulsory moral enhancement to control the masses, his depth of concern for an individual’s risk of COVID-19 is almost laughable.  

Crutchfield hangs his hat on bald assertions rather than facts because the facts are somewhat inconvenient. 

Consider these, which clarify the actual risk: 

  • The worldwide fatality rate for those who have contracted  COVID-19 is currently 2.2%, compared to rates for previous major virus outbreaks like bird flu (39.3%), MERS (34.4%) or SARS (9.6%) 
  • Total US cases (confirmed and probable) is currently 5,382,125, and as of 4 August the rate of confirmed cases in the US per one million people is 14,419, or 1.44%.  
  • 16% of males and 12% of females with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been hospitalized in the USA but those rates drop to approximately 9% and 7% respectively for patients without underlying health conditions.  

And these, which question the effectiveness of masks in combating the disease, according to the WHO’s own guidelines: 

  • Many countries have recommended the use of fabric masks/face coverings for the general public. At the present time, the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.
  • In giving examples of situations where the general public should be encouraged to use medical masks for protection the WHO guidelines (see Table 2, P. 7) only recommend their use in vulnerable populations such as people aged over 60 and those with comorbidities.

But facts be damned, Crutchfield considers that: 

Selfish and self-defeating behavior undermines the pursuit of something from which everyone can benefit.

While he doesn’t outline the potential benefits, he’s probably referring to the clincher socio-wokenomic argument for mask-wearing that WHO presents in its guidelines: 

Amidst the global shortage of surgical masks and PPE, encouraging the public to create their own fabric masks may promote individual enterprise and community integration. Moreover, the production of non-medical masks may offer a source of income for those able to manufacture masks within their communities. Fabric masks can also be a form of cultural expression, encouraging public acceptance of protection measures in general.  

So, having decided what’s best for the public good, Crutchfield goes all Brave New World. He’s even come up with his own patronising moniker for those who disagree with the accepted wisdom – coronavirus defectors:  

To me, it seems the problem of coronavirus defectors could be solved by moral enhancement: like receiving a vaccine to beef up your immune system, people could take a substance to boost their cooperative, pro-social behavior. Could a psychoactive pill be the solution to the pandemic?

Soma, anyone?  All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects. 

Crutchfield makes the case for a couple of drugs that might just do the benevolence trick, oxytocin or even psilocybin, the stuff of magic mushrooms. While not naming them he also refers to others ‘that make you more rational’ because rationality must be what you’re lacking if you don’t agree with the ethical Crutchfields of this world. 

Crutchfield understands the limits of moral bioenhancement, though, stating: 

Another challenge is that the defectors who need moral enhancement are also the least likely to sign up for it.

Danged inconvenient of them, of course, but Crutchfield has a solution. Let’s make it compulsory. The article has a handy link to one of his previous papers: Compulsory moral bioenhancement should be covert. 

By which he means administered in the water supply. 

And you’ll all be happy to learn that: 

[T]he covert administration of a compulsory moral bioenhancement program better conforms to public health ethics than does an overt compulsory program. In particular, a covert compulsory program promotes values such as liberty, utility, equality, and autonomy better than an overt program does.

So we can all sit back now, comfortable that Crutchfield and his ilk have our best interests at heart and will promote our liberty by covert and compulsory means 

Perhaps we can consider handing over the reins to a geniocracy. After all, smart people should know what’s best for us all, shouldn’t they? Just don’t mention that this method of governance was proposed by a nutter who teaches that “extraterrestrial species known as the Elohim created humanity using their advanced technology.  

Or we could rely on the moral certitude of Seattle BLM activists who demand white people hand over their houses and lands in the interests of ‘economic justice’. 

Just drink the water and do as you’re told 

What could go wrong?    

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