An essay on biotechnology, its ideological precursors and its disastrous implications, with discussions of eugenics, futurism, fantasies of space colonization, genetic intervention to mitigate the harmful effects of unbridled technological and industrial development, genetic screening, the Human Genome Project, and the “proletarianization of life”.
The Final Solution – Renaud Miailhe
“My generation, or perhaps the one preceding mine, has been the first to engage, under the leadership of the exact sciences, in a destructive colonial warfare against nature. The future will curse us for it.”
(Declaration of Erwin Chargaff, pioneer of molecular biology, 1976)
The domination of nature implies a relation of forces between nature and man that is in favor of the latter.1 The technological tool establishes the contours of the possibilities and the limits of this domination. As long as man restricts himself to dominating nature by means of technologies that are externally applied (although there are always interactions) there is a relation of forces in which it is possible to retreat from any disastrous consequences of human action. But from the moment when man decides to dominate nature from within, so to speak, he assumes the point of view of God, the creator, and lurches blindly down a road of catastrophes that are as irreversible as they are unforeseeable. In both cases man’s domination of nature presents the same face: that of a war against life.
Thus, at the very moment when man seems to be on the verge of realizing his dream of recovering his lost divinity—“It was precisely this power over nature which Adam had lost by original sin, but which the purified soul, the magus, now could regain”2 —the old eschatological desire is also consummated, which inspired the millenarians as well as technological activity itself, in a crude and toxic substitute congealed in technological monstrosity, the normalized consequence of the modern sickness and the epitaph on the threshold of the artificial paradise.
Modern science is based on instrumental reason. It originated in the 16th and 17th centuries, with the development of the Baconian theory of knowledge. “Increasingly, from Bacon on, knowing came to be viewed as a constructive process, the active result of making or doing something, rather than as a merely receptive process, the passive result of sensory impressions, reflection, or illumination. According to this view, true knowledge of something was the preserve of its maker, the artisan’s sure knowledge of his artifact was the result of having made it. This theory of knowledge was now extended to knowledge about nature.”3
From then on, science no longer tended only towards the recovery of the semblance of the divine image of Adam—the goal of the millenarians—but to identification with God himself. Like the transcendental deity, which creates the laws of the world but is not subject to them, scientific knowledge raised itself to the level of impersonal, abstract and universal objectivity. At the present time, the Baconian theory of knowledge having been pushed to an extreme, one only has to know what one has created, that is, record the consequences and the shortcomings of its applications like a sorcerer’s apprentice. Since very little remains of nature that would be worthy of the name, and since this nature is only of interest insofar as it is adaptable to modern conditions of survival (the human being is also included under this rubric, since all of life must be subjugated), the object of science is purely and blindly technological; the only thing that needs to be known is the utilitarian value of its own creations. Its ambition no longer consists in mere efficacy, but also and above all it must be as effective as the divine word (“Fiat lux!”). Its goal is to create a new world. Expressed in the words of the English scientist John Desmond Bernal, the result is: “The cardinal tendency of progress is the replacement of an indifferent chance environment by a deliberately created one. As time goes on, the acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less needed. In its place will come the need to determine the desirable form of the humanly controlled universe.”4
In the 18th century, during the era of nascent industry, the figure of the engineer appeared who, under the auspices of Freemasonry, was then presented as “the New Man” of modernity. Today this appellation is by no means belied; to the contrary, the engineer has become the worshipped Messiah of these sick times that are characterized by a quest for reasons to live. There is no longer any kind of common sense or simple reason that has not been refuted (that is, reduced to a mere ridiculous superstition) day after day by some expert, nuclear engineer or geneticist without anyone offering any resistance, since our contemporaries have abandoned any possibility of independently implementing those faculties because they have relegated to the hands of the supposed “experts” what was once common to and shared by all: their humanity. Now that it has been subjected to economic and technological dictates one can easily extract it from any undesirable and irremediably parasitic populations; that is, to ensure that it is no longer common to all, but only the affair of, or what is beginning to be the same thing, the property of a few.
