Very superstitious

July 2, 2009

This year's Reith lecturer, Michael Sandel, has revealed his conservatism. During his first two talks, the Harvard University professor was at pains to appear open-minded. We had to wait for his third lecture to see his true colours, which are, quite frankly, appalling.

Sandel opposes "designer babies" and other forms of genetic enhancement because they undermine the proper stance to "the given world". A certain humility towards the world around us, an acceptance of the gifted aspect of life, and a recognition that our talents and powers are not wholly our own doing are virtues Sandel says are vital.

Fine words, perhaps, but there is nothing fine about the underlying sentiment: accept things as they are, don't try to make things better, nature knows best. If these had been dominant ideas in human history, we wouldn't have entered the caves, let alone left them.

Sandel admits that his views are inspired in part by a religious sensibility, but claims they resonate beyond religion. He is wrong. The bio-conservatism he champions is wedded to its origins in primeval superstition.

Dylan Evans, University College Cork.

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