Enhancing Evolution and "Enhancing Evolution"

Bioethics 24 (8):395-402 (2010)

Abstract

It has been claimed in several places that the new genetic technologies allow humanity to achieve in a generation or two what might take natural selection hundreds of millennia in respect of the elimination of certain diseases and an increase in traits such as intelligence. More radically, it has been suggested that those same technologies could be used to instil characteristics that we might reasonably expect never to appear due to natural selection alone. John Harris, a proponent of this genomic optimism, claims in his book Enhancing Evolution that we not only have it in our power to enhance evolution, but that we also have a duty to do so. In this paper, I claim that Harris' hand is strong but that he overplays it nevertheless. He is correct to dismiss the arguments of the anti-enhancement lobby and correct to say that enhancement is permissible; but ‘good’ is different from ‘permissible’ and his argument for the goodness of enhancement is less convincing. Moreover, he is simply wrong to claim that it generates a duty to enhance

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Iain Brassington
University of Manchester

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