With biotechnology, and for the scientific “vanguard” that it produces, the biological and ecological limits of life on Earth no longer constitute a restrictive argument with regard to their experiments, since the possibility is now proposed of abandoning a planet where life has become impossible in order to promote an artificial and supposedly “superior” life in a space colony. Although this futurist utopia, formulated by V. Elving Anderson, emeritus professor of genetics at the University of Minnesota, is not yet on the agenda, this has not prevented Anderson from considering another possibility that is certainly more viable for today’s genetics: “A qualitative interpretation of the injunction [to fill the earth] appears to give us the permission—and perhaps more strongly, since it is a command, the obligation—to change the creation for the better. In the past we have focused on changing the environment for human betterment. Now we have enormous powers to begin to redesign the kinds of human beings we want on earth.”5
The desire of “God’s stewards”, as they call themselves, to model man according to their whims, which coincide with the interests of the powerful, reduces man from his previous position as subject of history to a mere creature of the modern gods of commodity civilization. In this way an attempt is made to realize the eternal dream of power: to terminate, by cutting it off at the root, man’s sentiment of rebellion and desire for freedom, along with the claim of the living subject to be his own master.
But we must not deceive ourselves: this has a logic all of its own. When this civilization has transformed the biological and social environment into something that is totally pathogenic for man, up to the point where the latter can no longer be assimilated to his natural environment, man, an organism that is then in danger of death, reacts against the conditions that are imposed upon him.6 In order to palliate this revolutionary illness man as such must be attacked, attempting first to adapt him biologically to the imposed conditions—and we may observe how easily our contemporaries have fallen into the trap of gene therapy, which allows them to shelve their rebellion—and finally harmonizing him with a devastated nature and a vacated human consciousness, making the increasing alienation of the conditions of life and survival tolerable.
“The living subject is no longer just ignored but openly combated. An entire complex of political, cultural and medical procedures have been spontaneously implemented in order to destroy any threatening reaction on the part of life. Therefore, life itself is being abolished. This is in reality the final solution of mercantile civilization.”7
Man reacts to his environment by transforming it, and the latter in turn transforms man: it has always been thus and this is part of the natural way of the world. The natural harmony that issues from this process, however, is now suffering from a first disproportionate intervention of man, whose main agents are industrialization and the commercial organization of the territory that industrialization entails, and is expressed in the appearance of new illnesses, epidemics and ecological disasters.8 To this one may also add a second intervention. Genetic intervention in the species of the environment and in the human species itself for the purpose of adapting them to the paranoid and lethal desire of the dominant ideology (their “maladjustment”, observed and caused by the dominant ideology, is now viewed as an instance of lèse-majesté) transforms the capacity for adaptation and change of all living species and man himself into a danger, since they are denied the very principle of their reaction as living beings. Since this “capacity” is inherent to life, this is certainly a deliberate, yet blind, war against life.
After having notably domesticated the spirit, all that remains to this civilization is to domesticate the body, the last rebel against its catastrophic machinations; but, as one would expect, this can only be in vain, because no good can come from cutting off the branch upon which one is sitting. The reactions of the body comprise the very logic of life. Their destruction comprises the logic of the modern world.
The geneticist who attempts to explain everything by referring to genes (and especially the genetic predisposition against one or another disease) and promises to cure everything thanks to genetic manipulations—is he a reasonable scientist? Most certainly not, since he cannot recognize the scientific evidence of the theory of illness according to which “vulnerability to a specific illness always results from a saturation of certain defensive mechanisms, and their overwhelming by a variable mass of co-factors against which those same defenses are mobilized. It depends on both the totality of the current environment and the capacities of individual reactions.”9
In fact, he commits a double error: due to both an exclusively genetic explanation as well as the supposed efficacy of the treatment (also genetic)—and in the latter case for the same reason as in the former: “the individual reactivity to a specific environment is constructed over the course of a unique history beginning with certain individual predispositions and an environment that this history modifies in turn, sometimes brutally.”
