Better than Human: The Promise and Perils of Enhancing Ourselves (Philosophy in Action)
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Is it right to use biomedical technologies to make us better than well or even perhaps better than human? Should we view our biology as fixed or should we try to improve on it? College students are already taking cognitive enhancement drugs. The U.S. army is already working to develop drugs and technologies to produce "super soldiers." Scientists already know how to use genetic engineering techniques to enhance the strength and memories of mice and the application of such technologies to humans is on the horizon.
In Better Than Human, philosopher-bioethicist Allen Buchanan grapples with the ethical dilemmas of the biomedical enhancement revolution. Biomedical enhancements can make us smarter, have better memories, be stronger, quicker, have more stamina, live much longer, avoid the frailties of aging, and enjoy richer emotional lives. In spite of the benefits that biomedical enhancements may bring, many people instinctively reject them. Some worry that we will lose something important-our appreciation for what we have or what makes human beings distinctively valuable. Others assume that biomedical enhancements will only be available to the rich, with the result that social inequalities will worsen.
Buchanan shows that the debate over enhancement has been distorted by false assumptions and misleading rhetoric. To think clearly about enhancement, we have to acknowledge that human nature is a mixed bag and that our species has many "design flaws." We should be open be open to the possibility of becoming better than human, while never underestimating the risks that our attempts to improve may back-fire.
subsistence a hundred thousand years ago, to waste resources on sustaining some other guy’s gene line? If there’s 36 Better than Human competition for survival within the species, one would expect not only neglect but abuse, and unfortunately that’s what we sometimes see. (3) Nastiness toward “foreigners,” the lamentably widespread tendency to fear strangers (xenophobia) or at least to be indifferent to their welfare. This trait may have been conducive to survival and reproduction in the
nasty, brutish, and long process by which beneficial genes spread through populations, we may conclude that his theory strikes another equally devastating blow against religion: It shows that the Problem of Evil is even worse than we thought. The Problem of Evil is this: Given how much human suffering there is in the world—much of it utterly undeserved—how could such a world be the creation of a being that is both all-powerful and supremely good? Francis Collins, former director of the National
to us. We can make them cheaper either by modifying intellectual property laws or by having government subsidize them. If governments view some enhancements as on a par with public education, they will presumably subsidize them. There’s a catch: If governments think certain enhancements are valuable enough to subsidize, they may also want to make them mandatory. That would be especially troubling for some enhancements, especially those that involved genetic changes. It might be somewhat less
enhancements (including literacy, numeracy, etc.) would be irrational. So, nothing we’ve seen so far amounts to an argument against biomedical enhancement. All we have—and I’m not downplaying the significance of this—is a number of risks of enhancement that we need to take into account when we weigh the pros and cons. Before we leave the topic, let’s make one more attempt to capture why appreciation for the given is important and how the availability of biomedical enhancements might diminish it.
combination of the two, if you’re a male who values a stable relationship and who believes (quite reasonably) that infidelity is a risk to stability, you ought to think of ways to counteract the risk. There’s no reason to take pair-bonding enhancement drugs off the table. If they are available and safe, they deserve serious consideration. Any strategy for sustaining a relationship, whether it involves the deliberate administration of drugs or not, may carry risks. For example, if you opt for a