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A Toggle Switch for Sexual Preference?

Maybe. In fruit flies, anyway. It’s a long way from fruit flies to human physio-psychology (or psycho-physiology) via psycho-pharmacology but just the discovery of such a mechanism might make for interesting moral/ethical debate. Parents often have their baby boys circumcised and always make decisions about the gender of their babies when they’re born with ambiguous sex organ development. Might parents one day make decisions about the sexual preferences of their children? Unlike circumcision, sexual preference might one day be switchable by the taking of a pill so it wouldn’t be necessarily a permanent or irreversable decision. Would gays decide to become straight to avoid the societal pressures of anti-gay bigotry and discrimination? Would straights decide to experiment with homosexuality or bisexuality?

Who knows? Science may never make the leap from switching fruit fly sexual behavior to switching human sexual desire so the questions may be moot but interesting to think about and discuss, nonetheless.

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37 Comments in 11 threads.»

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Trackback by home beneficial life insurance company
2008-02-11 05:18:43

home beneficial life insurance company

Pavlov Elmsford:immoral Montaigne relieve

Comment by me
2007-12-26 11:54:21


I’ve re-read my fifth paragraph, as you suggested. I’m not sure I see where the disconnect is. I’m not talking about outlawing gay-ness. Since the change would be made long before sexual desire for one gender or the other manifests itself, it’s not like my pov envisions parents running around with their little one’s saying to themselves, “Is my Mikey looking longingly at Billy? Damn. Time for another pill! Better make it two!” It’s a one-time deal done long before sexual desire manifests itself. From the very beginning I’ve said that if Mikey wants to switch his gender preference later, that’s up to him. Since you agree that if it could be taken care of in the womb by the mother rather than by after birth medication of the child that you could accept that, I don’t see that there’s a whole lot left to argue about.

If I’ve misunderstood or haven’t addressed the point that you’re making with respect to my fifth paragraph, please let me know.

I agree that it would not resolve all issues that might lead to being teased or beat up for being gay. Nothing will eliminate the problem. I’m talking about minimization. And I am pleased if the problem is lessening. As I’ve said before, I have no problem with working on the problem from the end of the abuser. It’s not a ‘one or the other’ solution that I’m talking about. I’m focussed on this aspect because it was raised by a news report that I read. If the news report were about people who abuse gays, we’d be focussed on what to do about changing the attitudes of gay-bashers.

Anyway, I hope you had a very pleasant day yesterday. Mine was marred but not ruined entirely by a migraine. As always, it’s great crossing keyboards with you. En garde.

Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-26 16:08:32

I did thank you.

My reading of what you said is that people get angry when their right to be hateful bigots is taken away from them. I simply think the same thing would apply to children who learn that their rents drugged them and changed an important aspect of their psyche ‘for their own good’. If I was the child, I’d be pretty pissed that my parents thought they could decide who I’d be attracted to rather than letting me do it. The motives wouldn’t really matter. I am obviously assuming the parents would be honest with the child later in life. If not, then that’s a whole ‘nother issue about parenting.

As with other matters we’ve discussed to exhaustion, I don’t think protection can be absolute and some things are going too far in pursuit of the unattainable. For example, you could homeschool a child and never let him out of the house. That would certainly protect him from bullying, but most people would see it clearly as a step too far in pursuit of the laudable aim of protecting your children. You could equally go out and beat up the bully. Again, a step too far. I put this into that bracket. It’s going too far, especially as it won’t result in the kid being much safer as your own experience shows. Bullies will bully because they are bullies. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not, if they think (using the word very loosely) you are, you’ll be bullied. This treatment wouldn’t affect that one iota.

So I think this is going to be another torture question where we simply don’t understand how the other person can possibly think that x isn’t/is a good idea.

Comment by me
2007-12-26 21:40:58


In this case, I do understand how you can think that parents taking steps to assure heterosexuality (or homosexuality for that matter) isn’t a good idea. You’ve defended your position ably, rationally, and clearly. We simply draw a particular ethical line in a somewhat different place.

As always, chatting with you is enlightening and interesting and, occasionally, humorous. I do think the discussion has pretty well brought the debate to the point of exhaustion if not death. We both live to debate another issue another day.

Thanks for putting up with this conservative.

Comment by Rafe
2007-12-24 18:01:15

hi paul

This is a response to that deeply nested reply to me where you said you were about to scream at the computer. the date was 2007-12-23 06:14:35. I don’t know how much longer that thread will be visible so i wanted to start a new thread, i hope that is okay.

It’s not that i don’t like what they are, in-fact that shouldn’t even enter into the rationale. The only thing that should be considered is the best interest of the kid, that’s it. We should divorce ourselves from emotion and hopefully erase religion from the equation, atleast for non-theistic families. I Make no suggestions about what how a religious family should raise their children.

forcing smart pills: I have a problem with this analogy because i don’t think it fits. Smart kids would seem to be singled out if they are engaged in behaviors that stereotypically have no value to other kids. There were very many smart kids who were revered in my school, however they used their intelligence to garner social approval from teh group or aggregate of most popular kids, many were on honor roll and required little effort to get there yet they were not excoriated for their intelligence. Conversely we had plenty of geeks who were downright traumatized for exhibiting anti-social behavior who were very stupid.
Anyway intelligence serves individuals statistically better tehy lack thereof. I would certainly modify my child to have higher IQ. You also have to consider that plenty of smart kids may actually perform poorly for social approval. This is a far more complex dynamic and i think intelligence is a good thing overall, the more the better, especially in later life.

