Access Provided by University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign at 02/22/11 7:39PM GMT
A                                            No t - So - Ne w                                            EUGENICS         ...
edited collections published by major and Savulescu obscure the fact that embryo with those genetics.10 Shouldacademic pre...
it is extremely unlikely to make virtue          However, as both Harris and Sa-           To begin with, it is worth not-...
These implications are, of course, about which genes are best for our group in order to avoid the destruc-contingent on th...
firmly back in the territory of the old      children with fair skin in countries       give our children the best chances...
people meet them.33 Savulescu even children are still doing something prospect is especially alarming if par-goes so far a...
never coerce others in order to ensure     harmed by other people’s decisions         unevenness in the distribution of en...
childhood vaccination against an in- Perhaps parents’ interests will usually non-person-affecting enhancementsfectious dis...
Savulescu, “Procreative Beneficence: Why     disavow the consequentialism that           is all-too-tempting to conclude t...
unclear whether anything like an obligation       Rights and Selective Abortion,” in Abor-              27. Savulescu, “Pr...
are harmed if they are not enhanced—as it       in Twentieth-Century France (Cambridge,               47. R. Wilkinson, Un...
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A not so new eugenics harris and savulescu on human enhancement by robert sparrow


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A Not So New EUGENICS Harris and Savulescu on Human Enhancement BY ROBERT SPARROW

John Harris and Julian Savulescu, leading figures in the “new” eugenics, argue that parents are
morally obligated to use genetic and other technologies to enhance their children. But the argument
they give leads to conclusions even more radical than they acknowledge. Ultimately, the world it would
lead to is not all that different from that championed by eugenicists one hundred years ago.

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A not so new eugenics harris and savulescu on human enhancement by robert sparrow

  1. 1. Access Provided by University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign at 02/22/11 7:39PM GMT
  2. 2. A No t - So - Ne w EUGENICS Harris and Savulescu on Human Enhancement BY R O B E RT S PA R R O W John Harris and Julian Savulescu, leading figures in the “new” eugenics, argue that parents are morally obligated to use genetic and other technologies to enhance their children. But the argument they give leads to conclusions even more radical than they acknowledge. Ultimately, the world it would lead to is not all that different from that championed by eugenicists one hundred years ago. A s Nick Agar noted in the pages of this jour- health of the “race,” and coercive.3 According to the nal in 2007, there now exists a significant advocates of the new eugenics, the horrors associated body of work in bioethics that argues in with the old eugenics should not prevent us from favor of enhancing human beings.1 Writers includ- embracing the opportunities offered by recent ad- ing Gregory Stock, Lee Silver, Nick Bostrom, Julian vances in the biological sciences. Savulescu, John Harris, Ronald Green, Jonathan Two of these writers in particular, John Harris Glover, and Agar himself have suggested that there and Julian Savulescu, have independently advanced is little reason to fear the scientific application of ge- the argument for human enhancement with espe- netic technologies to human beings, as long as the cial fervor in their recent works. In Enhancing Evo- choice of whether—and how—to use them is left up lution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People, to individuals.2 They argue that a “new” or “liberal” Harris takes to conservative critics of enhancement eugenics, which would be pluralistic, based on good with gusto and argues that a commitment to human science, concerned with the welfare of individuals, enhancement follows naturally from our willing- and would respect the rights of individuals, should ness to accept the improvements in our welfare and be distinguished from the “old” eugenics, which capacities that other technologies have made pos- was perfectionist, unscientific, concerned with the sible.4 Moreover, he suggests, a proper concern for the welfare of future human beings implies that we are morally obligated to pursue enhancements.5 Simi- Robert Sparrow, “A Not-So-New Eugenics: Harris and Savulescu on Human Enhancement,” Hastings Center Report 41, no. 1 (2011): 32- larly, in a series of influential and oft-cited articles in 42. prestigious medical and bioethical journals and in32 HASTINGS C E N T E R R E P O RT January-February 2011
  3. 3. edited collections published by major and Savulescu obscure the fact that embryo with those genetics.10 Shouldacademic presses, Julian Savulescu the gap between the new and the old somatic cell nuclear transfer cloninghas argued that we are morally obli- eugenics is not that large at all, and of human beings become possible,gated to use genetic (and other) tech- that their philosophies have impli- then parents could create childrennologies to produce the best children cations that most people would find with the genome of some existingpossible—a strong claim indeed!6 Sa- profoundly unattractive. person who has above-species-typicalvulescu has also used his role as direc- characteristics.tor of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Consequentialism and Consequentialism has a distinctPractical Ethics to promote human Enhancement theoretical advantage when it comesenhancement in the popular press.7 to discussing the ethics of these tech- When learned