The enhancement debate continues
by Xavier Symons | 3 Jun 2017 |
Human enhancement has been a hot-topic in bioethics for a number of years. The latest edition of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics takes stock of the field.
Several significant figures in the enhancement debate, such as the Nicholas Agar, Rob Sparrow and Anders Sandberg, contribute to the volume, engaging at length with the morality of using biotechnology to promote moral behavior and augment the capacities of human beings.
Several contributions address the question of whether, if we were able to enhance ourselves and others, such enhancements would be desirable. A significant proportion of the discussion also focuses on terminological debates about the scope of the concept of “moral enhancement”, and whether or not it pertains to already existing technologies and practices in society.
In his paper “Moral bioenhancement and free will: continuing the debate”, Vojin Raki challenges Savulescu and Persson’s defence of compulsory moral enhancement. According to Raki, a state-sanctioned enhancement initiative could undermine the very aims of moral enhancement, among other reasons by replacing local injustices with broader political repression.
Some commentators are sceptical about the possibility of moral enhancement. Yet according to Raki, “this special section is one more indication that the interest in moral bioenhancement and other sorts of bioenhancements is continuing to increase”.
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Now that President Donald Trump has backed out of the Paris Climate Change agreement, employment prospects for bioethicists may pick up. Let me explain
The boundaries of bioethics are very elastic, and on some maps they take in care for the natural environment. I would predict that in the measure that scientists lose faith in a political solution to global warming, some will back geoengineering projects to cool the planet.
These include tactics such as injecting aerosols into the upper atmosphere, dumping iron filings into the sea to promote algal blooms, and machines to capture carbon dioxide. These involve significant risk and place great power in the calculations of technocrats. They need to be studied very carefully. As University of Chicago climate scientist Raymond Pierrehumbert said a few years ago, “I see lots [of geoengineering ideas] that are feasible but they all terrify me.”
A 2010 conference on the ethics of climate intervention at Asilomar, in California, addressed some of these issues using principles drawn from the famous Belmont principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-malificence and justice. And who knows more about these than bioethicists? Dust off those resumés.
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