Beauty in the scenario you present, i would not use plastic surgery because of the complications and dangers of the procedure at present. It is after-all an invasive technique and there is only a finite number of times one could get it before scar tissue begins to accumulate. I would however alter my daughters appearance genetically at the embryo stage to present more “pretty” characteristics just because statistically beautiful people tend to get paid more and have many more options in life. Also because beauty is valued in society, a phenomenon that has to do with mate selection and evolution. It is so deeply rooted into our nervous systems that cutting that out, i suspect, would be a lot harder then deactivating homosexual thought. Welcome to the human condition.

Creating deaf kids. No. i believe Craig brought this up as a negative. Creating deafness is creating a loss of function. Trauma of not experiencing life the same of their parents, i’m not sure i can wrap my brain around that one. Suffice to say i’de rather learn sign language and have the ability to respond to threats in my environment , that i feel is far more important then being able to identify with deaf culture. Why can’t a auditory capable person interact with deaf culture anyway.

On the issue of race. As somebody who lives in new orleans LA and see’s all the racial disharmony it might actually be better to make a white child black. Atleast they could run for political office if they chose to. Infact it might actually serve my white child to become a minority to take advantage of certain affirmative action and quota systems established by the USA fed gov.

Speaking on altering society. Societies meme’s are not as easily modifiable and it’s not within my direct power to tell somebody or a group of people they must love or respect my child even though he/she is gay, or ugly. They have every right to hate. We could only create a moritoreum on hate and certain thoughts then you can solve this problem. That problem your never goign to solve. Why should i protect soemthing that doesn’t even exist; my childs not yet manifested arousal for a member of the same sex. What is my duty or obligation to a neurological process that has not rooted in teh organism yet? Is homosexuality some sort of sacred thing that demands we sacrifice our offspring to it like the Aztec’s ? I’m sorry i dont wish to put my kid , who i wish the best for , in that statistical group. If we as a society must devote ourselves to the development of these events isnt’ abortion far more horrifying then these subtle modifications. Abortion destroys the entire organism and not just the homosexual thought, and by that reasoning i must assume you are anti abortion correct ? Otherwise I see an incredible magnitude of inconsistency here. You wish to protect “potential homosexuality”, but you do not have any concern for “potential life”.

I will try to answer each one of your concerns , characteristic by characteristic. I think we need to take each phenotype on a case-by-case basis. Some have value some do not. I do not see any innate value of homosexuality for the individual and indiviual that if he /she was modified to be straight wouldn’t know the difference anyway.

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-23 11:20:17

Some interesting points were raised above but I wish to just address one: that changing one’s gender preference would change who one is because one would then have different experiences. Well…yes. Let us grant this and then explain why I don’t think it’s particularly troubling.

I’ve been beaten up because I was mistaken for being gay. I was laughed at, made fun of, pushed around and had stones thrown at me (and hit me, by the way) because I was a “sissy-boy”, being a physically small, weak, shy and introspective child, not to mention that, because I had been molested, my own sexual identity and attractions were confused. Trust me, these are experiences that I would gladly have done without, whether doing without them would have changed me some or not. I would thank my parents for sparing me these experiences by “coshing” my brain (again, my position assumes safety), a bit. These are things that parents are expected to protect their children from if they can. They are things that I would have thanked my parents for protecting me from if they could do so.

Besides, that assumes that every decision that a parent makes that in any way takes the child’s experiences in a different path (and that’s pretty much every decision they make for the first 18 years of the child’s life), parents already shape and mold who their children are by choosing some one path of experiences to the exclusion of all other possible paths. I don’t see how this would be any different.

I’m not trying to pull you back in, Paul, just talking to whomever may be reading.

Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-23 12:57:55

And I’m not coming back in just because of what you said but because I thought of something, was wondering whether to jump back in, and coincidentally it addresses your point. So what follows is not your fault ;-)

The problem I have with this argument is that it basically says the following: There are fuckwits out there who lack the basic brains that God/evolution gave to the humble chipmunk. They hate people because they are different and punish them because of their own underlying insecurities. The solution proposed seems to be that we should give in to these morons and change the victims so they are not what the bully fears/hates. This, of course, ignores the fact that the bully will then just choose some other characteristic to bully people over as their own self-esteem is still incredibly weak. To me it’s like hearing the “I have a dream” speech and deciding that the best solution was to move all the black kids out of the neighbourhood. Now, other people can clearly take different views, but that’s why I’ve been so pissy about this. To me it is complete capitulation to a bunch of ignorant thugs and that is not a direction I think society should be going down.

And to address one other of your points specifically (this one is your fault), it’s because in raising a child, the child can eventually reject their parents’ lessons. If you’re coming to decisions because the parents have deliberately drugged you, that’s a whole different level of intervention for me. It denies completely any free will and makes the child a toy that the parents can program exactly to their wishes. Again, if there was a drug that forced/prevented children from being religious should that be allowed? Again, I’d have to say a very loud no. Actually, there’d be several words in front of the no, but you get the idea. (And religiousity does appear to have at least some genetic component so ’s no more outlandish than the anti-gay pill).