Genes are far from being pure and independent objects, for they are also susceptible to being modified by general human activity and their environment.10 Human intervention in this domain, however, by introducing a foreign gene into the genetic patrimony of a living organism, and by doing so under the conditions of a limited knowledge, even if it is limited only by its understanding of life, subject to commodity logic and modeled by a mechanistic vision of nature, accelerates the evolution (which as a general rule proceeds rather slowly) of that organism, which is inscribed within a living species. There is no essence of nature, but rather general laws that regulate it in which it was thought that a certain evolutionary “wisdom” could be discerned. Man simply further propels this “wisdom” towards, if not a fatal mutation, then at least one that is modeled in accordance with the immediate interests and pseudo-needs of an era. The modification of the genetic patrimony amounts to a veritable erasure of the genetic memory of a living being; once the genes have been converted into mere museum pieces, the genetic patrimony now consists exclusively of arranging them according to the desires of the curator. The resulting arrangement is the consequence of the ethos of an era that, in every field, has denied the past and has gone forth in search of the illusory pleasure of immediate moments of order. It also represents, over the long term, the elimination of any reference to nature, as well as its replacement by an artifact that can be propelled in any direction.
When a geneticist finds the gene for obesity and the corresponding genetic solution, will the lobby that represents the fat people of America not use this as an argument that they can continue to satisfy their compulsive desires for hamburgers and complacently go on eating industrial products? And the producers of harmful food products—will they not use this discovery as a justification for their business and as way to make even more money? The genetic explanation goes a long way to assuage people’s consciences. Where they have failed, justifying their failure constitutes the minimal necessity. But when no one manages to lose a single ounce of weight, then their genes will once again be subjected to the test of the truth of this prostituted science until one of them is found to be guilty. It is especially difficult to get an idea of a precipice from the bottom.
The genetic determinism that appears to prevail today cannot but recall the biological determinism that characterized Galton’s theory of heredity, who thought that the intellectual, moral and physical capacities of the human species were hereditary and that they could be improved by means of genetic selection. Thus, one of the goals of eugenics “consists in furthering evolution, especially that of the human race”.11 His followers sought to go even farther, with the rediscovery of the laws of Mendel and the formulation of the concept of the “gene”, by modifying genes in order to improve their capacities. Genetic engineering thus paved the way for both negative eugenics (the elimination of “negative” genetic characteristics) as well as positive eugenics (the introduction of “beneficial” genes). Although the advances of genetic engineering have totally abandoned the Nazi program directed at the extinction of the genetic varieties of particular population groups (literally, genocide), both are based on an identical view of the world: the identification of man with his biology, his heredity, his genes—a completely determinist view.12
This reductionism is directly related to the birth of molecular biology. This discipline acquired its reputation as a hard science “capable of leading to practical applications in an industry that has been so heavily influenced by the prestige of physics” under the impulse of the physicists and mechanistic thought.13
Mechanistic thought supported the ruling economic reification. The reification of living beings, besides allowing for their commercialization, also constitutes the abstraction of the complex medium of influences that produces them. This reductionism with regard to causation is a faithful reflection of the ruling ideology of our time: concealing the causes of the disaster (or the social relations of production) behind the designation of false culprits and the illusory application of new technologies.
Two quotations on this same topic, from a scientist who is a member of the Human Genome Project and from the editor of the journal, Science, respectively, can serve as marvelous illustrations of both reification as well as the ideology in which the Human Genome Project is inscribed, and is thus propagated in the collective consciousness: “When this effort has reached its goal … we shall understand our organism just as we understand an automobile, and we shall be qualified to carry out its maintenance, repair and even re-design”; “The application of human genetics will help solve problems like poverty.”14
It may be deduced from these assertions that a poor person is poor because his genetic motor is not as powerful as the motor of a rich person. For genetic determinism, the relation between the two of them ends where the “defective” genetics of one of them begins.
The conjunction of mechanistic thought and its industrial application has not only permitted the development of genetic determinism, but also requires it. This reductionism, integrally represented by biotechnology, can only lead to a final solution.
