Ross Douthat had a great blog item the other day, saying that on the question of fertility technology, the slippery slope critics warned about has become a reality. Excerpt:
But in the absence of any meaningful regulations and restrictions, IVF has also brought with it precisely the kind of consequences that many people caught up in the so-called “panic” worried about two generations ago. True, we don’t “decant” our babies in the laboratory, à la Huxley’s “Brave New World,” but between the embryos we keep on ice and the ones we create and destroy for scientific research, the normalization of paid surrogacy and the freewheeling marketplace in eggs and sperm, we live in a society that has commodified both reproduction and human life itself in ways that would have seemed dystopian, not only to the social conservatives of an earlier era, but to many of its liberals as well.
James Watson wasn’t mistaken, in this sense, about the consequences of the breakthrough; he was just wrong about how society would respond to them. The slippery slope was entirely real; going down it just turned out to be a relatively comfortable experience.
Ross goes on to make the astute point that one effect of the slippery slope is to deny itself when one is at the bottom. That is, after one has in fact slid to the conclusion of the slippery slope, one’s destination looks like the most natural thing in the world, something one cannot live without.
Wendell Berry — no right-winger he — has said:
The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependent on what is wrong. But that is the addict’s excuse and we know that it will not do.
Do we know that? Maybe we used to. As Richard Weaver prophesied in the 1940s, we are (were) rapidly headed into an abysmal condition in which we lacked even the capability of measuring our own decline.