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The latest piece of insanity to emerge from the global warming movement is a paper by S. Matthew Liao, a professor at New York University. His idea is that we should be engineering the human race to be less resource intensive:

In this paper, we consider a new kind of solution to climate change, what we call human engineering, which involves biomedical modifications of humans so that they can mitigate and/or adapt to climate change. We argue that human engineering is potentially less risky than geoengineering and that it could help behavioural and market solutions succeed in mitigating climate change. We also consider some possible ethical concerns regarding human engineering such as its safety, the implications of human engineering for our children and for the society, and we argue that these concerns can be addressed. Our upshot is that human engineering deserves further consideration in the debate about climate change.

There is a long interview with Liao in the Atlantic, in which he argues that his ideas are liberty-enhancing, since the alternative is a compulsory limit to family sizes.

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Reader Comments (74)

The socialist dream made real. Man re-engineered to fit our master's wishes. Sad.

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Perhaps he can "engineer" us into jellyfish so that we can survive rising sea levels. What a capital idea - give the man a Nobel prize.

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer

I have mixed feelings...if he can 'engineer' the removal of methane and H2S emitted by humans there might be a more pleasant journey to work on the train....hehehe. What a bunch of twonks!

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:06 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

"in which he argues that his ideas are liberty-enhancing"

How he does what he wants with his family and I raise my brood in my way? I look back over 30 years and seem to have two well educated adults (Okay, they still need a little guidance from time to time but my wife still has a pop at me ;-) )

Human engineering! Hell! There are so many Professors with to little time! Before I started reading I expected this to be out of California not out of a New York University

Oh well, that is what you get from philosophy and bioethics in conjunction with CAGW......Oh and the money of course!

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Just dusting off the old vinyl, Genesis - Foxtrot - Get 'Em Out By Friday
Here's Peter Gabriel's lyrics from 40 years ago.

****(a passage of time)

18/9/2012 T.V. Flash on all Dial-A-Program Services

This is an announcement from Genetic Control:
"It is my sad duty to inform you of a four foot restriction on
humanoid height."

[Extract from coversation of Joe Ordinary in Local Puborama]

"I hear the directors of Genetic Control have been buying all the
properties that have recently been sold, taking risks oh so bold.
It's said now that people will be shorter in height,
they can fit twice as many in the same building site.
(they say it's alright),
Beginning with the tenants of the town of Harlow,
in the interest of humanity, they've been told they must go,
told they must go-go-go-go."*****

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterPMT

To be honest I'm sure most of the commenter's around here can recocognise this from 10 paces it's as old as the hills now.

He needed to tack on CAGW to get his grant.

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

How about compulsory euthanasia, when you've reached end of usefulness stage of life - mother Earth must be saved from mankind's lunacy and CO2.
An interim measure [or permanent?] until that is, we can genetically re-engineer man, I mean its logical innit and the UN wishes to re-engineer the world anyway - George Soros, [+ the Bilderbergers] says it is necessary so he can make more money. BTW does he fund Mr. Liao?

There used to be sci-fi programmes, usually made in the US about this sort of stuff................ .

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

I thought we'd adapted quite well to climate. If it's cold, wear more clothes, if it's hot, wear less?

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Gallon

This has already been tried, very successfully. It's called North Korea.

The average teenager in Korea is 5-foot tall (North) and 5-foot 8" (South), which is an impressive 12% gap created in 60 years.

And the North does it correctly during Earth Hour! (and every other hour). Long Live the Dear Leader! Oh, he died?

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Just how and when did science become about those who could create the most unimaginative science fiction?

Liberal science in the West is an embarrassment. Murdering healthy born babies one week, eugenics for global warming the next. Matthew Liao is a complete idiot if he thinks he is going to be taken serious just because he is being controversial. But this complete ignoramus fails to realize that Hitler beat him to it, the only difference was that Hitler didn't tie eugenics to global warming.

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:52 AM | Unregistered Commenterrob

I've recently been suspecting that the next step toward complete insanity within the CAGW religion - close on the heels of carbon capture and storage - would be eugenics.

