Genetic engineering = political realignment?
TangoMan at Gene Expression argues that the debate over genetic engineering cuts across the traditional left-right divide and as genetic engineering becomes more important in the future, there will be a political realignment with libertarians and "new liberals" on the "progressive" side (ie favoring the new technology) and the religious right and "old liberals" aka "race/culture/gender warriors" on the Luddite side.
It's a twist on the idea (I first came across it from Virginia Postrel but don't know if she invented it) that the new alignment has "dynamism" (libertarians, tech-friendly liberals) v. "stasis" (social conservatives, eco-radicals). TangoMan's twist is that the left side of "stasis" opposes biotechnology not because they want to keep everything the same, but because they are ideologically opposed to the idea that any cognitive/behavioral variation among humans could be due to genetics (and therefore logically opposed to engineering people to be smarter, because that can't be possible!).
I liked Postrel's take better. First of all, biotechnology is just one aspect of "dynamist technology" - it hardly seems that it would come to prominence so far that ideological opposition to "human biodiversity" would eclipse general suspicion of technology as a reason to oppose genetic engineering. I just don't see biotechnology per se being the definitive factor.
Second, I find it bizarre when TangoMan writes that the left-Luddites "share the Marxist perspective of shaping mankind through ambitious social and political efforts and can't abide the notion that substantive differences are the result of evolutionary pressures." The defining feature of the kind of radical Jacobinite leftism that embraces "ambitious social and political efforts" is that it wants to radically reshape society into something better. (Eric Hobsbawm famously said that he would probably still have been a communist in the 1930's had he known of Stalin's gulags, "because in a period in which … mass murder and mass suffering are absolutely universal, the chance of a new world being born in great suffering would still have been worth backing.")
That is, Marxists like ambitious social and political efforts only insofar as they are the means to reshape society. Since it was premised on the (false) idea that human nature is infinitely malleable by social conditions, wouldn't Marxism seize on the idea that human nature actually could be changed by social and political efforts (using new biotechnology)? Leftists fear behavioral genetics because it suggests that social and political efforts can do nothing - but once they see that it allows social and political efforts to do practically anything, wouldn't they embrace it? In other words, I don't see how the "race/class/culture warriors" will end up opposing biotechnology. What TangoMan characterizes as a "new liberal" position ("embrace genetic engineering as a vehicle to remediate many social problems") could, I think, be applied to all leftists. (I suspect that TangoMan has fought one too many comment wars over evolutionary psychology, behavioral genetics, etc. and become too frustrated at intransigence on the left to entertain this possibility.)
Postrel's analysis still holds, of course: she envisioned "stasis" as including not just conformity to the past, but conformity to any central planning (which radical reshaping of society would almost certainly involve).