Genetic manipulation forms part of a policy of population control and eugenics that consists in adapting people to the subhuman conditions of industrial society rather than creating an allegedly superior race. It is nonetheless a policy of eugenics, because it is an attempt to select, eliminate and definitively create a man that is capable of withstanding life in the final stage of the degradation of nature, the consequence of industrial society, that is, a totally artificial nature, but one that is not for that reason any more predictable and pacifying, since the outstanding sign of its submission to technoscience will be the exponential increase of catastrophes. Biotechnology, mythified by the promises that it cannot fulfill, will be the weapon of domination to further the alienation of the conditions of survival.
The extension of spectacular domination over life and the conditions of survival is the strategic and authoritarian deployment of defenses for a vision that is in the process of collapsing (discredit of politics, and the failure of the economy). That is where the last defensive bulwarks of domination are being constructed. The resulting proletarianization of life that is already underway constitutes the wall before which any revolutionary enterprise must imperatively define itself before setting forth the perspectives of its program.
(Undated—the Spanish text was originally downloaded from the now-defunct website of “Maldeojo” in 2001.)
Translated from the Spanish in March 2014.
A copy of the Spanish text may be viewed online (as of March 2014) at: http://www.oocities.org/es/loitaluddita/mencer/renaud_solucion_final.htm.
- 1 It is not my intention to consider nature as an essence that can be separated from man. It is obvious that there is a dialectical relation between the two, and that nature, in the current context of man’s technical prowess, is nothing but its relation to man—the latter being a part of nature. If, however, I make a distinction here between man and nature, it is only to simplify the analysis. Thus, when I use the word, “externally”, I do so in order to indicate relations in which man’s technics employ or confront nature for the purpose of dominating it, without, however, undermining its reproductive or creative capacity to a significant degree. On the other hand, when I use the term, “from within”, I do so in order to highlight that radical technological impulse that negates—irreversibly—that capacity, modifying it as it creates it.
- 2 Cornelius Agrippa (1486-1535), quoted in David F. Noble, The Religion of Technology, Penguin Books, New York, 1999, p. 36.
- 3 Ibid., p. 63.
- 4 Ibid., p. 175.
- 5 Ibid., p. 197. Another geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane, had already speculated in the 1960s about the modification of men in order to adapt them to life in space capsules, conferring upon them the characteristics of apes. [See J. B. S. Haldane, “Biological Possibilities for the Human Species in the Next Ten Thousand Years” (1963), reprinted in Man and His Future, Gordon Wolstenholme (editor), Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1963. Available online (in March 2014) at: http://www.transhumanism.org/resources/Haldanebioposs.htm (American Translator’s Note).]
- 6 Michel Bounan, Le temps du sida, p. 123.
- 7 Ibid., p. 93.
- 8 Michel Bounan, La vie innommable, p. 76.
- 9 Ibid., p. 77.
- 10 Concerning the issue of the relations between genes and the environment, see La Eugenesia, by Daniel Soutullo (Talasa), pp. 98-110. There is a reciprocal influence between both the genes within an organism as well as between the latter and the genes of the environment. Furthermore, it is sometimes hard to assign a defect to a particular gene when this same gene might simultaneously present advantages. This is the case, for example, with the gene for sickle-cell anemia (a blood disorder), which, in its heterozygotic state confers resistance to Malaria. These factors render the predictive claims of genetic medical intervention problematic, as the latter is based on genes that are responsible for susceptibility (the predisposition to certain illnesses). It is, however, clear that this procedure has a redemptive value for industry: some of the workers in the chemical industry, after undergoing certain genetic diagnostic tests, could be informed of their susceptibility to harm from certain products, that is, to harm from the contaminated environment of the chemical industry. Then, they will themselves almost be responsible for their own contamination!
- 11 Galton, quoted in La Eugenesia, by Daniel Soutullo, p. 32.
- 12 It is often forgotten that eugenics was at first supported by scientists before the Nazis embraced it. The laws in the United States that, between 1907 and 1931, mandated sterilization of genetically “inferior” individuals were also passed with the support of eminent geneticists.
- 13 See Marcel Blanc, L’ère de la génétique, p. 40.
- 14 Both quotations are from La Eugenesia, by Daniel Soutullo, p. 195.