Daily Archives: 16 May 2006

Die Harder

Two things to say about Tony Blair’s Bruce Willis inspired soundbite-of-the-day about Nuclear power being “back on the agenda – with a vengeance“:

  1. It is insuffrably ridiculous, the verbal equivalent of a 50-something man driving around in a Lambourghini;
  2. It is code for “that stuff about being genuinely open minded about nuclear power? Big fat lie. Suckers!”

Neither of which are uncharacteristic of our beloved PM of course. And of course, along with his outburst about the Human Rights Act, it is entirely designed to stop the commentariat from talking about loans-for-peerages and the meltdown that is the Home Office (not to mention the parlous state of DEFRA). But it does make you wonder how sad it must be to realise that your Premiership has sunk to such silly nonsense. Outbursts like this are all we have to look forward to from Blair. Subconsciously he’s almost certainly screaming for someone to end it for him.

Should we be panicking about Russian spunk?

Madeleine Bunting is very worried. Gallons of semen from Eastern Europe could be heading this way. And yes, she does employ the image of the HFEA playing the role of King Canute, attempting to turn back the waves. Thanks for that mental picture Maddy.

I do apologise for not taking this all that seriously, but is this really something that should be concerning us? More precisely, can this really be described as “genetic imperialism”? In which case, who is the empire?

There is a genuine issue here, which is that it is that poor people undergoing invasive medical operations in order to feed and clothe their families is obviously a moral problem. I’m a little more worried about people getting paid for their kidneys than their eggs though, and getting a peasant to bash one out in a paper cup worries me substantially less than the centuries old practice of poor people selling their hair. In short, the knives are the problem, not the DNA.

Far from being guilty of wicked imperialism, genetics here is actually quite benevolent. The demand for spare parts from the developing world will always be limited by genetic compatibility. Demand for sperm and ovum will be limited by parental preference. People are likely to want genetic material coming from people with the same race. They’re likely to want sperm from intelligent and attractive people and there aren’t that many concert pianists and underwear models in the barrio.

In evolutionary terms, who exactly is exploiting who? The scenario that Bunting describes as nightmarish is a delightful inversion of social Darwinism: the genetic code of poor people being spread far and wide around the globe. Herbert Spencer must be rolling in his grave. In terms of sexual selection, the implications are intriguing, but hardly worrying: filling the genepool with attractive, intelligent attributes is unlikely to do anyone very much harm, although I’m sure the BNP are unlikely to see it that way.

If anyone here is a “victim”, it is the kids growing up with absolutely no idea of who their genetic parents are and little prospect of finding out. Again however, there isn’t anything particularly new in this.

Poverty is a problem and we should do something about it. Coming up with new moral panics however is to badly miss the point.