And here we are.

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterGarry

I'm all for sci-fantasies of adding wings, super strength, intelligence or x-ray vision but this is just weeny empty and stupid:

" is not meant to advocate for any particular human modifications, or even human engineering generally; rather, it is only meant to introduce human engineering as one possible, partial solution to climate change"

Great so he is kindly saying it shouldn't be mandatory yet he says it is less risky then geo-engineering, but he not too sure what kind of engineering to use!

What! Why bother? Oh wait I see one suggestion - "meat intolerance". So some humans elect to take up "meat intolerance" this I guess could be done by some people like a fashion statement, but then the rest of us are lumbered with meat intolerant humans when the harvest fails. Like running away from the baddies being lumbered with the woman who insists on wearing high-heels and grabbing on to us when she falls ;)

Forget the anti-human stuff even, this is just noise making at the most banal level. Is there some rule you can gibber and babble anything about climate and the more stupid you are the better? I think this guy has been modified to be intelligence intolerant ;)

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

PMT beat me to it -- but it's interesting that Peter Gabriel was only out by about six months. A much better result than most climate models.

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJon Jermey

Another inspired headline Bish. I'd been up early thinking about Edwin Black's history of eugenics, War Against The Weak, which I consider one of the most important books of the last ten years, spelling out how prestigious western institutions, including top universities, paved the way for the Holocaust. Put that together with what is now called the Kaiser's Holocaust, where eugenics combined for the first time with extermination camps and grotesque medical experiments in German West Africa (now Namibia), which I first became aware of through Anne Applebaum's Gulag, published the same year, 2003, as Black's tome, and you have all you need to know about this strand of elite thinking. Then and now.

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I've just heard Professor Sarah Harper of the Oxford Institute for Population Studies on Radio 4 previewing a lecture she is to give tonight, saying among other things that, apart from Africa, the population of the world is reducing and likely to go on so doing.

In my opinion, the "far too many people on a finite planet "topos is another witless scare story, like CAGW and ocean acidification. Improve economies and family size will reduce.

Mar 13, 2012 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger


I wondered about that too. Funding for Human re engineering is probably hard to come by. There are billions floating around for CAGW research though and most of the projects are pretty silly already. Best making your pitch to a less discerning, well funded audience, that's part way bought into the totalitarian, for the "greater good" arguments already.

Can't help thinking that even they are not that far gone yet.

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

Sounds like he wants to re-engineer us into a race of small, easily-scared people who can live in the gloom and eat vegetables......

...... Guardian readers?

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:05 AM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose


Mar 13, 2012 at 9:06 AM | Registered Commenterperry

The sooner that we, and the media, stop paying any kind of attention to this sort of waste of research grants the better.

Apart of course from a closer supervision of the award of research grants.

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

I suggest Mr Liao should have himself placed in a vat with just enough nutrients to survive. He should enjoy that and will save him from wasting energy on worthless papers.

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

"meat intolerance"

Hitler was in favour of that, too. :-)

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Who pays this guy to produce such claptrap?

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

But just think : if we could selectively remove the leftie/greenie gene, man could finally advance at the pace of which the species is capable!

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan E

Monckton did the population exercise a while back, notiing:

1. More people ~ more carbon emissions
2. Poor uneducated people have the most children.
3. Therefore the best way to reduce population growth is to bring people out of poverty
4. The way to do that is to develop their economies, using cheap electricity
5. The cheapest form of electricity comes from fossil fuel.
6 Therefore, burning fossil fuel now is the best way to limit population, and hence emissions, in the future.

It's not flawless, but a lot better than Prof Liao's vision of billions of Mini-Mes running around being kind to one another as they share a meal of leaves.

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

As I have said for a number of years now, we live in The Age of Stupid, and this clown Laio is about as stupid as it is possible to be. Better get used to it......the Age of Stupid has many many morons like this clown to push the BS.
If you had Laio's brain in one hand and a cube of sugar in the other hand and you clapped your hands what would you have ?
Answer......Sweet Fanny Adams....Sweet Bugger All......Sweet Nothings or Sweet F A
Take your pick.

