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Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People

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Overview

Decisive biotechnological interventions in the lottery of human life--to enhance our bodies and brains and perhaps irreversibly change our genetic makeup--have been widely rejected as unethical and undesirable, and have often met with extreme hostility. But in Enhancing Evolution, leading bioethicist John Harris dismantles objections to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, designer babies, and cloning to make a forthright, sweeping, and rigorous ethical case for using biotechnology to improve human life.

Human enhancement, Harris argues, is a good thing--good morally, good for individuals, good as social policy, and good for a genetic heritage that needs serious improvement. Enhancing Evolution defends biotechnological interventions that could allow us to live longer, healthier, and even happier lives by, for example, providing us with immunity from cancer and HIV/AIDS. But the book advocates far more than therapies designed to free us from sickness and disability. Harris champions the possibility of influencing the very course of evolution to give us increased mental and physical powers--from reasoning, concentration, and memory to strength, stamina, and reaction speed. Indeed, he supports enhancing ourselves in almost any way we desire. And it's not only morally defensible to enhance ourselves, Harris says. In some cases, it's morally obligatory.

Whether one looks upon biotechnology with hope, fear, or a little of both, Enhancing Evolution makes a case for it that no one can ignore.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Medicine Health Care and Philosophy
Harris' plea for enhancement is not only provoking. It is really thought-provoking since it demonstrates how deep the philosophical issues are and that we have to address them if we want to make explicit all the metaphysical, meta-ethical and ethical premises all participants in the debate rely on. But without such philosophical reflection a serious and fruitful discussion will not be possible. It is among the merits of this extraordinarily well written book to make this visible.
— Michael Quante
Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics
Whether one looks upon biotechnology with hope, fear, or a little of both, Enhancing Evolution is a book that should not be ignored.
Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics"

Whether one looks upon biotechnology with hope, fear, or a little of both, Enhancing Evolution is a book that should not be ignored.
Nature - Judy Illes
A persuasive case that today's biotechnologies...are on the continuum of an age-long pursuit by humans to improve themselves.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution - Richard Halicks
[Harris] challenges conventional thinking about genetic engineering, stem-cell research, designer children and other concepts that make most people uneasy.
THES - Mary Warnock
[Harris] is warmly enthusiastic about the possibilities; moreover he is unshakably convinced that all human beings, given that they are capable of moral sense, have a duty not only to make things better for people, but to make people better as well....It is a pleasure to read a book that is so jolly about the future of mankind.
The Globe and Mail - Arthur Schafer
[A] fine contribution to clear thinking and cogent argument in a field where these commodities have been in short supply.
Church Times - Robin Gill
Professor Harris uses his philosophical skills very effectively to expose public confusion.
Financial Times - Stephen Cave
This provocative book is a valuable retort to those who would summon the ghost of Frankenstein's monster at the first sight of a test tube.
The American Interest - Richard Hayes
[Harris] raises the stakes. Harris argues that humanity has been evolving biologically for millennia, and that those who believe we should forego the opportunity to evolve further through the use of genetic technology are 'making a fetish of a particular evolutionary stage.
Choice - J.A. Kegley
Harris argues that biotechnological enhancements are morally good, a sensible social imperative, and necessary to improve humankind's genetic heritage. He believes people should seek increased powers and longer, healthier lives...He takes on objections to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, and designer babies. Harris's arguments for increased biotechnological intervention for the betterment of human life, though controversial, cannot be ignored.
Journal of the American Medical Association - John Collins Harvey
Harris has a much wider understanding of enhancement than most bioethicists . . . he calls attention to the idea that there must be a new phase in human evolution so that darwinian evolution is replaced by a deliberately chosen process of selection—namely, enhancement.
Cambridge Quarterly Healthcare Ethics - Walter Glannon
This eleven-chapter book is a major contribution to the debate on enhancement. . . . Written with Harris' characteristic clarity and verve, the book is provocative, engaging, and at times entertaining. . . . Enhancing Evolution is bioethics at its best. It is scientifically well-informed, with imaginative examples, incisive critiques of widely held views against enhancement, and persuasive arguments in favor of these interventions. . . . Harris has hit a powerful volley against those who have argued that human enhancement is morally objectionable. The ball is now in their court.
EMBO Reports - Sarah Chan
Enhancing Evolution represents something of a landmark volume in its systematic consideration of human enhancement both as a philosophical concept, and in terms of the emerging technological possibilities and consequences. It has at its heart some unashamedly utilitarian assumptions, with the aim of 'making the world a better place'.
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy - Michael Quante
Harris' plea for enhancement is not only provoking. It is really thought-provoking since it demonstrates how deep the philosophical issues are and that we have to address them if we want to make explicit all the metaphysical, meta-ethical and ethical premises all participants in the debate rely on. But without such philosophical reflection a serious and fruitful discussion will not be possible. It is among the merits of this extraordinarily well written book to make this visible.
From the Publisher

