[OPINION] If X-Men mutation can be controlled, it’s a moral duty to encourage more



“A peaceful transition to a post-Homo sapiens society is the long-term goal.”

-Since their debut in 1963, the X-Men have sworn to protect a world that hates and fears them, but here at AiPT! we’ve got nothing but love for Marvel’s mighty mutants! To celebrate the long-awaited return of Uncanny X-Men, AiPT! brings you UNCANNY X-MONTH: 30 days of original X-Men content. Hope you survive the experience…

AiPT! Science is going all-in for Uncanny X-Month, with the most detailed look at X-Men biology anywhere, EVER. After learning that mutation probably CAN be controlled, philosopher and ethics professor Aaron Rabinowitz takes a controversial stance on what we should DO with that knowledge. 

If mutant powers manifested in the human population, we’d need to address the question, “Should these powers be controlled?” Like any other applied ethics question, that would be done by weighing the competing ethical principles of respecting autonomy and optimizing consequences for conscious entities.

The X-verse is filled with cautionary tales of vicious authoritarians who failed to treat mutants as ends in themselves, as well as naive utopians who failed to consider the likely consequences of their actions. Here I argue for an accelerationist approach to mutant powers. Not only should we adopt very minimal controls on mutants, we should actively research how to encourage further mutation in the human race.

Conversely, any research into “curing” mutation should be left entirely in the hands of a mutant governing body. Finally, it should be understood that a peaceful transition to a post Homo sapiens society is the long-term goal.

Genosha worldwide? Image credit: Marvel Comics

A modest proposal

First, a consequentialist argument for radical mutant accelerationism rests comfortably on the functionally limitless potential of mutant powers to maximize happiness and minimize suffering. There is a laundry list of world-killing problems that mutants could resolve in ways we won’t be able to for the next 30 years to never.

Asteroid headed for earth? We know Kitty Pryde can phase it away. Global warming? Storm can literally make it rain! Energy production? Put out some want ads for mutants with excess energy to burn. Sunfire, Havok; you’ll get so many they can each work half days and still eliminate the need for fossil fuels.

Naturally, we must also consider potential downsides, which fit roughly into two categories: dangerous mutants with powers, and mutants with dangerous powers. In the first category you have entities like Magneto and Apocalypse, and in the second are poor souls like David Haller (AKA Legion) or the aging Professor X in the movie Logan. Those sorts of mutants constitute their own risks and challenges to life on this planet.

And here’s where my argument goes full Dark Phoenix Saga. For any problem, mutant or not, the most promising solution is always going to be other mutants. Like the NMA says, “The only thing that stops a bad mutant with powers is a good mutant with powers, and the only thing that cures a mutant with bad powers is a mutant with good powers”.

For every potential world-ender, we desperately need a team of world-savers to stop them. For every Rogue or Wither who fears they will never feel intimacy again, we should hope for a Synch who’s ready to cuddle.

The hero we need ? Image credit: Marvel Comics

More personally, mutants have always been a liberal idealist’s solution to humanity. John Stewart Mill correctly identified that society benefits from a diversity of lifestyles engaging with each other, even if that’s a little more risky than social conformity.

Mutant powers take the diversity of humanity to a new level, and just like with lifestyles, the best solution is not to try to eradicate diversity, but to embrace it. We need to create a world where people’s unique capacities can interact in fruitful ways, or they will interact in destructive ways. Mutants just raise the stakes on a basic, already understood fact.

Attempts to “cure” mutantkind inevitably lead to creating the exact kind of angry, uncontrollable super powerful mutants one seeks to avoid. We’ll call this the paradox of mutant conservatism. For a comparable failed modeled, see also the war on terrorism and the overuse of antibiotics.

The only functional option is to promote a pro-mutant environment where the vast majority of super-powerful mutants are reasonably motivated to promote the well-being of all, because their well-being is treated as of equal value. For hard cases like Legion, we’re either gonna motivate him to get his sh*t together, or we’re gonna motivate other mutants to do it for him. There is no functional model for wiping out this kind of mutation, and the horror show you create in the process just ensures a suffering-filled collapse of humanity, rather than a peaceful transition to a fully mutant future.

We must also plan for the development of any process that enhances or activates mutant capabilities. The ultimate goal may be a full transition to Homo superior, but the process must respect concerns for personal autonomy and other fundamental boundaries of bioethics.

Obviously, substances that enhance powers in existing mutants would fall under the purview of mutant government, who would be incentivized to manage access, especially to drugs like Hypercordisone D (street name “Kick”), which come with tradeoffs in mental stability. Any attempt to create a substance that elicits or ensures mutant powers in developing humans would need to be developed under the joint auspices of human and mutant oversight.

We’re almost certain to need mutant help, in the form of both subjects and brilliant scientists, though any attempt by mutants alone to develop that tech could be seen as a pretext for pushback by humans. Obviously, everyone should be involved in the capture and prosecution of criminal elements like the U-Men, humans who use mutant body parts to augment themselves, and any attempts to research this sort of technology outside of proper oversight should be treated as comparable to researching small pox in someone’s garage. Humans must always be given the choice to remain human, no matter how long this extends the timeline of Homo superior transition.

Days of future

We may still wonder what sorts of controls or regulations, if any, we ought to apply to mutants. I suggest we treat them how we treat other super-powered entities. Think of Hank McCoy as Jeff Bezos and Magneto as Kim Jong Un. For better or worse, these entities exist now, and the effective power distribution already is what it is.

Humanity sits at a crossroads, with potential for radically transformative progress, but first we have to not burn it all down fearing where that progress is going.  I suspect that, until we’ve made a full transition from Homo sapiens to Homo superior, it will be necessary to maintain separate governing bodies for both mutants and humans, as neither species will feel entirely comfortable under a government run by the other, and a mixed representational system would likely suffer from constant accusations of imbalance, due to the disparate capacities of humans and mutants.

Or maybe discord is inevitable? Image credit: Marvel Comics

For entities with this much power, regulation will largely have to take the form of incentivizing, and confrontation must be a last resort left up to the discretion of a mutant governing body. As mutants transition from minority to majority status, they will need to actively work to respect the needs and preferences of the dwindling human population, to minimize interspecies conflict.

Luckily, this effort is likely to be a much easier lift in a world benefiting from the vast Utilitarian gains produced by the expansion of mutantkind. That is the future mutant liberals want.