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurice@TheMount


"Sounds like he wants to re-engineer us into a race of small, easily-scared people who can live in the gloom and eat vegetables......

...... Guardian readers?"

ooo! That's a bit mean, works though!

Mar 13, 2012 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

PMT: Here is Get 'Em Out By Friday on You Tube.

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

Will we be small enough to live off chopped bats?

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Read the paper through. Nothing unusual about it coming as it does from academic ethicists. Our own ethicist Prof Clive Hamilton has already suggested that democracy may have to be suspended IOT "fight" climate change. Eco-eugenics is just the logical next step.

And I'm willing to bet a fistful of quatloos at short odds that Mr Delingpole will write a sympathetic column on this very topic.

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

At least Liao accepts that the use of drugs is the only way to make people as small-minded as he is.

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

I see Mr Liao hasn't yet picked up on the idea of 'post-birth abortion'. Essentially in our knowledge economy stupid people are pointless (apart from a small number)*. So the cut-off point becomes Physics O level. Fail it, and we all cheer you as you do your duty and walk along the rose strewn path to the gassing centre, "Early Heaven". We can think in terms of the about to be eliminated youth as the Japanese did of their Kamikazi pilots, laying down their lives for love of their country. And anyway, we will have given them 16 good years of life, what more can they expect?
*the stupid who can be excused termination must be related to at least two trade union officials or one member of the Labour Party.

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterBill

Perhaps we should nominate Prof Liao for the 2012 Josef Mengele Award.

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

We truly have decended to the B grade movie cliche of the "mad scientist".

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Aaahhhh.... Not another ******* Genesis fan ;-)

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

It is indeed a socialist dream, to make man in a desired image. In this version, man has cat's eyes, defaults to smaller and smaller heights (why stop after all?) with each generation (the occasional deliberately chosen basket-ball players will also be able to have reduced heights over time), has a meat patch (presumably later to be an implant or a GM when technology allows), and also an irresistible desire to send his money to approved organisations. Extrapolate to see our future: ants, informed by a central brain. A few non-ants may yet be required to oversee all of this, so my vision is of mostly ants doing 'good works', with a few thousand giant people meeting to congratulate themselves on their humanity and wisdom, pass resolutions condemning bad things, and devise plans for what the ants will be allowed to do next. Oh wait.... are we in some kind of rehearsal for this already?

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:40 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Umpa Lumpa's or Munchkins or just in Time Bandits

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Wasn't Winston Churchill a great fan of Eugenics? Limiting the offspring of the poor?

Mar 13, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

let's not forget Liao's co-authors:

Anders Sandberg

Rebecca Roache

Mar 13, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat


13 March: Bigpond: Climate changing despite cool years
The past two years have been Australia's coolest since 2001.
Similarly, the years 2010 and 2011 produced the most rain the country has experienced over a two-year period on record.
But according to some of the world's most eminent climate scientists, a couple of years of cooler temperatures and good rains do nothing to defeat the assurances that the world is getting warmer and that droughts, particularly in southern Australia, are bound to become more common and more severe.
In their latest State of the Climate report to be released on Wednesday, researchers from the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) agree Australia's recent weather phenomena shouldn't cause any revision of the belief that atmospheric environment is in a perilous state and that humanity is the major cause.
'Communicating climate change science is an extremely difficult thing to do,' said the BoM's climate monitoring manager Dr Karl Braganza.
'People are looking for the wow factor - they want to see the things we are talking about occurring now.
'If they don't see it, they have trouble accepting the science.
'That's the hard thing to get around.'...
Despite the recent aberrations, the climate statement points out that the world's 13 warmest years have all occurred since 1997; that sea levels are rising by about 2mm a year; that sea surface temperatures around Australia have increased more quickly than the global average; and, concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new, ever-increasing high in 2011.
Among the most concerning observations contained in the climate statement is the observation that fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions grew by 5.9 per cent during 12 months of 2009-10, drastically reversing the small decline due to the global financial crisis of 2008-09.
The report also reasserts that:
each decade since the 1950s has been warmer than the previous;
Australian maximum temperatures have increased by 0.75C since 1910;
Australian minimum temperatures have risen by more than 1.1C in the same period;
global sea level is 210mm above the level of 1880 and grew almost twice as fast between 1993 and 2011 than during the entire 20th century; and,
rainfall patterns in south-western Australia since 1997, particularly in the WA wheatbelt, are the lowest on record with 2010 producing the lowest rainfall on record...