And now that I’ve presented my views in a slightly less confrontational, emotive and more thoughtful way, I’ll bow out again.

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-23 20:58:44

Some interesting points. Yes, there are in fact fuckwits out there who are bigots and bullies. I think I mentioned much earlier that the ideal solution would be a pill to flip the “fuckwitted bigot/bully” switch (although I characteristically put it, um, not quite that way) and mentioned that that would make this discussion, in my opinion, moot.

The problem is, whereas there might be such a switch for sexual attraction, I haven’t seen any indication of a fuckwit switch pill coming down the pike so that doesn’t seem to be a solution. If there were, there would still need to be debate (A Clockwork Orange comes down against tinkering with people’s thinking, even when the targets of the tinkering are sociopathic rapists and drug-sodden murderers), but I think, ultimately, if such a pill existed, it would be given, like immunizing shots are now, to all infants. Stick. Waaaaah! There…no more sociopaths.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m against working on the problem from the fuckwit end, it’s just that it seems to me that that’s a much more intractable problem. Some are working on making homosexuality acceptable in little children, like reading books about “My Two Moms” (a fictional example, I don’t know if a book by that particular name exists but that sort of book does and are being read to children) designed to inculcate acceptance of differentness in people. It would be nice if that would ameliorate the problem and, unlike many on the Christian right, I am not opposed to this. It may, by the time such a gender attraction switch pill came along, pretty much eliminate the problem. That would, I think, make the debate phase for parents giving their children gender attraction changes much more difficult for proponents to argue. After all, if everyone accepted homosexuality as just another part of the wacky tapestry of life, live and let live, there wouldn’t be the bully/murder issue to act as a motivation for parents to protect their children from bullies and those who think the proper thing to do with gays is to beat them and kill them. But I don’t think it’s simply a matter of education.

I’m all for punishing bullies, and beating people up and killing people for whatever reason has been illegal for a long time. It doesn’t seem to have helped much though. There have been laws against hate crimes for some time now and they don’t actually seem to be reducing either the number of fuckwits or the number of hate crimes being committed. In fact, if anything, the number of such hate crimes is increasing.

That sort of thing tends to happen when you criminalize ideas (bigotry) and emotions (hate). People tend to think of their ideas and emotions as theirs, their right under the Constitution to have and they tend to think that a government that purports to be of them and by them and for them should keep their mits off their ideas and emotions. And if the government doesn’t, they don’t capitulate, they rebel, just like a two year old: when you tell them “No, no, mustn’t do” they wait until you’ve turned your back and then they do it again; it seems to be sort of built into the human genome.

As long as there are people bullying and beating up and killing people specifically because they are gay, it seems to me that many parents would wish to assure that their children are straight. It wouldn’t prevent gay bashers from bashing gays but it would greatly lessen the chances of their own beloved child being bashed for being gay. Individual parents, good decent parents who are tolerant and accepting aren’t in a position to eliminate gay bashing but at least they could give the fuckwits one less reason to take their fuckwittery out on their child.

Some how I don’t see public service spots eradicating bigotry. Barbara Streisand saying, “Don’t bully gays…it’s not cool!” on the telly probably isn’t going to much phase the gay basher. :^(

I’ve already, I believe, addressed the “instant atheist” pill issue some time back.

There are some who think that gender attraction is a matter of chemical/hormonal balance in the womb at the time that the fetal brain is developing, rather than a genetic thing. In which case, it may some day be possible, by monitoring and controlling the fetal environment for a short time during gestation, to produce a straight or gay child. If it were no more than a mother deciding to gain a doctor’s assistance to balance her hormones during a portion of pregnancy, that might alter the debate, too. I mean, we pretty much allow a woman, with her doctor’s help, to have her fetus torn limb from bloody limb from her uterus. It would be pretty hard to deny her the right to have her hormones balanced, say, by taking a pill for a few weeks or months. That would seem to be, like, a medical condition that she would have a right to. After all, a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body.*/**

* At least, that’s what pro-abortion folks tell me.
** Not that I’m trying to draw you back into the conversation, Paul. Farthest thing from my mind. :^)

Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-24 05:42:43

Ok. I’m not even going to pretend I have the willpower to resist anymore. I’m back. I’ll try to keep it polite. No, my fingers aren’t crossed behind my back. Really.

Please reread your fifth paragraph (the one about hate crimes) and explain why that wouldn’t also apply to the child because there seems to be a logical disconnect working here.

And unless genetics works differently from how I was taught, by the time you’re giving a child the pill, they’re physical development will be pretty well mapped out resulting in them ‘looking faggoty’ (whatever the hell that means) and still getting beat up for being gay, even if they aren’t. Also, three are lots of reasons bullies pick on people. Mostly it’s because they represent something the bully is scared of. So instead of gays, they’ll beat up the geeks (more) (and a few studies have found gay people have slightly higher than average IQs so you might still get beaten up). Would you then advocate parents try to reduce their child’s intelligence to spare them the bullying?

