Today’s Orwellism: “Procreative Beneficience” (for Eugenics)

Julian Savulescu has a new term for eugenics: procreative beneficience. And according to Oxford Today: The University Magazine, eugenics—I mean procreative beneficience—may be making a comeback in academic circles:

‘There is a significant chance that my own children will live beyond the age of 120′, says Julian Savulescu, Director of Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. ‘Thereafter we could be looking at two- or three-fold increases in human life spans.’ . . . At the Uehiro Centre Savulescu heads a group of some thirty research associates, plus graduate students and international visitors. A medic before he turned philosopher and recently hailed in a poll as ‘Australia’s top emerging thinker’, Savulescu openly stakes out his position on human enhancement: ‘I’m an enthusiast. To be human is to strive to be better. We have a duty to use our knowledge to achieve worthwhile goals. Think of the comparative benefits. Estimates have been of as much as a 20 per cent reduction in poverty and welfare dependency as a result of relatively minor rises in average IQ across the population.’ He emphasises that increases at the lowest IQ levels ­ below 70 points ­ could bring the biggest benefits. Perhaps most controversially, Savulescu favours what he calls ‘procreative beneficence’. At present, screening is limited by the number of eggs women normally produce and allows scientists to screen only for certain specific diseases. If scientists could scan a far larger number of embryos, using artificially manufactured sperm and eggs, this would allow couples to choose their ‘perfect child’.

Perfect children? Does he mean something like this?:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to Today’s Orwellism: “Procreative Beneficience” (for Eugenics)

  1. Pingback: “Hitler’s Children”: Master Race Babies Have a Reunion « Prometheus Unbound

  2. anonymous says:

    Thanks for your attention of this issue. I have several disabilities but am also very gifted in other ways. It is very disturbing to hear respected academics talk about these issues so nonchalantly. Certainly things should progress in terms of alleviating suffering…but there seems to be little appreciation of the interconnectedness of things. If you hold one standard up as “perfect”, then you lose diversity and all the functionality that goes with that.
    I am convinced that my disabilities have in some ways made me who I am and are the REASON for my gifts. It’s certainly sickening for me to hear this type of talk because I could certainly be considered as very defective seen in that light. I remember hearing a quote somewhere about goodness being better than perfection.
    Anyways, I really appreciate your blog. Lately the noise and madness of today’s conversations have really gotten to me and your calm balanced approach to things is so refreshing!

  3. santitafarella says:


    You’re very kind. And I think that you make a good point about how the apparent “defects” that we inherit from our parents may actually be routes for arriving at good and diverse traits in the human community.


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