Mar 13, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

If you're wondering where these ideas come from, it is worth looking into the institutions that the authors of these 'researchers' work with. I have a post about my first impressions of the Liao paper at - i.e. I had not yet read it.

The authors of the paper work out of the Oxford Martin School Future of Humanity Institute. The OMS say:

The Oxford Martin School was founded as the James Martin 21st Century School at the University of Oxford in 2005 through the vision and generosity of Dr James Martin. It is a unique interdisciplinary research initiative tackling global future challenges.

Our mission: to foster innovative thinking, interdisciplinary scholarship and collaborative activity to address the most pressing risks and realise important new opportunities of the 21st century.

There are two main focuses for our work:

Research - supporting forward-looking and interdisciplinary research to address 21st century challenges and opportunities.

Impact - fostering impact-oriented initiatives and facilitating public engagement that will influence policy and effect positive change on a global scale.

Clearly this is not an academic department established merely to study things, but to be a 'policy-relevant' research outfit. Defining the 'challenges faced by humanity' is in reality about finding ground on which to legitimise political institutions.

This is why work like this is extremely revealing. Some might claim (indeed they are) that this is just the work of three, slightly wacky researchers in some fusty old department. But actually it reveals something about the predominant 'ideology' of the political establishment. Which is not to say that Liao's paper will be taken up enthusiastically by our Dear Leaders, but that the paper (as does a lot of stuff from the OMS) reveals a somewhat degraded understanding of humanity and of individual autonomy. More broadly speaking, this is the reason why 'researchers', on behalf of policy-makers, go looking for portents of doom. The real object of their anxiety is, I would suggest, much closer to home.

The phrase that gets trotted out occasionally, following criticism of the UNFCCC/IPCC processes is that 'global problems need global solutions'. Unfortunately for that somewhat empty claim, the reverse is necessarily true (and it is more true: global solutions need global problems. The OMS (but let's not single them out) want to 'influence policy and effect positive change on a global scale'. Their desire for this influence precedes their search. Looking for 'issues' which 'define humanities future' is a search for authority.

Mar 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Reminiscent of the fictional professor Seth Brundle in 'The Fly'. From wiki

'Seth begins to exhibit what at first appear to be beneficial effects of the process—such as increased strength, stamina and sexual potency. He believes this to be a result of the teleporting process "purifying" his body as it was being rebuilt. However, he soon becomes violent, and eventually realizes that something went horribly wrong when his fingernails begin falling off. Brundle checks his computer's records, and discovers that the Telepod computer, confused by the presence of two separate life-forms in the sending pod, merged him with the fly at the molecular-genetic level.

Over the next few weeks, Brundle continues to deteriorate, losing various body parts and becoming progressively less human in appearance. He theorizes that he is slowly becoming a hybrid creature that is neither human nor insect (which Seth begins referring to as "Brundlefly"). He starts to exhibit fly-like characteristics, such as vomiting digestive enzymes onto his food in order to dissolve it, and the ability to cling to walls and ceilings. Brundle realizes that he is losing his human reason and compassion, and that he is now being driven by primitive impulses he cannot control.'

and so on...

Mar 13, 2012 at 11:33 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

They say geoengineering is too risky, but "human engineering" is comparatively less risky?

They're delusional. Nothing more complicated than that.

Mar 13, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter B

global solutions need global problems

That echoes my thinking; it's all about centralisation of power.

