Human Engineering: Meet NYU Professor Matthew Liao, who yearns to bio-engineer smaller, drug-ready humans
By TONY THOMAS
People unwilling to act on the climate-crisis narrative should be assisted with drugs that improve and promote conformity, according to eminent bio-ethicist Professor Matthew Liao, of New York University, who also wants to see parents dosing their children with hormones and diets to keep them shorter and less of a burden on the planet.
He wants such people to be given the ‘love drug/cuddle chemical’ oxytocin. This would increase their trust and empathy and make them more ready to change to emission-saving lifestyles.
As his peer-reviewed study puts it, “Pharmacologically induced altruism and empathy could increase the likelihood that we adopt the necessary behavioral and market solutions for curbing climate change.” He emphasises there would be no coercion. The drugs would merely help those who want to be climate-friendly behaviour but lack the willpower
Once sufficiently drugged, parents would be less likely to reject notions of “human engineering” techniques that will be needed to create Humans 2.0. These amended species will be 15cm shorter than now, hence more energy efficient and less resource-demanding. His study, Human Engineering and Climate Change, is in Ethics, Policy and the Environment.
Some US reaction to Liao has been adverse. Investor’s Business Daily used the headline, “Global Warming Fever Drove This Professor Completely Mad”. It said that warmists are “bummed they can’t find enough naive people to buy into their story”. The looniest tune yet played is Liao’s, it said.
Liao’s study theorises that shorter humans could be achieved through embryo selection during IVF, plus drug and nutrient treatments to reduce birth weights. (High birth weight correlates with future height; low weights obviously correlate with risk to the baby). Anti-growth hormones could be fed to toddlers by climate-caring parents to create earlier closing of their bubs’ epiphyseal (growth) plates. Oh, and he also wants ecocidal meat eaters bio-altered to induce unpleasant reactions if they put pleasure ahead of planet and tuck into a T-bone.
His paper, although now five years old and sometimes mistaken for a sceptic hoax, features today on his personal website. It merited him a gig at a recent Leftist-stacked Festival of Dangerous Ideas at Sydney Opera House, where he spoke in front of a banner, “Engineering humans to stop climate change”. His compere was the respectful Simon Longstaff, boss of Sydney’s Ethics Centre , who introduced his guest as a “really great speaker…He is on the up, this guy. He is on the up!”
Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Moral Philosophy, Liao is chair of bioethics and director of the Center for Bioethics at New York University’s philosophy department — ranked world No 1 for philosophy, Longstaff said. Liao was earlier deputy director in the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences in the philosophy faculty at Oxford University. Longstaff said it was ranked world No 2. The mind boggles at what must go on those university philosophy/bioethics units ranked from third to 100?
Liao began his Opera House talk with a visiting speaker’s typical home-town warm-up, in this instance about Sydney being such a beautiful city. After that, warming to his topic, he fretted that the city “might go underwater” because of rising seas.
Many environmental problems, such as climate change, need collective action, he continued, but humans remain stubbornly individualistic, which why drugs that increase empathy and altruism might bestow the benefits of societal cooperation and engagement. Test subjects given oxytocin hormones were more willing to share money with strangers, behave in more trustworthy ways, and better read other people’s emotions, he said.
He continued, “Making children smaller may be unappealing, but so is the prospect of having our children grow up in a world blighted by the environmental consequences of our choices and lifestyles…
“To combat climate change we can either change the environment or change ourselves. Given the enormous risks associated with changing the environment, we should take seriously that we need to change ourselves.”
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).
Liao asked, “Is it ethical for parents to make choices that would have irreversible effects on their children’s lives? Not all human engineering involving children is necessarily controversial. For example, many parents are happy to give their children [anti attention-deficit disorder] drugs, such as Ritalin, to concentrate better in school.
“Making children small is more controversial so proceed with care. But parents are permitted to give hormones so a daughter likely to be 6ft 6in (198cm) could instead be 6ft (183cm). On what ground should we forbid parents who want to give hormone treatments so that children become 5ft tall rather than 5ft 5in tall? If climate change would effect millions of children including one’s own children, then these children may also later appreciate and consent to the parents decisions.”
Liao’s paper says tall people create energy waste by their food intake, extra fuel for their cars, more fabric for clothes, and more wear and tear on shoes, carpets and furniture. “Think of their lifetime carbon footprint, it is quite a lot,” he told interviewers during his Australian sojourn (he must have arrived by row-boat).
To curb planet-hurting population growth, a UK doctors’ group had recommended that Britons confine themselves to two children. Liao instead suggested each British family be given emissions targets and within that, be incentivised to have either two normal-height children or multiple smaller ones.
“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 19th century with no harm done. 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.
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. Liao concedes that the present “tackling” of climate change by changing behaviour (less travel, LED bulbs etc) and by top-down emissions schemes are inadequate. This has led to drastic and risky geoengineering proposals like mirrors in space and seeding oceans with iron filings. Better and safer to use existing bio-medical techniques to alter humans instead, he says.
Liao dropped political correctness to remark that US women “of lower cognitive ability” bred faster under 18 years. If they could be cognitively enhanced with Ritalin or Modafinil, which some parents already give their children to improve concentration at school, these women might have lower birth rates. He also pre-empted Pauline Hanson by saying various public health measures are similarly taken, despite risks. He said, “People routinely vaccinate to prevent acquiring diseases even though vaccinations have sometimes side effects and can even lead to deaths.”
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.
Liao wants each person to become carbon neutral, otherwise we should spend more money on space exploration – presumably so mankind find a new home on some other planet. “Scientists tell us we are close to the point of no return,” he said, apparently unaware of the hundreds of failed tipping point predictions.
Question time produced one ripper from an elderly lady, Margaret, who seemed a warmist sympathiser: “What percent of the population would need to adopt any of these measures before they became effective in altering the rate at which we are going through climate change?”
Liao, hitherto a picture of confidence, fumbled and stalled, saying it was empirical and had no idea in lieu of further and needed research: “So right now I am just sorting out ideas … we would need to figure out these further questions.”
I can tell him now: if the 7.5 billion people on the planet all shrank by 15cm, it wouldn’t lower global temperatures one jot.
The climate-catastrophe evidence Liao cites for his Humans 2.0 makeover is the notoriously-flawed UK Stern Report (Stern is now calling for US$90 trillion funding for climate change) and the melting-Himalayan-glacier 2007 IPCC report run by then-IPCC chair and Rajendra Pachauri. This report was so howler-laced that the InterAcademy Council ordered a forensic audit. The report found “significant shortcomings in each major step of IPCC’s assessment process”.