[LMB] Gene cleaning in real life, Fifth Season

Beatrice_Otter beatrice_otter at haugensgalleri.com
Tue Nov 14 05:47:02 GMT 2017

> On Sun, 12 Nov 2017 10:50:47 -0500, Rachel <anglerfish at gmail.com> wrote: 
> >I don't know that I am convinced about the slippery slope argument.

On Nov 13, 2017 12:55 PM, Marc Wilson <marc.wilson at gmx.co.uk> wrote:
> I'm suspicious of "slippery slope" statements in general; they're often 
> full of specious non-sequiturs.  For instance, an opponent of equal 
> marriage in the UK said he was opposed because it would allow a father 
> to marry his son to avoid inheritance tax.  There are so many things 
> wrong with that argument...  and others said it would lead to polygamy, 
> or people marrying animals or pieces of furniture....

Beatrice Otter wrote:
There are two things that are commonly referred to as the slippery slope argument.  One is a logical fallacy, the other is not.

The logical fallacy is one you give an example of.  Someone is thinking of changing something but there is no practical experience of what that change will look like.  So the people who are against it are free to throw in all sorts of vaguely similar issues taken to a straw-man extreme, and get hysterical about how obviously once you change one thing there's nothing stopping all these other absurd examples!  I've never seen the example you give, though I have seen people say "it would allow people to marry their pets!" as the absurd example.

However, there are other types of slippery slope arguments.  The type one makes when we have EXPERIENCE with a particular topic, and can see quite clearly what flaws and issues it tends to lead to.  This is a horse of a different color.  Or, sometimes, where we can see the conversations that are already happening and point out the logical extension of a new technology to the conversation as it exists.  Then, we can point out a slippery slope, but not one based on wild fantasies and strawmen, but rather on a careful analysis of history and current trends.

Eugenics belongs to the second category.  The ability to edit genes is not yet here, but we've had prenatal testing for certain genetic defects for a couple of decades, now, and the eugenics movement was not just around but a dominant ethical theory for a good eight decades before that.  It led to great ethical abuses that were, at the time, lauded as good and right and heroic.  It led to mass incarceration in institutions of people who were disabled or simply different.  It led to people being sterilized against their will.  It led to a general disregard for the rights of people with disabilities.  It supercharged the idea (still strong today) that medical professionals and caregivers know more about disability than disabled people do, and that therefore disabled people can be excluded from conversations about disability, because the authorities know best.  And people with conditions like Tay Sachs and Huntingtons were not the primary people included in these earlier eugenics movements.  Instead, it was autistics and people with Down's syndrome and Deaf people and people with mental illness and people with physical disabilities.  Given that people like me are the ones who were imprisoned, sterilized, and denied human rights by previous eugenics movements, it is not a fallacy or unreasonable to point out that a) such abuses have happened in the past and b) if we want to prevent the future equivalents of such abuses, we have to have a nuanced conversation that includes the voices of disabled people.

Also, it's not a slippery slope argument to look at the people who are *right now as we speak* searching for a prenatal test that would allow them to identify and abort fetuses with my condition and say that we need to have a SERIOUS discussion about the ethics of this and similar research.

I'm not against eliminating things like Tay Sachs and Huntingtons and stuff like that.  I'm not against getting rid of heart murmurs and stuff like that.  Heck, if I were going to have a child,  and it were possible to ensure they didn't inherit my shitty sinuses, my bad hip, my poor eyesight, and my problems with gas, I'd do it in a heartbeat.  But we absolutely need to have better (or any!) conversations about where the line is, and people with disabilities absolutely need to be major voices in that conversation, and not just shoved off to the side.  And unfortunately, there are few conversations about this, and in most of them that I know of, we ARE getting shoved to the side.

Beatrice Otter

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