Can’t persuade people? Drug ‘em.
Tony Thomas finds an academic (Matthew Liao) who suggests that given the climate change risk it might be more ethical to shrink our kids by 6 inches, or drug people with oxytoxin to make them more compliant. Jo Nova thinks it might be more ethical to fund skeptical scientists instead of unskeptical ones and figure out whether a man-made disaster is actually coming before we start shrinking kids.
The idea is that people would accept bizarre climate-saving imposts willingly if only we could give them the “love drug” oxytocin. He calls it “Pharmacologically induced altruism”. Oxytocin increases altruism and empathy, but I would guess that only altruistic or empathetic people would willingly take it “for the sake of the planet”. The rest of the population might be a little suspect that they might be more prone to being duped and conned while “under the influence”.
The initial paper Human Engineering and Climate Change, came out five years ago. But in academic circles, Liao wasn’t laughed out of town, and hasn’t apparently issued a more comprehensive update.
Tony Thomas spots a few ethical problems:
Liao insists his human engineering is all voluntary, but should be incentivised by tax breaks and health-cost discounts. What he failed to explain is how toddlers could volunteer to restrict their adult height to say, 5ft (152cm).
“We think we now have optimal height, and that we should not do anything to mess with our height, but the reality (can be) much more fluid,” he said, noting that everyone was much shorter in the 19thcentury with no harm done.
No harm done, apart from maybe a shorter life expectancy.
Other scientists think being shorter is not so great for health:
Being taller is associated with enhanced longevity, lower risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and higher risk of some cancers (Paajanen et al., 2010; Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration, 2012; Green et al., 2011; Nelson et al., 2015; Batty et al., 2010; World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research, 2007; 2010; 2011; 2012; 2014a; 2014b; Nüesch et al., 2015; Davies et al., 2015; Zhang et al., 2015; Kozuki et al., 2015; Black et al., 2008). There is also evidence that taller people on average have higher education, earnings, and possibly even social position (Adair et al., 2013; Stulp et al., 2015; Barker et al., 2005; Strauss and Thomas, 1998; Chen and Zhou, 2007; Case and Paxson, 2008).
I can’t see shortness “catching on” anytime soon.
Ethically, some might wonder why Liao didn’t spend five minutes doing an internet search before publishing his work.
He said height is seen by many as a social advantage but that was not a reason to scratch the shortness-creating idea. As his paper says, bungee jumping, tattoos and running marathons are also minority tastes but legitimate activities.
Ever-hopeful, Liao believes that once a few people started shortening their children, others might be similarly inspired, especially if given tax breaks. He conceded that poorer people are already shorter on average, and should not be encouraged to further shrink their offspring.
Drugs to give up meat?
He told his audience that many people wanted to give up eating meat but enjoyed the taste too much. To assist, their immune systems could be primed to react to meat “and induce some sort of unpleasant experience, very mild. (Laughter). Even if the effect was not for a lifetime, the learning effect could persist a long time.”
A safe way to induce such intolerance could involve a “meat patch”, akin to a nicotine patch, that people could wear before going out to eat, he said.
Note the powerful fear of breaching political correctness:
He agreed that bio-engineering against obesity would be climate-effective, “but I focus on height because the issue of obesity is very politically sensitive, raising a lot of issues and, on top, some discriminatory aspects – talk about obesity, you know…a tricky situation.” So Liao put this planet-saving measure aside because of potential backlash from “obesity identity” activists. Anti-height measures, however, are politically safe because tall people are already advantaged.
It may offend obese people to suggest that we engineer skinnier kids to save the planet. But 99% of doctors suggest we are healthier if we avoid obesity, and few people voluntarily choose to be obese. So in Liao-ethics, rather than risk offending Social Justice Warriors, it is better to save the planet by risking children’s health in an unconsenting, permanent change that few doctors recommend and few people voluntarily seek.
Marvel that Matthew Liao is still in his job five years after he released this paper despite his apparent lack of rigor, research and … ethics. Is he government funded? Hard to say, there’s no mention of any funding on the paper, or for his role as Arthur Zitrin Chair of Bioethics.
But his work is a great example of why we need to get academic research out of the hands of academics.
The Incredible Shrinking Man,
Is of much shorter people, a fan,
And through drugs has devised,
To make all kids pint-sized,
Which he thinks is an Earth saving plan.
Read it all: Climate Science Comes Up Short
H/t reader kevin a.
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