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In a recent issue of Politics and the Life Sciences Mark Walker presented a compelling proposition for reducing evil in the world via an interdisciplinary program he calls the “Genetic Virtue Project” (GVP). As Walker explains, the purpose of the GVP is “to discover and enhance human ethics using biotechnology genetic correlates of virtuous behavior.” PLS subsequently published several critiques of this proposal. While most of these critiques focused on conventional doubts about the technical feasibility or the ethics of such interventions, the more fundamental concern revealed by both Walker's proposal and its critiques is in the largely unquestioned assumption that more morality is necessarily better. Human history is marked by a gradual if uneven extension of moral concern to increasingly distant others, which many take as evidence of the rationality of morality. There is substantial evidence, though, that this expansion is fundamentally biological in origin and therefore not ultimately limited by rationality. Because these expanding moral feelings feel so good to us, we are incapable of perceiving the danger from their ever-expanding focus, in particular from the sincere but increasingly maladaptive collective policies they will engender. Utilizing the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche as a platform, the feasibility of different natural and cultural responses to this impending crisis of caring are examined, none of which are found capable of counteracting this expanding morality. Instead, the best hope for a successful response to this dangerous expansion of caring is actually a sort of reverse GVP, in which the biological mechanisms for this unchecked moral expansion are manipulated via genetic engineering to dial back this expansion. However, the likelihood of actually implementing such an admittedly counterintuitive and controversial program within an increasingly democratized world is doubtful. Ultimately, if we are unable to overcome this betrayal by our best intentions, where does that leave us as a species?
This research uses evolutionary theory to evaluate followers' preferences for physically formidable leaders and to identify conditions that stimulate those preferences. It employs a population-based survey experiment (N ≥ 760), which offers the advantages to internal validity of experiments and external validity of a highly heterogeneous sample drawn from a nationally representative subject pool. The theoretical argument proffered here is followers tend to prefer leaders with greater physical formidability because of evolutionary adaptations derived from humans' violent ancestral environment. In this environment, individuals who allied with and ultimately followed physically powerful partners were more likely to acquire and retain important resources necessary for survival and reproduction because the presence of the physically powerful partner cued opponents to avoid a challenge for the resources or risk a costly confrontation. This argument suggests and the results indicate that threatening (war) and nonthreatening (peace, cooperation, and control) stimuli differentially motivate preferences for physically formidable leaders. In particular, the findings suggest threatening conditions lead to preferences for leaders with more powerful physical attributes, both anthropometric (i.e., weight, height, and body mass index) and perceptual (i.e., attributes of being “physically imposing or intimidating” and “physically strong”). Overall, this research offers a theoretical framework from which to understand this otherwise seemingly irrational phenomenon. Further, it advances the emerging but long-neglected investigation of biological effects on political behavior and has implications for a fundamental process in democratic society, leader selection.
When Julius Caesar was stabbed, 23 times, on the Ides of March, at least one of the daggers is supposed to have gone into his groin. He wasn't the last Roman to have his privates attacked. And he wasn't the last primate. In competition for sexual access, gonads are occasionally targeted: canine incisions in monkey and ape scrota are not uncommon; and rumors had a number of Roman emperors—from Caligula and Nero, to Galba, Vitellius, Domitian, Commodus, Caracalla, Elagabalus, to Balbinus, Pupienus and Valerian over the course of the third century crisis—done in with their genitals at risk, or with their genitals cut off.
In this plenary talk given at the annual meeting of the Association for Politics and the Life Sciences at Texas Tech University last October, Professor Sophal Ear, then of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, discussed his research on the political economy of emerging infectious disease (EID) surveillance programs. His talk reviews lessons learned for U.S. military medical research laboratories collaborating with developing countries and is comprised of three case studies: Cambodia (U.S. Naval Area Medical Research Unit 2 or NAMRU-2), Indonesia (also NAMRU-2 in the context of H5N1 or Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza),1 and Mexico (that country's handling of A/H1N1 or Swine Flu in 2009).2 Professor Ear's research provides policymakers with tools for improving the effectiveness of new or existing EID surveillance programs. His work also offers host countries the opportunity to incorporate ideas, provide opinions, and debate the management of political and economic constraints facing their programs. In this analysis, constraints are found for each case study and general recommendations are given for improving global emerging infectious disease surveillance across political, economic, and cultural dimensions.
The absence of comprehensive federal oversight of human biotechnologies in the United States continues to stimulate academic discourse on the relative merits of European-style regulatory agencies as compared to the current, decentralized approach. Many American bioethicists support the latter, maintaining that the key features of federalism—policy experimentation and moral pluralism—allows for the efficient regulation of these complex and contentious issues. This paper examines state-level regulation of oocyte donation to assess claims regarding the superiority of this decentralized regulatory approach. Further, this paper introduces an additional element to this examination of state law, which concerns the degree to which the health and safety of key participants is addressed at the state level. This inquiry assesses one facet of fertility medicine and biomedical research law, oocyte donation, an analysis that can be used to inform the broader discourse regarding the regulation of human biotechnologies and bioethical issues by the states.