The same was said of racism, as regards the intractability. Now, it’s still there as there will always be a proportion of the fuckwitted with us, but there haven’t been lynchings in a while and very few people are now killed simply for being black. I’m not saying it will be as easy as that (and that certainly hasn’t been easy) but to my mind that’s where and why you have to fight it. You might also be surprised. From a report I heard on the radio, the true fire and brimstone gay bashing preachers are getting smaller congregations and those congregations are tending to be older. The young, at the moment, it seems, just don’t care as much. So there may be hope that the situation we’d both apparently rather see will turn up.

As to the last point, then you’re right. I can’t really argue against that. Once they’re born, however, hands off the brainwash. You’ll have to corrupt them using hard work like normal people. ‘k? ;-)

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Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-24 11:27:45


Heh! Sometimes the force has great power over …

Er, well, never mind all that. I’m glad. Unfortunately, I’ll be away from home and computer most of the day. Perhaps we could agree to come back to this after Christma…er, the holiday season. I woke with a migraine today anyway so heavy thinking is out of the question.

I really like the way your mind works, even when you’re wrong. :^) Your question about my fifth paragraph I’ll need some time with a clear head (one not exploding as now) to think about. I do want to get back with you though. Until then, keep thinking and enjoy yourself, your family and friends.


Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-24 12:00:42

Merry Christmas to you and your family, too, Craig.

Comment by Rafe
2007-12-19 12:55:39

I don’t see the issue with modifying our children’s traits. We do this anyway when we select mates. What is to stop me from reviewing my potential partners medical history , from observing her eye color and facial structure, or even her very race. Organisms have been selecting their sexual partners phenyotypic profiles since sex selection. Why establish a speed limit now?

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-19 14:33:23


Paul Watson can speak for himself if he wishes but he may not be paying attention to the thread anymore due to discomfort with my arguments so I’ll give it a stab and he can still speak up if he wishes to do so.

The difference between selecting traits the way you are saying and, in the case of switching a child’s sexual preference is this: in your scenario, you are selecting a mate, not changing a trait that is already set. Paul might say that once the child (or fetus or embryo) has come into being, he or she has the right to whatever sexual preference nature and nature’s God has given him or her and no one, not even the parents, has a right to take that away from him. Paul wouldn’t put it quite that way, I suspect, but I suspect that that would be the gist. There is, at least currently in any case, no known way of determining the sexual preference of a child by means of selecting a mate. Indeed, many traits are variable in any case such that with many traits, one can only expect a particular trait to have a particular percentage chance of showing up in one’s children.

Or maybe you were referring to my comment that such a world where designing one’s children completely was possible was not desirable to me. Let me try to explain. First of all, such a procedure will never, I fear, be cheap enough that every one or even many people will be capable of taking advantage of such “Build A Bear” style child design. The rich will be able to ensure that all their children are beautiful geniuses who are strong, healthy, disease-free, and long lived while the majority will be stuck with what is no more than a crap-shoot that we have now. The sort of scenarios that that vision leads to I can only describe as anti-utopian. Our current world is one that, at least in the West, is leading to ever greater democracy and egalitarianism but such a breakthrough would lead sharply and inevitably, I fear, in the opposite direction: to a ruling and a working/serving class and all the Marxian revolutions that could play out in bloody fashion.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in such a world, such a “design you baby” service could be made so cheap that anyone could afford it or maybe the government will have universal health-care that will guarantee designer babies for all on the theory that we could eliminate many or all illnesses, thus making health-care costs minimal but that’s not the world that I envision. Maybe I’m just an Orwellian (think “The Time Machine” [Ugh…that’s H. G. Wells, not George Orwell]) pessimist. In “The Time Machine”, the two races evolved from purely economic forces at work upon the working and leisure classes. Now imagine that the reason the above ground dwellers existed was the ability to design each successive generation of wealthy families with desirable traits while the working schmo is consigned to standard mate selection. Maybe I’ve just read too many distopian novels but I don’t see any scenario where such an ability could work out well for society.

Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-20 05:00:38

No, I’m still paying attention. I just didn’t want to explode and offend someone who I respect by ranting and raving too much.
You’ve summarised my position pretty well (apart from the God bit, obviously ;-) ) and it looks like we agree more than it seemed earler (ah, the joys of perspective). I’m just more of a “rage against the dying of the light” kind of person, I guess.

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-20 05:16:38

S’all good then. :^)

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Comment by Rafe
2007-12-20 11:55:48

I don’t understand why it would matter if the Gene is already set? Are we now to give genes the right to life? I don’t know what you refer of when you say we are taking it away from a child ? unattractiveness, poor mathematical skill? If you asked me what would i rather have , my human dignity to be “natural” or be attractive, more intelligent and healthy, have greater athletic aptitude i will take the later. I don’t hold the word natural in any regards, natural is not always good.

In your second argument you mention equality, but isnt’ that the case with anything? Don’t the rich always have it better then the poor? Why should a man that makes a few mill. a year be able to buy an SUV with state-of-the-art safety features and On-star, when the poor man can only buy a 89′ Honda accord with not even drivers side airbag? One is more likely to survive in a wreck given everything else being equal. Where is there equality ? I don’t think the solution here is to deny “the rich” various things to pull them down to the level of the poor in a sense “spreading misery equally”.