professors at theUniversity of Manchester and Ox- T he two technologies that offer nologies. Both PGD and SCNT in- the most realistic prospect of volve choosing which people are bornford start to agitate on behalf of en- achieving dramatic improvements in rather than enhancing the traits ofhancing human beings, it behooves the capacities of human beings in the existing persons. As Derek Parfit ob-us to take notice. For reasons that foreseeable future are preimplantation served, such decisions are not “per-will become obvious below, I hope genetic diagnosis (possibly in combi- son affecting”: there is no particularthat Savulescu and Har- person who will be betterris are wrong about the or worse off dependingexistence of an obligation on how the decisions areto enhance future humanbeings, but it is not my in- T hus, once we adopt a made, because if the deci- sions are made differently,tention to try to establish consequentialist perspective, then a different person isthat here. Rather, my pur- brought into the world.11pose is to point out that if the argument for enhancement It is difficult for noncon-we have such an obliga- sequentialist moral theo-tion, then its implications follows straightforwardly. ries to gain any purchaseare much more radical on decisions of this sort.than Harris or Savulescu Rights-based or Kantianadmit. Both Harris and approaches founder be-Savulescu approach the cause, in the absence of anethics of human enhancement from nation with “embryo splitting”) and affected individual, decisions abouta consequentialist perspective.8 Given somatic cell nuclear transfer. PGD enhancement are only about howthe notoriously demanding nature of allows parents to learn about the ge- we treat embryos, rather than howconsequentialism and its lineage as a netics of the embryos they have cre- we relate to rational agents, and at-philosophy of radical social reform, ated through in vitro fertilization, so tributing “rights” to embryos hasone might expect that their conclu- that they can choose which embryo extremely counterintuitive implica-sions would include a strong role for to implant into a woman’s womb and tions in other policy areas.12 More-the state in encouraging or even re- try to bring to term. It is currently over, insofar as we are concerned withquiring people to meet their obliga- widely used as a powerful technique the rationality of future agents, sometions to have better babies. Instead, to prevent the birth of children with enhancements might be desirable be-both Harris and Savulescu deny that severe disabilities. The use of PGD cause they might facilitate rationalthe state should pursue eugenic goals for enhancement would involve se- agency. Perhaps virtue ethics standsand insist that the decision about lecting embryos on the basis of genes a better chance of generating conclu-whether to pursue enhancement for “above-species-typical” capacities. sions about the appropriate attitude(and which enhancements to pur- Our rapidly improving knowledge of toward enhancement,13 or about thesue) should be left up to individuals. human genetics, especially since the impact that altering human natureThere is, therefore, a tension between completion of the human genome would have on future human be-their consequentialism and their (ap- program, has greatly increased the ings’ capacity to exercise importantparent) libertarianism when it comes potential of using PGD to this end. virtues.14 However, it is difficult toto the rights of individuals to use—or Employing “embryo splitting” in con- develop an uncontroversial accountnot use—enhancement technologies junction with PGD would improve of the virtues that has enough con-as they see fit.9 Only through a very its efficiency as an enhancement tech- tent to motivate definite conclusionsparticular and not especially plausible nology by allowing the creation of about the appropriate attitude towardnegotiation of the uneasy relation- multiple, genetically identical copies enhancement. And while altering hu-ship between their moral theory and of a desirable embryo, increasing the man nature might have implicationstheir policy prescriptions can Harris chances of successfully implanting an for the nature and role of the virtues,January-February 2011 H A S T I N G S C E N T E R R E P O RT 33
  4. 4. it is extremely unlikely to make virtue However, as both Harris and Sa- To begin with, it is worth not- itself impossible. In any case, it is not vulescu have pointed out, a concern ing that genetic technologies might clear that we have any good reason with the amount of happiness in the provide a new way of increasing the to prefer the virtues associated with world suggests that we should not be amount of happiness in the world: existing human character traits over content with reducing suffering and they might allow us to simply en- the virtues enhanced human beings unhappiness.17 Instead, consequen- gineer happier people. If happiness might have.15 tialism suggests that we should act is a subjective state—a warm inner However, insofar as decisions so as to increase the amount of hap- glow, as it were—then we may well about embryo selection are about piness—or perhaps welfare—in the be able to make future generations worlds containing different sorts of world. happier by manipulating the base people—and different amounts of Thus, once we adopt a consequen- level of various neurotransmitters happiness—consequentialism can tialist perspective, the argument for in their brains. The existence of ge- deal with them with ease. For in- enhancement follows straightfor- netic risk factors for depression sug- stance, a consequentialist approach wardly. As Harris puts it, if something gests that genes may play a role in quickly generates what is—for most is an enhancement, that means that it determining the “base mood” of people—intuitively the right answer