Is Human Nature Obsolete?: Genetics, Bioengineering, and the Future of the Human Condition / Edition 1

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As our scientific and technical abilities expand at breathtaking speeds,
concern that modern genetics and bioengineering are leading us to a posthuman future is growing. Is Human Nature Obsolete? poses the overarching question of what it is to be human against the background of these current advances in biotechnology. Its perspective is philosophical and interdisciplinary rather than technical; the focus is on questions of fundamental ontological importance rather than the specifics of medical or scientific practice.The authors -- all distinguished scholars in their fields -- take on questions about technology's goals and values that are often ignored or sidelined in the face of rapid scientific advances and the highly specialized nature of technical knowledge. The essays included represent a rich variety of thought, ranging from finely nuanced philosophical and theological arguments to historical studies and cultural commentaries. Several explore the historical background of today's biotechnology: Timothy Casey traces such developments as the emergence of cybernetic humanity from Cartesian dualism, and
Diane Paul presents the history of "positive" versus coerced eugenics. Jean Bethke
Elshtain discusses cloning as a "messianic project" to perfect the body and exclude natural diversity -- giving as an example the elimination of Down Syndrome as an acceptable human type -- while Harold Baillie calls for an examination of the metaphysical roots of personhood. Robert Proctor finds no evidence in paleontology for any "essence of humanity," and Tom Shannon argues against materialist reductionism. Addressing social concerns, Lisa Sowle Cahill finds the possibility of a political solution to the problems raised by genetic engineering in Catholic teachings on social justice, and Langdon Winner looks critically at the "scientific enthusiasts of a posthuman future." Taken as a whole, the book provides a humanistic overview of a subject too often considered only in its technological aspect.

The MIT Press

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher

"Modifying ourselves through molecular biology is a humanitarian utopia to some, an imminent nightmare to others. But to all, the prospect should be a challenge because it touches on so many basic and unresolved questions. This excellent, probing collection of papers -- spanning philosophy, history, social science, and theology -- will be welcomed by professionals and lay readers alike."--Edward Tenner, author of *Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences* and *Our Own Devices: How Technology Remakes

The MIT Press

"The conversation about what we want—literally—to make of ourselves is probably the most important conversation human beings will ever have. This carefully considered book is a fine entry into that dialogue, and it comes not a moment too soon." Bill McKibben, author of Enough: Staying
Human in an Engineered Age

The MIT Press

"It is fascinating to listen in behind the scenes as philosophers try to figure out new ways to be relevant in the debate over the environment. I hope these nascent efforts expand -- the recalibration of the rightful human role in the natural world is one of the great practical challenges of the new century, and philosophers could and should play an important role."--Bill McKibben, author of
*Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age*

The MIT Press

"The conversation about what we want -- literally -- to make of ourselves is probably the most important conversation human beings will ever have. This carefully considered book is a fine entry into that dialogue, and it comes not a moment too soon."--Bill McKibben, author of *Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262524285
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Series: Basic Bioethics
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 440
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold W. Baillie is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Scranton.

Timothy K. Casey is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Scranton.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
I Historical perspectives 33
2 Nature, technology, and the emergence of cybernetic humanity 35
3 Nature and human nature 67
4 Life sciences : discontents and consolations 99
5 Genetic engineering and eugenics : the uses of history 123
II Embodiment and self-identity 153
6 The body and the quest for control 155
7 Visions and re-visions : life and the accident of birth 177
8 Aristotle and genetic engineering : the uncertainty of excellence 209
III Freedom and telos 233
9 Human recency and race : molecular anthropology, the refigured acheulean, and the UNESCO response to Auschwitz 235
10 Human nature in a post-human genome project world 269
11 Telos, value, and genetic engineering 317
IV Social and political critiques 337
12 Nature, sin, and society 339
13 Human genetic intervention : past, present, and future 367
14 Resistance is futile : the posthuman condition and its advocates 385
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