Robin Walsh: is a graduate in genetics
Robin Walsh is a graduate in genetics, and regular CW contributor. An occasional freelance writer, on topics ranging from binge drinking to Second Life, he also co-produced the Institute of Ideas’ Secularism Salon that interrogated the state of secularism today.
Where the call for ‘science’ in policymaking is legitimate – in deciding between different policy options within an already established political framework – it is technocratic and mundane; elsewhere it rapidly becomes either eccentric or authoritarian, closing down the scope for political action.
Seeking to find our uniqueness within the claustrum or anterior cingulate cortex is like trying to unpick the internet by taking apart a single computer. Tallis’ conception of the human subject is one that is ‘embodied’ in a body in the material world as well as the social one, rather than caged only within the confines of the brain.
Hamilton starts his chapter on ‘denial’ by recounting the tale of the ‘cognitive dissonance’ suffered by a 1950s doomsday cult whose apocalyptic predictions failed to materialise; an ironic choice for a thinker in a tradition which has consistently predicted (as yet unrealised) ecological disaster since the 1790s.
Shot in a documentary style with hand-held cameras that give it a visceral immediacy, and with truly fantastic special effects, it avoids the didacticism of other overtly ‘political’ films of recent years, preferring the traditional science fiction technique of exploring the real world through allegory.
Whilst on one level, being suspicious of elite organisations and challenging the unearned political authority of science is useful, Fuller misses the point that just because the elite believe it, doesn’t make it automatically wrong for the rest of us to agree.
Smith suggests that ‘because of the radical equality of Christianity, expressed in the universal notion that all people are moral agents… then liberalism is but a different form of Christianity’. The individual relationship with God that characterises Christian thought thus enables the individual-centred outlook that respects human rights, so that the relationship is continued in a modern ‘secular’ form.
Choosing not to enhance is as much a moral choice as choosing to enhance – those advocating restraint have as much as a case to answer as their opponents. Harris’ arguments need to be taken seriously by all of those with an interest in scientific development and the bigger question of what it means to be human.
If inequality was a major contributor to obesity, heart disease and the rest, surely fixating on peoples’ individual eating habits was at best a palliative, and at worst increasing the problem, by victimising and alienating the groups that most need help.