"A persuasive case that today's biotechnologies...are on the continuum of an age-long pursuit by humans to improve themselves."--Judy Illes, Nature

"John Harris...assumes not only that biotechnological enhancement is going to happen but that we have a moral obligation to make it happen."--Scientific American

"[Harris] challenges conventional thinking about genetic engineering, stem-cell research, designer children and other concepts that make most people uneasy."--Richard Halicks, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"[Harris] is warmly enthusiastic about the possibilities; moreover he is unshakably convinced that all human beings, given that they are capable of moral sense, have a duty not only to make things better for people, but to make people better as well....It is a pleasure to read a book that is so jolly about the future of mankind."--Mary Warnock, THES

"[A] fine contribution to clear thinking and cogent argument in a field where these commodities have been in short supply."--Arthur Schafer, The Globe and Mail

"Professor Harris uses his philosophical skills very effectively to expose public confusion."--Robin Gill, Church Times

"This provocative book is a valuable retort to those who would summon the ghost of Frankenstein's monster at the first sight of a test tube."--Stephen Cave, Financial Times

"[Harris] raises the stakes. Harris argues that humanity has been evolving biologically for millennia, and that those who believe we should forego the opportunity to evolve further through the use of genetic technology are 'making a fetish of a particular evolutionary stage."--Richard Hayes, The American Interest

"Harris argues that biotechnological enhancements are morally good, a sensible social imperative, and necessary to improve humankind's genetic heritage. He believes people should seek increased powers and longer, healthier lives...He takes on objections to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, and designer babies. Harris's arguments for increased biotechnological intervention for the betterment of human life, though controversial, cannot be ignored."--J.A. Kegley, Choice

"Harris has a much wider understanding of enhancement than most bioethicists . . . he calls attention to the idea that there must be a new phase in human evolution so that darwinian evolution is replaced by a deliberately chosen process of selection--namely, enhancement."--John Collins Harvey, Journal of the American Medical Association

"This eleven-chapter book is a major contribution to the debate on enhancement. . . . Written with Harris' characteristic clarity and verve, the book is provocative, engaging, and at times entertaining. . . . Enhancing Evolution is bioethics at its best. It is scientifically well-informed, with imaginative examples, incisive critiques of widely held views against enhancement, and persuasive arguments in favor of these interventions. . . . Harris has hit a powerful volley against those who have argued that human enhancement is morally objectionable. The ball is now in their court."--Walter Glannon, Cambridge Quarterly Healthcare Ethics

"Enhancing Evolution represents something of a landmark volume in its systematic consideration of human enhancement both as a philosophical concept, and in terms of the emerging technological possibilities and consequences. It has at its heart some unashamedly utilitarian assumptions, with the aim of 'making the world a better place'."--Sarah Chan, EMBO Reports

"Harris' plea for enhancement is not only provoking. It is really thought-provoking since it demonstrates how deep the philosophical issues are and that we have to address them if we want to make explicit all the metaphysical, meta-ethical and ethical premises all participants in the debate rely on. But without such philosophical reflection a serious and fruitful discussion will not be possible. It is among the merits of this extraordinarily well written book to make this visible."--Michael Quante, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

