The Brave New World of Human Engineering to Benefit Climate Change

While visiting The Bard of Murdock site yesterday I clicked on an article link to see what one of his poems was about. I wasn’t surprised to find that there are still scientist who believe in man-made global warming. I was disturbed to find out that some scientist apparently aren’t satisfied with God’s design of the human body. They belive that they could make humans much more energy efficient. You can read the Bard’s poem on this here and I promise to post a different poem on Sunday.

The article in question by freelance writer, Ross Andersen at the Atlantic. Mr. Andersen write about an interview he conducted with S. Matthew Liao, is a professor of philosophy and bioethics at New York University who is the lead author of a paper to be published in Ethics, Policy & Environment. The article is quite long so rather than ask you to read it, I will give you the highlights of how Professor Liao would make humans more energy efficient. I should note that Liao is very emphatic throughout the interview that he could only support these ideas if they were voluntarily accepted.

Liao’s ideas for re-engineering the human body run from  the simple to the bazaar.

One idea is to get humans to give up eating meat. Science could develop a pill or a patch to make us nauseous if we eat meat. This would have to be voluntary, of course. Liao explains:

There is a widely cited U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization report that estimates that 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and CO2 equivalents come from livestock farming, which is actually a much higher share than from transportation. More recently it’s been suggested that livestock farming accounts for as much as 51% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. And then there are estimates that as much as 9% of human emissions occur as a result of deforestation for the expansion of pastures for livestock. And that doesn’t even to take into account the emissions that arise from manure, or from the livestock directly. Since a large portion of these cows and other grazing animals are raised for consumption, it seems obvious that reducing the consumption of these meats could have considerable environmental benefits.

Another idea is to make people smaller because

Well one of the things that we noticed is that human ecological footprints are partly correlated with size. Each kilogram of body mass requires a certain amount of food and nutrients and so, other things being equal, the larger person is the more food and energy they are going to soak up over the course of a lifetime. There are also other, less obvious ways in which larger people consume more energy than smaller people for example a car uses more fuel per mile to carry a heavier person, more fabric is needed to clothe larger people, and heavier people wear out shoes, carpets and furniture at a quicker rate than lighter people, and so on.

And so size reduction could be one way to reduce a person’s ecological footprint. For instance if you reduce the average U.S. height by just 15cm, you could reduce body mass by 21% for men and 25% for women, with a corresponding reduction in metabolic rates by some 15% to 18%, because less tissue means lower energy and nutrient needs.
When questioned about the ethics of allowing parents to make these irreversible choices for their children, Liao responded:
That’s a really good question. First, I think it’s useful to distinguish between selection and modification. With selection you don’t really have the issue of irreversible choices because the embryo selected can’t complain that she could have been otherwise—if the parents had selected a different embryo, she wouldn’t have existed at all. In the case of modification, that issue could certainly arise, but even then I think it’s important to step back and ask why we are looking at these solutions in the first place. 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.
Making children smaller, Professor Liao believes, could be liberty enhancing:
That’s right. It’s been suggested that, given the seriousness of climate change, we ought to adopt something like China’s one child policy. There was a group of doctors in Britain who recently advocated a two-child maximum. But at the end of the day those are crude prescriptions—what we really care about is some kind of fixed allocation of greenhouse gas emissions per family. If that’s the case, given certain fixed allocations of greenhouse gas emissions, human engineering could give families the choice between two medium sized children, or three small sized children. From our perspective that would be more liberty enhancing than a policy that says “you can only have one or two children.” A family might want a really good basketball player, and so they could use human engineering to have one really large child.
 Not all of Liao¡s ideas are ready for prime time; such as. giving humans cat eyes so they would need so much light to see:
we looked into cat eyes, the technique of giving humans cat eyes or of making their eyes more catlike. The reason is, cat eyes see nearly as well as human eyes during the day, but much better at night. We figured that if everyone had cat eyes, you wouldn’t need so much lighting, and so you could reduce global energy usage considerably. Maybe even by a shocking percentage.

