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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Getting Rid of the Real Problems of Society: Men

Over at IEET, always good for a chuckle once one gets past the indignation of their flawed reasoning, Hank Pellisier (a newspaper reporter by trade) suggests that an all-female future society of humans would be way better than what we have now.

This all-female society would come about through technology.  Experiments in mice have achieved the ability to modify the ovum of one female mouse so that it acts like sperm to fertilize the ovum of a second female mouse.  The resulting bi-maternal baby mice, called Kaguyas, are all female of course.  They are somewhat smaller and longer-lived than regular mice.  If this technology is applied to humans, males will become obsolete (except perhaps as sex toys – the folks at IEET are always careful to point out the sexual advantages of the technologies they espouse) and with their demise will follow the demise of many social ills.

He is right in some respects, but overall the article is severely and fatally flawed, which appears par for the course at IEET. A longer bodily life is certainly desirable, for instance, and a smaller size would make humans more efficient in terms of the use of resources.  Furthermore, our present society does have its ills and evils, including wars and violence on the scale of nations, child abuse, murders and other violent crimes, and so forth, most of which seem to be perpetrated by men.  Get rid of men, and most of these ills would disappear, or so his logic goes. 

But his logic fails in most other respects.  He does not consider, for instance, that injustices will persist among an all-female society and that they will have to deal with them somehow.  In the absence of men, 100% of all crimes would be committed by women.  And we have no way of knowing if, absent of men, women would resort to violence in the same frequency as our present society to rectify injustices or to get what they want.  I can imagine a lower proportion of murders by baseball bat, for instance, but a higher proportion by poisoning.  A lower proportion of muggings but a higher proportion of thefts by subterfuge. Fewer rapes but more seductions. Would there be fewer crimes per capita altogether? Maybe. But who can really know?

The fundamental flaw with the article, though, is the author’s tacit presumption that the members of the all-female society of human Kaguyas that he envisions would think like he does.  This first of betrays a kind of arrogance: I am reasonable and think thus and so about Kaguya humans; the Kaguya humans of the future would also be reasonable; the Kaguya humans would think like me.

It also betrays a terrible ignorance of human nature.  If anything of human history is apparent, it is the notion of rebellion against authority.  Everything from the fall of Adam and Eve to teenage rebellion against parents to resentment among any present generation for the injustices they’ve inherited from their forbears to young executives bringing new ways of doing business and moving the dinosaurs into early retirement to a new corporate president or new political leader getting rid of the old guard to install his own people, humans ascending into positions of power always think they know a better way of doing things than those who have held power.  They want to wrest power from those who have it and hold in suspicion everything about the established order as part of the power structure they seek to change.  I’m no Marxist, but Marx seems to have nailed an interesting feature of human nature in identifying such forces that shape human history.

So I imagine the Kaguya society of the future, even though in its schools would teach their offspring how unjust the male-female society of the past was and how much better their present society is, would eventually come to realize how many good things were lost in the process.

Now I will list a few ways this will happen.  I will begin with the natural course of their technological progress in terms of reproduction.  We currently understand the technology as taking an ovum from one female and modifying it in the lab, and then putting it in physical contact with the ovum of another female also in that same lab.  Once fertilization occurs, the embryo would be implanted in some female, quite possibly but not necessarily one of the two who supplied the ova.  In fact, it may be that they will develop an artificial uterus, so that total biological reproduction would be done by scientists. (Anyone see the old movie Logan’s Run?)  I would think though that there would be a strong tendency for one of the mothers to want to gestate the baby herself.

They may just realize that it would be far more convenient if some implantable technology were used to modify an ovum as it emerges from the ovary, and then to transport that ovum outside the woman’s body, and somehow inject it into the other woman’s body.  And it would be more efficient if somehow the altered ova would be produced in great quantities, had some sort of self-propulsion, and some sort of “radar” that leads them to the target ovum.  And perhaps they would develop technologies that would enable all of that.  Of course, such technologies would start off as threats to the established order, as repugnant uses of technology that take power away from the scientists who engineered the wonderful society they have.

At the same time, in learning about the horrible male-female society, they will discover old, banned books like Jane Austen novels and those on human relationships by John Paul II, which do not shy away from the weaknesses and challenges men face in being virtuous, but which also show that men are quite desirable for women when they are virtuous.

And they will realize one of the good things that was lost in losing men was how a man and a woman, by the power of their own bodies could engage in an act of intimacy and end up parents.  The Kaguyas would come to resent always being dependent upon a technician, a laboratory, technology.

And they will crave the complementarity of the sexes, lost in their society, where men’s weaknesses are ameliorated by women’s strengths, and vice-versa.  They (or a large percentage of them at least), as human females, will still have a natural attraction to sharing a life with a man, especially a man who is in command of himself.

And then they will see that, in making their reproduction more personal and convenient, they are making some females to become male-like.

And they will discover that they could, by replacing an X chromosome with a Y in the right spot, make actual human men. And they will see this as way more efficient, a triumph of technology, over bi-maternal technologies they will have used up to then.

And they will imagine that perhaps having good, solid men around would mean their children would grow up better by having a father than by having two mothers, or no parents at all except technicians. They will begin to crave family life.

And the revolutionaries of the Kaguya society would fight to establish a male-female society and overthrow the old, obsolete, and unjust all-female Kaguya society that was imposed upon them by the well-meaning but thoroughly misguided science and philosophy of the early 21st century humans.

So I say, let’s work on making men (and women, too) more virtuous, to cure the ills of society through controlling ourselves.  Let’s see past the Kaguyas of the future, to see what their own revolutionaries would see, and achieve that directly, skipping over the doomed-before-it-starts Kaguya society as a waste of time.

Finally, we should look at the ethical reasoning employed in the article.  It is pure consequentialism, but myopic at best.  Consequentialism is justification of the means by the ends.  Yes, it would be good to rid society of violent crimes, extend life, and make people more efficient with resources.  But is getting rid of half of the diversity of the race the way to do it?  Is making the race dependent upon technicians a suitable means?  Are men really the problem – or is injustice and lack of self control really the problem?

It is myopic for two main reasons.  First, it fails to consider adequately and seriously the downside of the obsolescence of men.  They joke at IEET about who would take out the garbage as a downside. But really they are for anything that tears down the established order to impose their own limited concept of utopia. And so they ignore the fact that men and women actually complement each other, in ways mentioned above.  A society of one or the other (except perhaps as an occasional social gathering) leaves that society walking with one leg.

Secondly, it presumes that bodily life is the only life people have.  Tacit in the discussion is the notion that gender is not bodily and therefore not limited to male or female.  I disagree, but if it is true, then it shows that a “person” is not his body—but then that could only mean that the person is really the soul.  So, the focus on bodily life is shallow at best and somewhat contradictory.  But if the person is the soul (and in Christian metaphysics, that would not be precisely true), then its welfare is not bodily but spiritual.  And the advancement of trans- and post-humanist ideas generally speaking are not well ordered to human spiritual welfare.

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