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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

14 - Human enhancement: the more the better?

from Section 4 - Our duties to ourselves



In reading this chapter you will:

consider whether it is morally permissible to use biotechnology for the purposes of human enhancement;

reflect on the precautionary principle in respect of genetic enhancement;

consider whether the enhancement/therapy boundary is a moral boundary;

reflect on whether enhancement is consistent with being ‘true to oneself’;

consider whether the use of enhancement in sport is cheating;

reflect on whether enhancing our children is consistent with our unconditional love for them;

examine the social ramifications of permitting enhancement;

reflect on the fact that ‘evolution’ is now partly in our own hands.

How would you like to be taller, blonder, more intelligent or have a better memory? Sound good? Well just around the corner (if you believe the hype) there’s a positive cornucopia of enhancers on their way: smart drugs that will enhance your cognitive abilities or your moods, genetic engineering that will increase your immunity or make it easier for you to lose weight and bio-nanotechnology that will give you artificial muscles, enable you to monitor your health by means of an implant or the fabric of your clothes or make it unnecessary for you ever to clean your house.

In some cases it’ll be too late for you. But you’ll still be able to enhance your children. No longer will you be able to choose their characteristics only by your choice of partner, you will also be able to choose the genes, drugs or nano-implants that will make it more likely your children are tall, intelligent, sporty, musical or whatever you’d like them to be.

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Fukuyama, F. 2002 Our Post-Human Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution London Picador
Buchanan, A. Brock, D. W. Daniels, N. Wikler, D. 2001 From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice Cambridge Cambridge University Press
Lea, Randall, D. 2009 Ethical considerations of biotechnologies used for performance enhancement The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (American) 91