But, again, this isn’t something we know how to do yet, although it’s possible there might be some way to do it with genetics—there are some primates with eyes that are very similar to cat eyes, and so possibly we could study those primates and figure out which genes are responsible for that trait, and then hopefully activate those genes in humans. But that’s very speculative and requires a lot of research.
When questioned about how he would respond to critics of human engineering, Liao responded:
Well, first, I would say that the view that you shouldn’t interfere with human nature at all is too strong. For instance, giving women epidurals when they’re giving birth is in some sense interfering with human nature, but it’s generally welcomed. Also, when people worry about interfering with human nature, they generally worry about interfering for the wrong reasons. But because we believe that mitigating climate change can help a great many people, we see human engineering in this context as an ethical endeavor, and so that objection may not apply.
 As for me, my friends, I’m glad that I probably won’t live to see this brave new world that even Aldous Huxley could not have envisioned. I take no comfort in professor Liao’s assurance that these ideas would only be used by those who voluntarily do so. The Adolf Hitlers of the future, the one world order types, are rubbing their hands with glee waiting for this science to be ready to put into practise.
Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?
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22 thoughts on “The Brave New World of Human Engineering to Benefit Climate Change

  1. There are people WAY over the top on both sides of the global warming fence… this guy is definitely one of them… borderline pure kook! lol!!

    Though less damaging in their thinking, the so-called global warming “deniers” are not a lot better in many ways.

    The Earth is definitely warmer… its near its peak average temp of the last 12K years (maybe even the last 420K years) in this interglacial warming period. That, for example, cannot be… wellll… denied. lol!!!

    Also, it cannot be denied that the earth hasn’t warmed over the last 120 years… the empirical data is clear… it has… about a degree Celsius!

    But will it continue and is it man caused?

    That is where the global warming “alamist” train jumps the tracks!! lol!!!!

  2. Very entertaining subject, Jim. I’m no Aldous Old Boy, but my imagination is running wild.

    There is much to be said for this kook’s ideas. For one, reducing the consumption of meat will lower the cost of a Beef-Wellington steak that at today’s prices it burns a hole in my pants. For other, making people smaller by giving them a pill would allow me to beat them at pleasure in my favorite sport, if I cheat on my prescribed intake. It would also reverse the drug taking culture among athletes in one stroke; making it a drug-avoidance culture.

    There is no end to the benefits that the policies of this scientific fruit-cake could bring. Thank you for the post, I enjoyed it!

  3. More abortions = less evil humanity.

    Less evil humanity = a happier Mother Earth.

    Gosh, with logic like that, I can’t understand why I’m not a liberal. I mean, they be so wise and all.

  4. How about we make a patch where nerdlington scientific know-nothings vomit when they talk about global warming in any tone besides ‘sarcastic derision”?

    Can we do that?

  5. You are right in your comment above, the scary part is these people are serious about this. They are trying to create a master race of sorts and I think this was tried once in the past and it really didn’t work out so well, did it?

  6. When reading opinions like those of the good Professor Liao, I’m convinced that all that LSD back in the ’60s did permanent damage to the collective gene pool. Cat’s eyes? Send this clown to Dr. Moreau’s island.

  7. Most of those ideas are a bit far out there and i doubt there would be any sizable support for any of them.

    The way i see it, Professor Liao is free to make his case and we are free to have a good laugh and boot it out.

  8. Good one, Bob Mack….I think you are on to something there! Jim, I saw that story at Climate Depot, too. I was wondering who paid for Liao’s noteworthy research? The Sierra Club? The Tides Foundation? Gates?
    For AZ above, no! The “deniers” are a lot better than these crackpot scammers. The “deniers” are not trying to economically rape nations based on falsehoods. And if you look at the studies at Anthony Watt’s page or Climate Depot, you’ll see there is plenty to deny…complete with the last 10 – 12 years of cooling.
    I love it when Fabian Malthusians show everyone how mad they are. It helps the rest of us prepare for the coming tyranny they plan for us…or at least it lets everyone see how seriously depraved they really are.

  9. I think this guy is brilliant! Why not reduce humans to be at the very max hieght of 1′.6” tall. Think of the resources that would be available to the new populations. For that case, I would advocate ALL people elites to the dirt poor be sterilized BUT, can design their off spring, with a very small height capacity, ei limit like one foot and six inches as an absolute maximum.

    People that are about a foot and a half can be up to in the population can house a normal house of 80 people of that size range. 80 small people vs 6 people in the SAME SPACE!
    If the U.N. put something in our air and water to limit stature rate, that would be great, BUT… I’m talking SMALL. Because the people could then really truly would have a need for war.

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