H. G. Wells, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley. These people are writers, not geneticists, neurologists or robotacists. Micheal Chrichean (mispelled) wrote about seemingly physically unstoppable, hyper-intelligent velocaraptors that were militaristically staging an organized invasion of the world in Jurrasic park. A real paleontologist will tell you that the actual raptors skull is to small to hold a brain capable of that level of intelligence, in-fact their actual ability to think would have been similar to a chicken. Now why should i take a writers word seriously .

On the issue of god: How can an atheist or agnostic even take this argument seriously. We don’t know god’s intention if there is even one and if there is who is to say god intended us to modify our species by delivering us this technology.

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-20 18:44:38


Not the genes, of course, but the human individual who has inherited those genes should either possess or not possess rights. My first argument was regarding, specifically, gender sexual preference. It was also an argument on behalf of Paul Watson. While Paul has given my initial argument on his behalf a general thumbs up (except of course for the mention of God), it would probably be best if Paul takes up the argument on his own behalf. I don’t feel confident enough to try to venture further down an argument that opposes my own.

And yes, of course, inequality is a natural part of the human condition. Jesus said, or is reported to have said, “The poor you have with you always”. Who am I, one whose politico-philosophical forebear is Edmund Burke and whose theological propensity tends toward Jesus of Nazareth, to think that egalitarianism can ever be complete or that full, direct democracy an undiluted good. That does not mean that I think that the sort of caste system I forsee resulting from designer babies for the rich would be a good thing.

While I look to scientists for advancement in scientific technologies, I do not think them the best equipped to address the ethical/moral issues that arise as a result of their advancements. For that, philosophers and observers of the human condition are better suited and the best of the second class are novelists, or at least, so I think.

As for atheists and agnostics, well, Paul already mentioned his eschewal of my mention of “nature’s God”. No point going further down that dead-end.

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Comment by Rafe
2007-12-21 00:07:06

In the particular instance we are not denying the host of these genes the right to survive. We are doing nothing more then modifying a gene, an event that could theoretically occur due to an error in the replication of the embionic DNA or as a resault of a random mutation ? Must we submit to these events in the interest of… ? Why capitulate to teh forces of nature now when throught history we have buttressed ourself against it’s contempt for us ? We are just another species who is desperatly struggling to survive adn could any second be erased with an asteroid or wandering black hole.

The problem with relying on philosophers or writers and observers to the human condition is that they may just not understand the science fully. Mary Shelly’s fear that running electricity through dead tissue would create an unstoppable biological weapon capable of ruining the Dr’s life. This type of phenominon is just not possible, you can’t restore brain function with electricty and restore the tissue to a healthy state. These thinkers will not accurately represent the impossibilities of these technologies and will likely distort the findings of such technologies.

On the issue of Philosophers? what type ? Certainly there are many Religious philosophers.
C.S. Lewis, Bill Mckibben , Leon Kass. You can rest assured they will pretty much defy not just designer babies but even youth extension technologies. I certainly don’t want these people deciding how i may live or what i may do with my body. I do think they should convey their opinion and it should be debated. Must i defer to religion on these issues despite being areligious?

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-21 01:11:16

Well, to venture a guess again, on behalf of Paul, rights are not simply a matter of to be or not to be. They are a matter of self-determination. While parents (or some substitute therefor) simply must feed, clothe, shelter, care for the physical, psychological, and educational needs of children until they are old enough to make decisions for themselves, I suspect that Paul thinks it a violation of an individual’s rights for them to make some choices, sexual preference for example, on behalf of their child. Again, this is not my argument so that argument will only go as far as it will go…either one considers that a right, inviolable or one doesn’t. It certainly sounds as though, for Paul Watson, it is.

However, to move on to the manipulation of genetic material, perhaps even before being placed into a cell that will become a child, I have no desire for the use of force to stop anyone from doing these things. I have, I’m pretty sure, indicated that this will be possible and will be done. If it does, I’m pretty sure I won’t be there to see what comes of it. I’ve also indicated that it will be up to the people of that time to decide whether it would be desirable/ethical or not. They very well might decide that it is not in the same way that most scientists and nations have decided that human cloning is not to be done for the production of human beings today. Future generations may decide that that too will be desirable and will have to live with the consequences, positive or negative. You see, I am a confirmed debater. Such things should be debated and each generation deal with the choices that confront them. The debate will take place within society, in Churches, Temples and Mosques, etc., in legislatures and universities, among medical ethicists and theological faculties as well as in books, fiction and non-fiction.

You, of course, are not required to defer to anyone but your own conscience but the wider policy decisions will go beyond you or any individual. It will be made by societies according to their own lights.

All I’m saying is, I don’t think it will be a good thing. That’s all.

You misunderstand the point of such distopic fiction. These are not written in order to predict that someday running high voltage electricity through a dead corpse will bring it to life but, rather, to highlight the dangers of doing things because we can do them, without thought to the consequences, including the hidden and unintended consequences, of doing so; to show what scientific advances that approaches deity sans the wisdom of the Almighty does to human beings and society as a whole. H. G. Wells will not be a failure if his predicted future of Morlocks and Eloi fails to come to be. It may be, in fact, that that will be due to the success of The Time Machine to avoid such a future as George Orwell’s 1984’s success may be marked by our avoidance of the 1984 scenario. Getting caught up in whether a velocoraptor’s brain cavity is large enough to account for Jurassic Park misses the point altogether, at least it so seems to me.