benefits individuals. We should act individuals. Selecting for—or ma- when we are considering decisions so as to promote the well-being of nipulating—these genes might allow about whether to use PGD to pre- individuals. Therefore, we should us to greatly improve the prospects vent the birth of children with severe pursue enhancements.18 There is, of future individuals feeling happy. disabilities.16 It is difficult indeed not perhaps, some room to argue about Even if happiness is defined as having to think that parents who are at risk the possibility that certain enhance- one’s preferences satisfied, then it may of conceiving a child with a serious ments, despite being good for those be possible to promote happiness by genetic disorder, and who are offered who enjoy them, will generate “nega- shaping people (again, perhaps by al- a choice to use PGD to identify and tive externalities” and will impose a tering their brain chemistry) so that select against embryos suffering from cost on the rest of society, especially they have lower ambitions and more this disorder, do something wrong if if these enhancements are available easily satisfied preferences.20 The only they fail to make use of the technol- only to those able to pay for them. way Savulescu and Harris could avoid ogy. A compelling analogy can be Indeed, I will suggest below that this the implication that we are obligated made between this case and a case is both much more likely and much to ensure that future generations are where parents could remedy an en- more significant than either Harris engineered for contentment and go vironmental hazard that would have or Savulescu acknowledge. However, through life suffused in a warm bath the same effect on their child. In both such concerns will at most establish a of serotonin, dopamine, and opioids cases, the outcome of parental inac- case against particular enhancements; would be to retreat to a more substan- tion is a child born with a serious dis- they are unlikely to rule out en- tive account of well-being. If human ability. Yet the latter case is “person hancements altogether. Thus, while flourishing consists in the satisfaction affecting,” whereas the former is not. there may be reasons to be cautious of those preferences that an ideal ob- Because decisions about whether to about some sorts of enhancements, server would rationally endorse, or in use PGD (and about which embryo the distinction between therapy and the achievement of various objective to select if we choose to use it) do not enhancement itself is morally irrel- goods, then there will be less impe- harm or benefit any individual, non- evant, and we should, for the same tus to try to engineer people for hap- consequentialist approaches struggle reason as we pursue therapies, pursue piness by manipulating their brain to explain why we have any reason enhancements.19 chemistry. However, any resort to to select the healthy embryo using In a moment I will turn to ex- a more objectivist account of well- PGD. Consequentialism, on the oth- amine the question of the means we being would require consequential- er hand, implies that we should select should adopt to bring about a world ists to justify that account and would a healthy child for the same reason of enhanced human beings. How- make their conclusions much more we would act to prevent harm to an ever, it is worth pausing to highlight controversial; it would also open up existing child—in order to minimize some of the more outré features of the possibility that the value of these the amount of unnecessary suffering what it is, precisely, that we might goods might ground an argument in the world. If we think parents have be obligated to bring about. Many of against enhancement. Yet in the ab- strong reasons to avoid the birth of the implications of the new eugenics sence of a richer and more plausible children with severe disabilities, this are genetic interventions that in sub- account of well-being than either Sa- suggests that consequentialism has a stance—if not in motivation—look vulescu or Harris has yet provided, crucial role to play in determining the very much like those advocated by the genetic interventions required by ethics of decisions about what sort of the “old” eugenics. consequentialism look very “Brave people there should be. New World” indeed.2134 HASTINGS C E N T E R R E P O RT January-February 2011
  5. 5. These implications are, of course, about which genes are best for our group in order to avoid the destruc-contingent on the science advanc- children, then, Harris and Savulescu’s tive effects of racism.25 Similarly, ifing in certain ways. However, there argument implies that we should take there are genes that elevate the chanceare other perverse implications of these factors into account. Thus, for that an individual will be attracted toa consequentialist approach to en- instance, in a racist society, where others of the same sex, then parentshancement that could be realized children born with particular racial will be obligated to select againstwith existing technologies. By its very markers—skin color, hair type, shape these genes in homophobic societies.nature, the argument for enhance- of nose and lips, presence or absence While the prospect of identifying andment downplays the moral signifi- of an epicanthic fold, and so on—will selecting for (or against) genes forcance of normal human capacities. have reduced life prospects, a proper race or sexual preference might seemIn particular, our reasons to reshape concern for their children’s well-being remote, so, too, does the prospect ofthe capacities of future human beings requires that parents work to mitigate eliminating the impact of entrencheddo not stop at ensuring normal spe- the impact of racism by altering the racism and homophobia on indi-cies functioning. This is, vidual well-being. Thus,of