"Whether one looks upon biotechnology with hope, fear, or a little of both, Enhancing Evolution is a book that should not be ignored."--Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics

Nature
A persuasive case that today's biotechnologies...are on the continuum of an age-long pursuit by humans to improve themselves.
— Judy Illes
Scientific American
John Harris...assumes not only that biotechnological enhancement is going to happen but that we have a moral obligation to make it happen.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
[Harris] challenges conventional thinking about genetic engineering, stem-cell research, designer children and other concepts that make most people uneasy.
— Richard Halicks
THES
[Harris] is warmly enthusiastic about the possibilities; moreover he is unshakably convinced that all human beings, given that they are capable of moral sense, have a duty not only to make things better for people, but to make people better as well....It is a pleasure to read a book that is so jolly about the future of mankind.
— Mary Warnock
Church Times
Professor Harris uses his philosophical skills very effectively to expose public confusion.
— Robin Gill
Financial Times
This provocative book is a valuable retort to those who would summon the ghost of Frankenstein's monster at the first sight of a test tube.
— Stephen Cave
Choice
Harris argues that biotechnological enhancements are morally good, a sensible social imperative, and necessary to improve humankind's genetic heritage. He believes people should seek increased powers and longer, healthier lives...He takes on objections to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, and designer babies. Harris's arguments for increased biotechnological intervention for the betterment of human life, though controversial, cannot be ignored.
— J.A. Kegley
Journal of the American Medical Association
Harris has a much wider understanding of enhancement than most bioethicists . . . he calls attention to the idea that there must be a new phase in human evolution so that darwinian evolution is replaced by a deliberately chosen process of selection—namely, enhancement.
— John Collins Harvey
Cambridge Quarterly Healthcare Ethics
This eleven-chapter book is a major contribution to the debate on enhancement. . . . Written with Harris' characteristic clarity and verve, the book is provocative, engaging, and at times entertaining. . . . Enhancing Evolution is bioethics at its best. It is scientifically well-informed, with imaginative examples, incisive critiques of widely held views against enhancement, and persuasive arguments in favor of these interventions. . . . Harris has hit a powerful volley against those who have argued that human enhancement is morally objectionable. The ball is now in their court.
— Walter Glannon
EMBO Reports
Enhancing Evolution represents something of a landmark volume in its systematic consideration of human enhancement both as a philosophical concept, and in terms of the emerging technological possibilities and consequences. It has at its heart some unashamedly utilitarian assumptions, with the aim of 'making the world a better place'.
— Sarah Chan
The Globe and Mail
[A] fine contribution to clear thinking and cogent argument in a field where these commodities have been in short supply.
— Arthur Schafer
The American Interest
[Harris] raises the stakes. Harris argues that humanity has been evolving biologically for millennia, and that those who believe we should forego the opportunity to evolve further through the use of genetic technology are 'making a fetish of a particular evolutionary stage.
— Richard Hayes
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691128443
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/13/2007
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Harris is the Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester School of Law, joint editor-in-chief of the "Journal of Medical Ethics", and a member of Britain's Human Genetics Commission. His many books include "On Cloning" and "A Companion to Genethics". "Enhancing Evolution" is based on keynote lectures Harris delivered at the James Martin Institute at the University of Oxford in 2006.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Steve Rayner ix
Acknowledgments xv
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Has Humankind a Future? 8
Chapter 2: Enhancement Is a Moral Duty 19
Chapter 3: What Enhancements Are and Why They Matter 36
Chapter 4: Immortality 59
Chapter 5: Reproductive Choice and the Democratic Presumption 72
Chapter 6: Disability and Super-Ability 86
Chapter 7: Perfection and the Blue Guitar 109
Chapter 8: Good and Bad Uses of Technology 123
Chapter 9: Designer Children 143
Chapter 10: The Irredeemable Paradox of the Embryo 160
Chapter 11: The Obligation to Pursue and Participate in Research 184
Notes 207
Bibliography 227
Index 239
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