Comment by Rafe
2007-12-21 18:57:41

On the issue of these authors having a punctuating or unknown fears of what may happen: These artists are not focusing on the dangers, only flights of imagination that would be laughed at by most scientists. If they have genuine concerns that those actual concerns should be addressed on each ones merit. If we can’t proceed toward the future because of some invisible / undiscovered hypothetical event then why not rethink what we already do today. How about the magnitude of radio signals we transmit. We , in my opinion, should terminate emission of all radiation that carries information and could potentially be detected by a hostile alien civilization advertising our location / presence in this system. We could very well threaten our survival if they mean to come to our planet and destroy us. If we stop using radio, microwave etc etc now hopefully in a few hundred years the advanced wave front of our electronic entertainment / communication will be absorbed by the outer asteroid belt finally concealing our location/existence. It woudl be an unintended consequence far more drastic then two parents making sure their unborn daughters facial features were more symetrical.

If we are going to restrict peoples rights and parental rights we should do it for tangible reasons.

On the topic of religion guiding my rights. Well i don’t think that’s a good thing just as you feel it’s not a good idea to modify DNA. I dont’ mean to sound confrontational but the moment religion begins to insinuate into the life of a non-believer would seem facistic ? I notice you bring up the almighty and you speak of churches and mosks. What justifies allowing the word of God, tainted by nicea, toll’s to be levied on to somebody who doesn’t even recognize them? I don’t mean to sound confrontational and i’m sorry if some of what i say offends but i don’t understand why religious mandate should enter into the discussion that could alter the rights of the unbelievers ? I feel the capacity would be more welcome and less reviled conveying their opinions of what is right and wrong to their parishiners. Any discussion that takes into the account the opinion of god, should be partitioned and allocated only to those that wish to solicit it. Some of us can’t even commit on the existence of god let alone trust that some guy who wears robes just happens to be on personal terms with the guy.

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-21 20:26:47


I’m not at all sure what to say other than I’m not talking about restricting anyone’s rights. I never said that you, or anyone else had to kow before priests and rabbis. I merely said that the matters would be debated in many places, including by religious folks. I fear you are not picking up at all on my meaning so I’m just going to leave it at what I’ve written. I don’t know how to make my meaning any plainer.

It’s been a pleasure, my friend.

Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-22 07:45:58

Craig has done a very good job of giving my point of view on this, but it isn’t fair to let him take all the strain when he doesn’t agree.

So I’ll keep this simple: Why do you think you have the right to reprogram someone’s personality because it isn’t to your liking? Where do you get off forcing people to be who you want them to be? You think the kids will thank you for this when they grow up and stop taking the damn pills? Shall we go into the damage drugs can do to a brain as its developing or can you figure out that playing with neurochemicals while the brain is still growing might be a bad idea on your own?

As I told Craig, if having a child with their own personality and views different to yours isn’t something you can cope with so that you feel the need to drug them to be what you do want, get a dog as you’re clearly not ready for caring for a real human being.

By the way, I don’t like your personality as expressed here, can I drug you to change it?

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-22 13:03:25



I knew you’d put it somewhat differently than I. :^)

Although, the image I get from the article is not a “take two of these each day until you die” sort of thing but rather a one time pharmacological flipping of a switch in the brain that could be flipped with a single dose. Of course, no one would advocate this in human children before it had been thoroughly tested on things a bit closer to the human species than fruit-flies, things that live longer than drosophilae so we can follow the long term effects of such switching, etc. In short my arguments assume (I did mention somewhere a pill that would do no harm to the child) safety.

Comment by Rafe
2007-12-22 20:54:52

hi Paul

Sorry for the late response. They are getting nested deeply so feel free to start a new thread i will find it.

I’m not talking about reprograming personality , only the sexual attraction. I’m thinking about the best interest of the child. Is it better for him to be in a catagory that might grant him intense scorn and phsycial abuse and subject him to statistically higher probabilities of violence and suicide ? I would be irrisponsible to do that. Messing with personality is different. We are much more then what gets blood flowing into our erectile tissues.

Now if these anti-gay drugs cause damage to teh cellular DNA no i don’t advocate their use. If they increase the liklihood of cancer or necrosis, autoimmune reactivity, Heck no. Anabolic Steroids initially seem like a great idea until you realize the serious physiological side effects of using them. That’s a seperate issue altogether.

All that i’ve spoken about is in the context of parents altering their children. My entire argument becomes far more liberal when we are talking about an adult modifying themselves.

Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-23 06:14:35

I have no problem with adults choosing to take the drugs if they’re available. I have a colossal problem with you thinking it’s your right as a parent to chemically cosh your child because you don’t like what they are. And sexuality is part of your identity. You wouldn’t be the same person if you were attracted to a different gender because you’d have different experiences.

Instead of chemically brainwashing your kids, how about you try making society better so they don’t get all this trauma? Oh, wait, that’s difficult and hard and requires you to actually do something and coshing your children’s brains is much simpler.

