Bioconservatism (a portmanteau word combining “biology” and “conservatism”) is a stance of hesitancy about technological development, especially if it is perceived to threaten a given social order. Strong bioconservative positions include opposition to genetic modification of food crops, the cloning and genetic engineering of livestock and pets, and, most prominently, rejection of the genetic, prosthetic, and cognitive modification of human beings to overcome current human biological and cultural limitations.
Bioconservatives range in political perspective from right-leaning religious and cultural conservatives to left-leaning environmentalists and technology critics. What unifies bioconservatives is skepticism about medical and other biotechnological transformations of the living world. Typically less sweeping as a critique of technological society than BioLuddism, the bioconservative perspective is characterized by its defense of the natural, deployed as a moral category.
Left-wing bioconservatives believe that technologies are developed by patriarchal, capitalist systems and therefore those technologies need to be banned or those systems changed. They believe that “humanness” determines personhood, but with the exception of embryos. Furthermore, they believe that the Yuck factor trumps individual liberty for germinal choice and biotechnology, but not in matters of sexuality or abortion. Left-wing bioconservatives believe democracies should work toward social equality and ban enhancement technologies, and that existing jobs should be preserved and new ones created.
Right-wing bioconservatives are more likely to raise religious objections to technology. They fully embrace Human racism, believing that humanness is the sole determinant of personhood. They believe that reproductive rights are trumped by religious prohibitions or the need for radical population reduction. They support a return to local self-reliance and political sovereignty, and although they might support a global treaty against human enhancement technologies or cloning, otherwise they support the end of world government.
Both left-wing and right-wing bioconservatives support Relinquishment, believing that the risks of Emerging technologies are so enormous and unknowable, and that regulatory institutions are so flawed, that technologies such as human enhancement should be banned.
Although Technoprogressivism is the stance which contrasts with bioconservatism in the Biopolitical spectrum, both technoprogressivisms and bioconservatisms, in their more moderate expressions, share an opposition to unsafe, unfair, undemocratic forms of technological development, and both recognize that such developmental modes can facilitate unacceptable recklessness and exploitation, exacerbate injustice and incubate dangerous social discontent.
Prominent bioconservatives include Francis Fukuyama, author of Our Posthuman Future, and Leon Kass. Under George W. Bush they served on his President’s Council for Bioethics (PCB), which published the bioconservative book Beyond Therapy. Another prominent bioconservative is Michael Sandel with his book The Case Against Perfection.