course, what establishes in most of Europe, Norththe obligation to enhance, America, and Australia,but it also means that thefact that some particular W hen it comes to the sorts of Harris and Savulescu’s ar- gument would have par-set of capacities is “nor- people the consequentialist ents choosing white malemal” is no reason to settle children who would growfor it. This, in turn, has argument would have us choose up to be tall and (prob-unsettling implications for ably) blonde haired andcases in which social cir-cumstances interact with to bring into the world, then, blue eyed. When it comes to the sorts of people thegenes within the normal consequentialist argumentrange of human variation, the ultimate conclusions of the would have us choose toso that the genes correlate bring into the world, then,with reduced welfare. new eugenics are remarkably the ultimate conclusions The prospects for an of the new eugenics are re-individual’s flourishing similar to those of the old. markably similar to thosewill always be a function of the old.26of interaction between Of course, it is alwaysgenes and environment. possible to adduce furtherIndeed, advocates for enhancement child’s environment, or by manipu- consequentialist considerations, ormake much use of this fact; they lating the genes associated with these perhaps even deontological side con-typically argue that our obligation markers, or both.23 straints, to explain why parents areto manipulate genes is precisely the Unfortunately, it will often be not obligated to choose children whosame as our obligation to manipu- much easier to alter a child’s genet- will be able to pass as members oflate the environment and arises for ics than the social conditions that privileged groups. Savulescu explic-the same reason—out of a concern will shape the ultimate impact of itly addresses this objection and sug-for the implications of our child’s their genetics. In particular, one gests that we are obligated to respondphenotype for his or her welfare.22 “genetic condition” associated with to injustice with social rather thanHowever, the consequentialist ver- reduced life prospects in many soci- genetic interventions.27 It is worthsion of this argument does not easily eties—the sex of the child—is easily observing, though, that pointing toallow a distinction between cases in shaped prior to birth using existing the social consequences of variouswhich the environmental conditions technologies such as sperm sorting, eugenic policies is a risky argumenta-that mediate the relationship between PGD, or ultrasound-plus-selective- tive strategy for advocates of the newgenetics and phenotypical impact on termination. Where girls face reduced eugenics. The new eugenics is, afterthe organism are the result of social life prospects as a result of entrenched all, supposed to be concerned withfactors, and those in which they re- sexism, Harris and Savulescu’s argu- individual well-being—and, as wesult from other processes. In many ments imply that parents are obli- have seen, it will always be to an in-parts of the world today, prevailing gated to choose male children.24 If it dividual’s benefit to be born with thesocial circumstances are likely to have becomes possible to select for genes genetic markers of social privilege. Asa much greater impact on the welfare for skin color, then parents will have soon as we begin sacrificing the well-of individuals than are other envi- strong reasons to prefer a child with being of individuals for the sake ofronmental factors. When thinking the skin color of the dominant social social goals, such as diversity, we areJanuary-February 2011 H A S T I N G S C E N T E R R E P O RT 35
  6. 6. firmly back in the territory of the old children with fair skin in countries give our children the best chances in eugenics. near the poles, whereas near the equa- life; hardly any parents attempt that, Even if a consequentialist account tor they should have children with let alone accomplish it.30 However, of the ethics of enhancement can dark skin (setting questions about the the problem with limiting the obli- avoid the repugnant conclusion that impact of racism aside). In any given gations of parents to an obligation to we should take social prejudices into environment, however, parents will have a child that is “good enough” is account in our reproductive decision- be obligated to choose the same ge- that we then need some plausible way making, this possibility is but one im- netics for their children. of deciding what “good enough” is plication of a deeper dynamic within Indeed, there is nothing in Sa- and explaining why parental obliga- the consequentialist argument. As I vulescu’s argument to explain why tions stop at this point. The notion will discuss further below, Harris and parents’ obligations end at having of “normal human capacities” is one Savulescu tend to present the case for the best child they can have—if by plausible place to draw this line; it is enhancement as though it opens up this Savulescu means the best of the difficult to see that there are any oth- space for diversity and experimenta- genetic offspring they have managed ers.31 Once we set off on the project tion in relation to the character of to conceive via IVF.29 Unless the bio- of human enhancement, it is hard future persons. However, the logic of logical children of rearing parents to see where we could—or why we a concern with improving the well- always have higher expected welfare should—stop. being of future persons points toward than any (and every) other unrelated The ends of a consequentialist quite a different conclusion—that, child the same parents might rear program of human enhancement are in any given environment at least, (perhaps because parents turn out to therefore likely to be much more radi- there is a “best” genome, which par- have an instinctual aversion