Again a question asked Craig: Would you allow parents to force their bright kids to get stupid pills as geeks have a higher suicide rate? Would you allow them to force plastic surgery on their daughters so they don’t get singled out for not being attractive How about a pill to make black people white (At least in skin colour)? That would reduce a lot of their problems in life. How about stretching them because short people don’t do as well in life? Is that ok to you? Maybe you’d allow deaf parents to deliberately deafen their child so they can have the same experience and not go through the trauma of being different to their parents’ community (example based on a case where a deaf couple were trying to get IVF but only if the baby carried the genes that would make them deaf. They were denied.)?

I don’t think we’re going to come within the same hemisphere on this. So I’ll bow out before I start screaming at the computer or say something really offensive (yes, even compared to what I’ve said in this post).

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-23 10:36:58

Okay then, Paul, thanks for chatting. I’ll let you get into the holiday spirit, then. Cheers!

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-18 18:47:56


Well, I suppose that one day it might be possible to completely design one’s children, not only hair/eye color and skin tone but resistance to zits and, yes, personality traits. To me, this seems a completely alien future and not a desirable one, at that, but whether it will be desirable or not, I think it will one day come and it will be up to the people of that future to decide for themselves how desirable it will be. You speak of personality traits. Me, I would just as soon take what I get in the way of children. I didn’t even ask what gender my two sons were before they were born. I didn’t want to know but obviously that’s not universal. I think one day that selecting for beauty in women and handsomeness in men and intelligence and affability for both will be possible and, because possible, it will be done whether you or I think that’s a good thing or not.

To take the discussion in a “Clockwork Orange” direction, if there were a pill that would eliminate sociopathy or pedophilia, I think we would all agree that having a bunch of sociopaths running around raping and murdering without a bit of care or empathy or preying on our children would be something that we should get rid of. And no, I’m not trying to compare homosexuality to sociopathic murderers and rapists or pedophiles. I’m merely talking about whether parents should be allowed to make alterations to their children that they (the parents) view negatively, particularly, alterations easily reversed. I don’t advocate it, but there are many advocates of eliminating Down’s syndrome via abortion: some passionately arguing that trisomy 21 results in what should be considered the desirable tapestry of life and the human condition that should not be eliminated while others view it as a net negative and that parents should, at the least, have the option of aborting if they don’t wish to raise someone who may be severly retarded. There is debate within the deaf community regarding the desirability of cochlear implants for those born deaf: some arguing that deafness has positive cultural aspects and that it is wrong to artificially add something akin to hearing to those born deaf while most would view the positive to negative ratio of effects of such implants to be so high as to render the anti-implant argument to be too weak to sway them. I imagine that there’s an argument to be made that same gender preference, per se, is a net positive to the human species and to society. If so, then I think it unlikely that the species will rid itself of same gender preference. If there is that argument, I don’t think it’s been adequately made yet, at least not to the wider society.

The ideal solution, perhaps, would be the elimination of bigotry via a psycho-pharmacological ’switch’. Such would make the present discussion pointless.

The frustration that you express does do one thing: it highlights the difficulty of debating such matters. I’m sorry if my pov offends you. It is possible, even likely, that what can be done to fruit fly behavior will not be possible in human beings. As I indicated, this is an entirely hypothetical question at this point.

Anyway, if you choose to stop your participation in the discussion, I want to thank you for your participation in it. As always, whether we agree or not, I value your contribution. Thanks.

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-17 23:47:19


Sorry. It was Paul Watson who stated that it would be illegal for parents to change their children’s sexual preference via pharmacology while they were children. I was merely conceding that he knew British law better than I. However, I also argued that people would likely alter that fact if altering sexual preference ever became as simple as taking a pill or giving a shot. That it would be illegal was NOT my argument at all. My argument was that (a) if such a thing became possible, society would change its mind about sexual preference vis a vis medical conditions, would (b) demand that the law (which Paul asserted made changing children’s sexual preference illegal) be changed to make it legal. In short, I would be for taking government right out of the decision making (in fine old libertarian fashion).

Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-18 10:11:51

Well, sex selection of embryos is illegal in the UK. That is feasible and has been for a a good few years now. It’s also legal in the US, I believe. No clamour has yet started to allow that to be legal.
And the US might do that, but in the UK, it would fall foul of anti-discrimination and human rights legislation, so that even if the public did clamour for it, and as I said I see no reason or evidence they would, it wouldn’t happen.
Or, to put it another way, would you be quite so sanguine if it was a pill that forced straight children to be gay?

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-18 15:14:54


Well, being a female has not the stigma that being gay has and, well, the continuation of the species depends upon a healthy supply of females who like the idea of mating with males of the species. On the other hand, what parent, given a choice, wants their child to be gay the way gays are treated? I suspect that even gays, given the choice, would elect to pharmacologically set their childrens’ sexual preference for the other gender to spare them what they went through…but if not, I have no problem with them or anyone else, electing to have gay children. Places where gender selection through abortion of females are big are generally in places that artificially, through law, limit children to one per family. It is the result of an artificial, government enforced distortion of the natural order of things.