In reality, global warming is not a global problem; what happens to the Sudan under a putative 2C rise bears no resemblance to what would happen to Russia under a 2C rise.

Nor would a sea-level rise of, say, 1 meter, affect Slovakia as badly as Bangladesh.

It is only the decision by the self-styled elites to frame this as a global problem that creates the need for a global solution. and triggers even more absurd nonsense like tho Robinson-Tutu notion of 'climate justice'.

Mar 13, 2012 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

That echoes my thinking; it's all about centralisation of power.

While I think that's true, I think the issue is domestic, which is to say 'national'. There must be a reason that this drive for supranational institutions is located - mainly - in Europe. As I say, it's a search for authority. I would argue that the political establishment and its institutions lost it. Hence it seeks authority from above, and from 'global problems'. The centralisation of power is not the 'dynamic', so to speak, driving things; that's merely a means.

Mar 13, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

If it means going on the run, count me in:

Mar 13, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

Actually, there are sci-fi antecedents to this. See, for example, Frederick Pohl's Man Plus, which is about modifying a human for environmental conditions on Mars. Wikipedia:

A common theme in science fiction is existentialist isolation, whether isolation starting from within, or the separation of human beings from other species, or the effects of the isolation of Earth from the rest of the universe by great distances. In Man Plus, a human being is transformed into a cyborg being. The physical transformation is examined in great detail as it is echoed in the increasing distance between Roger Torraway and his wife, and between Roger and the rest of humanity.

Sounds like a fair description of the good professor's state of mind to me.

One of the more memorable moments in the book is when the protagonist's genitals are removed to make room for some hight-tech stuff. I think he was a scientist, so that's OK with me.

Mar 13, 2012 at 12:02 PM | Registered CommentersHx

This "professor" is clearly unaware of the square cube law or he would realise that the amount of energy used in keeping our temperature level constant, ther single largest food energy is needed for, would be only very marginally affected by reducing height. Even within its own delusions this is nonsence.

I suppose we could be genetically engineered to be extremely hairy, or, in the case of "environmental professors" to go into a state of permanent hibernation.

Or we could just go for having a warmer planet.

The probelm is not that this guy is obviously a drooling idiot but that the media knowingly give space to the droolings of idiots while deliberately censoring intelligent comment from intelligent people and centres of what is supposed to be education hire the village idiot..

Mar 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Whilst I think we should take note of the mindset and its potential influence via the backdoor on our ever autocratic empty headed political set, I also think we should note the essential utter bankruptcy of the intellectual level at show here and take heart that it is very prone to burst at the first contact with sober common sense.

In addition, whilst many human engineering solutions involve interference with human nature, they also – by mitigating climate change – reduce our interference with nature at large. Indeed, if they turn out to be truly successful, they would bring about a net reduction in human interference with nature. As such, even those who oppose interfering with nature should not rule out human engineering on the ground that it involves interfering with nature, and should even – in the interests of reducing the totalextent of human interference with nature – seriously consider supporting it.

They seem to really operate in a deluded bubble that assumes their argument about realative levels of "interference with nature" is an agreed prior moral standard. So to them if we can minimise "interference" of nature by merely interfering with one small aspect of nature i.e. the minor issue of the existence of the niggling interefering humans, then there will be a net benefit in their eyes. They literally think we are all cringing in the face of nature and want to engineer us so we literally cringe - by shrinking us.

Just tell these losers to **** off.

Mar 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterThe Leopard In The Basement

For the guys making a comment on centralisation of power Jo and Dr Evans have a good post up well worth a read.

Mar 13, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

The good thing about this article is that it clearly written by a bunch of delusional liberal arts graduates who understand nothing about biomedicine. Fortunately most of their ideas are so impractical that they make wind turbines look like the pinnacle of science. Produce allergies to beef? Pharmacological agents make beef seem disgusting, but no lamb or chicken? Reduce height by pharmacological means?

First, do no harm!

Mar 13, 2012 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRCS

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