to raising cal than Harris and Savulescu allow.32 ents are obligated to provide for their an unrelated child), there will often However, the purported distance be- children. be cases where none of the embryos tween the new and the old eugenics Once we start to assess the conse- that a couple manage to create have is supposed to be as much a matter quences of being born with different life prospects as good as those of an- of means as of ends. Let us now turn, genetic make-ups—and especially if other embryo—for instance, a “sur- then, to Harris and Savulescu’s ac- we use such narrow metrics as “happi- plus” embryo from an IVF program. counts of the means appropriate to a ness” or “well-being”—then, in a giv- If so, then they will be obligated to “new” eugenics. en environment, of any two genomes, implant that other embryo. If there one will nearly always be better than is an embryo available somewhere Libertarianism the other. Harris and Savulescu’s ap- in the world with sufficiently “good” proaches, with their emphasis on im- proving welfare, are premised on the idea that we can rank different lives genes, then it might turn out that everyone has morally compelling rea- sons to have a child who is genetically U tilitarianism, historically the most important form of con- sequentialism, originated as a radi- according to the amount of welfare identical. As I discuss below, Harris cal philosophy dedicated to social in them—and, therefore, that we can and Savulescu downplay this impli- reform. Many of the early utilitar- rank genomes-in-an-environment.28 cation of their account by allowing ians struggled for social and political It will be rare indeed for two genomes that parents should not be censured change, believing that the greatest to offer precisely the same prospects if they fail to live up to their obliga- happiness of the greatest number for welfare, and where this appears to tions in this regard. However, the fact could be achieved only by redistrib- be the case it will usually be the re- remains that what all parents should uting wealth and that the state was sult of our lack of knowledge rather do is aspire to have a child with the sometimes the only available mecha- than an objective equality of genetic same genes. nism to help us achieve important potential. Thus, even though there The convergence of parental ob- social goals. But Harris and Savulescu will often be reasonable disagreement ligations on a “best” embryo is a do not follow this example. Rather about which is the best embryo to function of the maximizing nature than advocate for a strong program implant after PGD, there will almost of (most) consequentialism. It would of social engineering or legislation always be a right answer to this ques- be possible to avoid this implication to bring about a world in which en- tion. The only objective grounds that by adopting some sort of “satisficing” hanced human beings have the best might justify parents selecting differ- consequentialism (that is, a conse- prospects for happiness and well- ent sorts of embryos will be in situa- quentialism according to which ac- being, Harris and Savulescu defend tions where children can be expected tions are justified only if they bring the right of individuals to reject their to grow up in different environments. about a state of affairs that is “good conclusions. In particular, they deny For instance, because of variations in enough”). As a number of other writ- that the obligations they identify are the level of ultraviolet radiation at dif- ers have observed, it seems ludicrous of such a nature as to justify the use ferent latitudes, parents should have to suggest that we are obligated to of state power to try to ensure that36 HASTINGS C E N T E R R E P O RT January-February 2011
  7. 7. people meet them.33 Savulescu even children are still doing something prospect is especially alarming if par-goes so far as to explicitly defend the wrong. Let us be clear about this: ents are obligated to have childrenrights of parents to choose children Harris and Savulescu each argue that with the genetic markers of socialwith disabilities.34 As far as the ap- parents should have children with the privilege, as I argued above.propriate role of the law in relation to best prospects. At the very least, it fol- Nor is the state the only organiza-enhancement goes, then, Harris and lows from Harris and Savulescu’s ac- tion with the capacity to shape theSavulescu are libertarians.35 counts that parents who fail to act on behavior of parents. Nongovern- The subtlety of the argument about the morally compelling reasons that mental organizations and concernedenhancement that allows Savulescu bear on their reproductive decisions citizens may also be able to influ-and Harris to reconcile libertarian should be condemned in private. ence parental decision-making. Theconclusions with a consequentialist Unless it can be shown that open “Eugenics Societies” that sprang upapproach is the fact that most fore- moralism on this topic will generate around the world in the early twen-seeable genetic enhance- tieth century encouragedments are unlikely to be fellow citizens to exercise“person affecting.” If—as reproductive choice re-John Stuart Mill argued—the state is only justified T he “Eugenics Societies” that sponsibly and avoid bring- ing inferior specimens intoin restricting individual the world, and they argu-liberty in order to prevent sprang up around the world in the ably had some success inharm to others,36 then as shaping behavior.41 Whilelong as parents’ choices early twentieth century encouraged Harris and Savulescuabout which embryo(s) to would object to some ofimplant result in the birth fellow citizens to exercise the societies’ educationalof people who have “lives and advertising materialsworth living,”37 decisions reproductive choice and to some of their