On the other hand, the human race could continue just fine without men whose preference is other men and women whose preference is other women. Don’t get me wrong. The small percentage of gays that exist is never going to endanger the species, especially since they can and some do have children through artificial insemination, surrogacy, etc. I’m just saying, a surplus of one gender over the other creates problems that it kind of makes sense to make legal policy designed not to allow an unnatural imbalance of one gender over the other to come into being. It makes no sense to me not to allow parents to make the same sort of determination about their children’s sexual preference that parents make now about the sexual identity of their newborn infants in the case of indeterminacy (hermaphroditity) and I think that, in free western societies, the preference for children that will not have to face anti-gay bigotry would far outstrip the desire for selection of gender, especially as long as our government stays out of the business of legislating one offspring per family. But if not, that’s cool for me, too. I’m not arguing that we should or should not flip the switch of gender attraction/preference. I’m simply arguing that should such a switch as described become a medical reality, that people would want to flip it and would work the politics such that they would legally be able to do it. Remember, I’m not arguing forcing anything upon children that will be harmful for them or even that is irreversable. I’m not for forcing anything on anyone. I’m for choice.

And no, I have no problem with parents deciding that they WANT their children to be gay. I just don’t believe that there’ll be a big market for assuring that children will be gay. I could be wrong. If so, It’s all copacetic.

Remember, we’re talking about something that would be a toggle switch, a switch that could be thrown at any time at the taking of a pill. We’re not talking about a one time choice (shall our hermaphroditic child be surgically made male or female) that would be expensive, time consuming and psychologically troubling to reverse or a one time choice that, at least at this point, is irreversible (like shall we circumcise little Johnny?). We’re talking about the functional equivalent of a toggle switch on an electric screw-driver. Push it one way, it screws the screw in. Push it the other way, it unscrews the screw.

And, it’s not like it forever locks a person into a choice that he or she would not like. Gays like being gay just as straights like being straight. I don’t forsee a lot of dissatisfaction with straightness that a whole lot of straight guys will be clamoring to become gay but if there is, they can, just as parents could choose to have gay children.

Comment by Paul Watson
2007-12-18 16:30:28

Here the sex selection problem is parents from the Indian subcontinent popping back there to get their daughters aborted. Also we tend to have very different approach to medicating children, being far, far less willing than in the US.
How many other personality traits do you think parents should be allowed to apply chemical coshes to if they became available? Shyness? Aggression? Critical thought? Republicanism? Religious feelings? Would you give geeks stupidity pills so they didn’t get taunted for being too smart? Would you advocate plain girls to have cosmetic surgery so that they’re not outshone by their prettier classmates? And before you ask, no, I don’t think those examples are any more stupid than what you’re suggesting.
Sorry, but I do not understand the mentality you are using as justification. If having a child with their own mind is too much trouble to look after, get a dog.
And as you might as well be speaking Martian for all the sense your explanations have made to me, I think I should probably stop getting involved. We clearly are coming at this issue from complete alien world views.

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Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-12 13:21:20

To clarify, I’m saying, Paul, that the discovery that changing the gender of one’s sexual attraction via a pill would, eo ipso, force us to change our ideas of whether sexuality is a medical condition. I don’t see how it could be denied.

Comment by Craig R. Harmon
2007-12-12 13:12:31


Is possessing a foreskin a medical condition? Is circumcision illegal child abuse? It would seem to me that any condition, including religious inclination, that could be altered via pharmacology is a medical condition. It’s a matter of definition, no? And if this did become possible, I think you’d find the politics would not be a problem. In a representative form of government, the government must respond to the people’s will or it ceases to be legitimate government.

Also, I don’t think that I’m saying that this would be a good thing or a bad thing. I haven’t engaged this as a moral issue. I’ve presented it as an issue the morality/ethicality of which we might like to debate.

Why would it be child abuse to give one’s child a pill that will not cause him or her harm? Especially if it is something that could be altered again at the child’s choice when the child is old enough to understand the issues involved? Aren’t you for choice? It is widely understood that, until a certain age, parents make all decisions for their children, including whether to raise their children religiously or not. Parents already make decisions about raising their child to believe or not to believe. Why would it matter whether that came in a pill or in the form of years of indoctrination? The end result would be likely the same: an irreligious child. Raised by parents that kept their child from religious upbringing and with a continuous barrage of anti-religious attitude, the chances of the child being religious are pretty slim as it is. Is it child abuse for two atheists to raise their child irreligiously? For that matter, is it child abuse, per se, for two Christians/Muslims/Hindus to raise their children within the Christian/Muslim/Hindu faith?

I take your word for it that it would be illegal. I just think that, with a pill capable of making certain that their child would not face a lifetime of being shamed, laughed at, discriminated against and beaten would be an act of love, not one of abuse.

Comment by Rafe
2007-12-12 11:51:54

Sexuality is not a medical condition but neither are alot of things we change about ourselves are not medical conditions. If a parent knows their child is more likely to be persecuted, or assaulted, and have a more difficult time finding a partner they will , without a doubt, consider this. In our pharmacological society it’s an inevitability (if the mechanism is revealed). If you try to restrict it’s legality parents will either leave the country for undisclosed embryo analysis or a potential black market will start. It’s none of my or your business anyway as it’s not our child.

Also its’ interesting you bring up religion. There appears to be part of the brain that may govern how religious a person is. It is likely that this component of the brain could be atrophied. It would be a little harder to make the case for justification to interfere with this aspect, and i’de be the last one to defend not doing it. That is a question for albert mohler

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