toby young progressive eugenics
Ethics & Morality

Toby Young and our progressive eugenics/equality hypocrisy

The hounding of Toby Young from his appointment to the advisory board of the Office for Students (OfS) has been both unseemly and unjust. The Twitter hordes fulminated about his obsession with with women’s breasts and masturbation, while Labour focused on his “homophobia, misogyny and indifference to the rights of people with disabilities”. A few Tories thought he was damaging the Conservative brand. Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we are to stand up as the Conservative party for what is right, we also have to accept when we have made a mistake.”

In the end, it wasn’t Toby Young’s lewd, crude and (frankly) adolescent sexualised tweets which did it for him, but his views about equality and diversity. The Commissioner for Public Appointments explains on his blog:

…the Governance Code requires those holding public office to uphold the Nolan principles of public life, and to act in accordance with Government policies on equality and diversity. But how far back should you go? You don’t want to have a hard and fast rule that says people in public life can never have said or written anything controversial, or unpopular, and, maybe, there should be some kind of practical statute of limitation for the sins of youth and college years. But the nature and general unacceptability of the comments also matters, as well as the more recent timing, and that ultimately did for Mr Young.

The most offensive piece transgressing equality and diversity policy appears to have been a 2015 article – ‘The Fall of the Meritocracy‘ – in which Toby Young examined the research being done on genetically engineered intelligence, in particular by Stephen Hsu, Vice-President for Research and Professor of Theoretical Physics at Michigan State University. Young wrote:

Hsu believes that within ten years machine learning applied to large genomic datasets will make it possible for parents to screen embryos in vitro and select the most intelligent one to implant. Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist at New York University, describes how the process would work:

Any given couple could potentially have several eggs fertilized in the lab with the dad’s sperm and the mom’s eggs. Then you can test multiple embryos and analyze which one’s going to be the smartest. That kid would belong to that couple as if they had it naturally, but it would be the smartest a couple would be able to produce if they had 100 kids. It’s not genetic engineering or adding new genes, it’s the genes that couples already have.

It’s worth repeating this last point, because it deals with one of the main reservations people will have about this procedure: these couples wouldn’t be creating a super-human in a laboratory, but choosing the smartest child from the range of all the possible children they could have. Nevertheless, this could have a decisive impact. “This might mean the difference between a child who struggles in school, and one who is able to complete a good university degree,” says Hsu.

My proposal is this: once this technology becomes available, why not offer it free of charge to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs? Provided there is sufficient take-up, it could help to address the problem of flat-lining inter-generational social mobility and serve as a counterweight to the tendency for the meritocratic elite to become a hereditary elite. It might make all the difference when it comes to the long-term sustainability of advanced meritocratic societies.

As Rob Halfon told the House of Commons, this is indeed “incredibly dark and dangerous stuff”. It certainly wouldn’t do much for the confidence of disabled or working class students if a member of the OfS advisory board were known to have advocated screening them out in vitro, would it?

You know where this is going, don’t you?

There’s probably no need to write any more.

But, for the sake of clarity and the overwhelming urge to hammer the point home…

Parliament permits the screening out of not only disabled foetuses, but of disabled babies right up to the day of their birth. That is progressive eugenics, isn’t it? That disability apparently extends to something as cosmetically trivial a hare lip and cleft palate. That’s progressive eugenics, isn’t it? Some proponents of abortion are looking forward to a world without Down’s. That is progressive eugenics, isn’t it? The current Shadow Secretary of State for Brexit (and former DPP) Keir Starmer refused to prosecute doctors for performing sex-selective abortions. That’s progressive eugenics (at least for some ethnic/religious minorities), isn’t it? No doubt some religions would also screen out homosexual foetuses/babies if sexuality were ever proven to be genetically determined. And no doubt the then DPP would not prosecute those perpetrators either (“not in the public interest”), not least because ‘disability’ appears to be in the eye of the beholder. And that would be progressive eugenics, wouldn’t it?

Toby Young’s progressive eugenics thesis (or his advocacy of it) is indeed abhorrent, but surely it’s preferable to screen out the least intelligent embryos so that at least all future generations might possess the intellectual capacity to grasp glaring inconsistency, blind virtue and stench of feminist self-righteousness which shrouds the murky outworking of UK abortion law. If our ‘civilised society’ may favour the physically perfect and facially beautiful over the disabled and blemished, why not the mentally fittest and intellectually outstanding over the least intelligent? Why differentiate foetuses or babies on the grounds of their sporting prowess but not their IQ? Honestly, why can’t the disabled Chairman of the Education Select Committee – who could quite easily and perfectly legally have been screened out and aborted – see the incredible darkness and danger in this logical disparity and rank hypocrisy?