politi-about who should be born cal goals, the basic missionwill not warrant interfer- responsibly. The basic mission of of these societies—tryingence from the state because to convince people to havethey will not harm any- these societies is one Harris and “fitter families”—is oneone.38 Because the decision they should approve of. In-about whether to employ Savulescu should approve of. deed, it seems that Harrisan enhancement technol- and Savulescu should workogy will affect who will toward the reinvigorationbe born, there is no indi- of these groups.vidual who can legitimately complain resentment and make it less likely In a consequentialist framework,about the decision by insisting that that people will meet their obliga- we acquire moral obligations not bythey would have been better off had tions, then they should also be con- virtue of being in particular roles orit been otherwise.39 This peculiarity demned in public. relationships, but rather by virtue ofabout the consequences of decisions Moreover, even if Harris and Sa- our causal power to bring about cer-about genetic selection makes it pos- vulescu are right that parents should tain states of affairs containing moresible for parents to have an obliga- not be coerced to enhance their chil- or less welfare. If I can bring it abouttion to increase the total utility in the dren, their arguments may still have that other parents have enhancedworld but—perhaps—for there to be policy implications. Not all of the children, then I should. Presumingno direct harm to any particular indi- policy instruments available to gov- that social campaigns conducted byvidual if they fail to do so. Thus, con- ernments are coercive. States can en- private citizens have some capacity tosequentialists can hold that parents courage their citizens to do the right influence behavior, then we have an“should” enhance their children, but thing through education and adver- obligation to initiate, fund, and takedeny that they should be required to tising and by reshaping the incen- part in them. Seen in this light, Sa-do so by legislation or policy.40 tive structures bearing on individual vulescu’s efforts to promote enhance- decisions by rewarding particular be- ment in the public sphere followTensions haviors. These mechanisms fall well inevitably from his philosophy and short of coercion. At the very least, are, indeed, to be admired.T his is all fine as far as it goes. then, Harris and Savulescu should Furthermore, the consequentialist However, according to Savulescu be campaigning for a national “bet- foundations of Harris and Savulescu’sand Harris’s arguments, parents who ter babies” campaign that puts these arguments offer at best shaky supportfail to maximize the welfare of their noncoercive strategies to work. This for the conclusion that we shouldJanuary-February 2011 H A S T I N G S C E N T E R R E P O RT 37
  8. 8. never coerce others in order to ensure harmed by other people’s decisions unevenness in the distribution of en- that they have enhanced children. For about enhancement. There are any hancements would therefore require a a consequentialist, human rights are number of social or economic mech- significant revision of our intuitions justified only insofar as they further anisms whereby the well-being of about the proper response to the exis- well-being, and if the consequences some affects the well-being of others, tence of unchosen disadvantage. that might be achieved by infringing so that actions that affect the welfare Second, Harris and Savulescu’s ar- a right outweigh the consequences of of one group—even actions that do gument runs into difficulties in any its infringement, then so much worse not harm them—may harm others. society with a welfare state because a for the right and the interests it pro- Most obviously, in any society failure to enhance will then impose tects. Harris and Savulescu properly that acknowledges an obligation to costs on others via the mechanism emphasize the weight of the interests provide for the welfare of its mem- of redistributive taxation. Therefore, that are protected by and that justify bers and relies on taxation to achieve their libertarianism about reproduc- a right to reproductive freedom.42 that goal, the welfare of each affects tive decision-making is tenable only if Historically, the consequences of try- the welfare of all. Consequently, if we adopt a more comprehensive lib- ing to force people to have certain parents choose to have children with ertarian politics. Yet such a politics is sorts of children have been disas- lower expected welfare than other even less compatible with Harris and trous, and there are good reasons to children they might have had, then Savulescu’s consequentialism than fear the consequences if we try again. they are imposing a cost on the rest is their laissez-faire attitude toward However, it is also true that the con- of the community. If this cost is sub- enhancement. sequences of coercion depend on the stantial enough, then coercion may In any case, there are other ways in sort of coercion involved. Just as there well be justified in order to avoid it. which decisions about enhancement are many noncoercive means of shap- One might argue that the real of future people may harm others.46 ing behavior, so, too, are there many source of the harm here is the redis- The presence of social and economic different means of coercion available, tributive taxation, and that rather inequality often has significant im- some very subtle. If the amount of than restrict the liberty of parents plications for the quality of life of welfare at stake in a particular en- in order to keep them from impos- all citizens. There is some evidence hancement is large, then some forms ing demands on others, we should that inequality in a society itself has of coercion will probably sometimes instead restrict the scope of redis- bad consequences for the health of be justified.43 tribution: we should deny that the citizens, rich and poor alike.47 To the Indeed, most societies already act unenhanced have any claim on the extent this is true, parents who fail on the assumption that some coer- resources of other individuals. The to enhance their children will harm cion is justified to protect the wel- shape of a just health care policy in other individuals. There are also less fare of future generations. When it a society in which enhancement is controversial and more everyday ex- comes to the destruction of the en- available is too large a topic to ad- amples of the negative consequences vironment, for instance, where deci- dress properly here.45 However, I will of inequality. If enhanced individuals sions may not only affect the welfare venture two brief observations about are at risk of mugging by desperate of future generations but also affect this line of argument. “normals” who have been locked out who will be born,44 the fact that our First, it is one thing to deny that of social and economic opportuni- choices are not person affecting does parents have a right to extra resources ties by their lacklustre genetic in- not prevent us from concluding that to compensate them for the low wel- heritance, if they must step over the regulation is appropriate. In some fare of children they have chosen not sleeping bodies of normal individuals cases, the penalties for polluting the to enhance, but it is quite another to in the street on the way to their lim- environment may be severe and may deny that these children have a right ousines, and if they must constantly include substantial fines and even jail to some social support. In a world in refuse the entreaties of unenhanced time. If we are prepared to jail people which enhancement was widely prac- children for aid and assistance, then for threatening the welfare of persons tised, it would no more be the fault enhanced individuals may have rea- not yet existing by polluting the en- of the unenhanced that their welfare son to rue the birth of normal chil- vironment, then it seems we should was lower than those around them dren. Parents who continue to have also be prepared to coerce people who than it is the fault of people born normal children will impose these threaten the welfare of future genera- with genetic disorders today that costs on their fellow citizens. tions by failing to enhance them. they require additional resources to Finally, there are arguably cases in These subtleties are largely aca- achieve the same well-being as those which the harms that result from oth- demic when it comes to the policy born “normal.” Denying that soci- ers’ failure to enhance their children implications of the consequentialist ety has an obligation to redistribute are brought about by less political argument for enhancement because (some) resources to compensate for mechanisms. Consider a case mod- existing individuals clearly can be inequalities in welfare that result from eled on the ethics of introducing a38 HASTINGS C E N T E R R E P O RT January-February 2011
  9. 9. childhood vaccination against an in- Perhaps parents’ interests will usually non-person-affecting enhancementsfectious disease. Imagine that select- win the day, as Harris and Savulescu in the first for some particular set of genes maintain. However, as we have seen,conveys resistance to a dangerous there is no reason to believe that they A Brave New Worldinfectious disease; children with this always will, and indeed there is goodenhancement are much less likely to reason to worry that they often willcatch the disease, but unfortunately not, when “subtle” forms of coercion T he champions of the “new” eu- genics are understandably anx-they are not totally immune. This are at stake. The greater our obliga- ious to dissociate themselves from theis precisely the sort of enhancement tion to enhance our children—or to eugenic movements of the 1920s andthat Harris and Savulescu believe we put the same point another way, the 1930s. A close reading of Harris andwould be obligated to provide to our more likely it is that enhancements Savulescu’s work, however, suggestschildren.48 Yet the benefits of this en- will offer significant improvements that they, at least, are less successful athancement will be entirely distancing themselves fromrealized only if a sufficient the old eugenics than theynumber of parents adopt suppose. If parents actedit. If only some childrenin the community can T here is a tendency for advocates on the obligation that Har- ris and Savulescu cham-resist infection, then the pion, then the result woulddisease may still become of human enhancement to be a world eerily similar toan epidemic and threaten that dreamed of by previ-the lives of those who have represent themselves—and ous generations of eugeni-received the enhancement. cists. According to theirThe failure of others to en- perhaps also to see themselves—as accounts, in any given so-hance their children there- ciety parents should all aimfore imposes a risk—and a the philosophical descendants of to have the same sort ofharm—on the rest of the child, where the nature ofcommunity. If the cost of Voltaire, bravely defying the forces this “best baby” is properlythe enhancement is low, sensitive to the prevailingthen the harm caused by of irrationality and bigotry of the times. Harrisfailing to use it might jus- and Savulescu’s philosophytify a law requiring parents conservatism in order to reach the also implies that right-to enhance their children. thinking people shouldThus, there is at least one difficult conclusions that others engage in social campaignssort of case in which the to influence the reproduc-flourishing of the commu- dare not. tive decision-making ofnity depends on parents’ other citizens and encour-decisions about enhance- age them to live up to theirments, yet the relationship procreative not mediated by social Moreover, despite Har-and political institutions. Where this in expected welfare—then the more ris and Savulescu’s gestures towardis the case, Savulescu and Harris’s ar- likely it is that this calculation will ar- respect for individual freedom, theirguments risk licensing the use of coer- gue in favor of strongly encouraging arguments place this freedom at thecion to secure enhancements in order or even coercing parents to choose mercy of a calculation about conse-to prevent harm to the community. enhanced children.50 quences, which is a poor guarantor Nothing I have said thus far es- There is, therefore, a profound that the state will not be justified intablishes that any particular form of tension between Harris and Sa- coercing parents to have particularcoercion is justified in order to secure vulescu’s philosophical commitments sorts of children to maximize wel-any particular enhancement for fu- and their own account of the policy fare. In short, while the avowed mo-ture generations. Our obligations to implications of their arguments. tivations of the new eugenics may bebring about improvements in welfare Their consequentialism fails to sup- new, the world its advocates wouldby enhancing future beings, and to port their libertarianism. Alterna- bring about turns out to be not allavoid imposing costs on others by tively, their libertarianism can be that different from that championedfailing to enhance, must be weighed maintained only at the cost of their by the old eugenics.against the harms involved in frustrat- theoretical commitment to maximiz- Of course, as I observed at theing the interests normally protected ing welfare—the commitment that outset, there are other advocates ofby the right to reproductive liberty.49 generates the obligation to pursue a “new” eugenics, some of whomJanuary-February 2011 H A S T I N G S C E N T E R R E P O RT 39
  10. 10. Savulescu, “Procreative Beneficence: Why disavow the consequentialism that is all-too-tempting to conclude that We Should Select the Best Children,” Bio- drives Harris and Savulescu. Per- force is justified to achieve it. Those ethics 15, no. 5 (2001): 413-26. haps some of these other authors are who wish to advance a “new” or 7. S. Grose, “Why We Should Cuddle Up better able to distinguish a new eu- “liberal” eugenics will need to offer to Designer Babies,” Canberra Times, June genics from the old.51 It is certainly a more convincing account of why 22, 2005; A. Denton, Enough Rope, Episode 187, September 29, 2008, ABC TV (Aus- noteworthy, though, that two of the their goals do not justify coercive tralia), transcript available at http://www. leading advocates of human enhance- means than either Harris or Savules- ment fail in this project. cu has provided to date. s2374638.htm; M. Metherell, “Bring Moreover, it is hard to avoid the on the Super Humans,” Sydney Morning References Herald, June 9, 2005; J. Miles, “How Far suspicion that the real cause of Harris 1. N. Agar, “Whereto Transhumanism? Would You Go for the Perfect Baby? How and Savulescu’s convergence on a not- Far Should Society Go in Allowing Genetic so-new eugenics is deeper still and The Literature Reaches a Critical Mass,” Hastings Center Report 37, no. 3 (2007): Manipulation to Produce Happier, Health- may infect the transhumanist project 12-17. ier and Physically Pleasing People?” Towns- more generally. There is a tendency 2. G. Stock, Redesigning Humans: Choos- ville Bulletin, June 18, 2005, 67; J. Maley, for advocates of human enhance- ing Our Children’s Genes (London: Profile “We Could Radically Change the Nature Books, 2003); L.M. Silver, Remaking Eden: of Human Beings (Interview with Professor ment to represent themselves—and Julian Savulescu),” The Sun Herald, August perhaps also to see themselves—as Cloning, Genetic Engineering and the Future of Human Kind (London: Phoenix, 1999); 10, 2008; “The Ideas Interview: Julian Sa- the philosophical descendants of Vol- N. Bostrom, “Human Genetic Enhance- vulescu,” The Guardian, October 10, 2005, taire, bravely defying the forces of ir- ments: A Transhumanist Perspective,” The rationality and conservatism in order Journal of Value Inquiry 37, no. 4 (2003): oct/10/genetics.research/print; J. Savulescu, 493-506; R.M. Green, Babies by Design: National Australia Bank Address to Na- to reach the difficult conclusions that tional Press Club, June 8, 2005, Barton, others dare not.52 They are encour- The Ethics of Genetic Choice (New Haven, Conn., and London: Yale University Press, Canberra, Australia, aged in this by the religious overtones 2007); J. Glover, Choosing Children: Genes, au/MRW/NPCTRSC05.pdf. of the case made against human en- Disability, and Design (Oxford, U.K.: Ox- 8. J. Harris, “The Survival Lottery,” in hancement by conservative thinkers ford University Press, 2006); and N. Agar, Bioethics: An Anthology, 2nd ed., ed. H. Liberal Eugenics: In Defence of Human Kuhse and P. Singer (Malden, Mass.: Black- such as Leon Kass, Francis Fukuyama, well Publishing, 2006); J. Harris, Clones, and Michael Sandel.53 My own assess- Enhancement (Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell, 2004). Genes and Immortality: Ethics and the Ge- ment is that it is the market, not the 3. Agar, Liberal Eugenics, 3-16; A. Bu- netic Revolution (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford church, that is the social force to be chanan, “Choosing Who Will Be Disabled: University Press, 1998), 223-25; J. Harris, reckoned with today. The real danger Genetic Intervention and the Morality of The Value of Life: An Introduction to Medical Inclusion,” Social Philosophy and Policy 13, Ethics (London and New York: Routledge, posed by the development of effective 1985), 21-22; Savulescu, “Procreative Be- technologies of human enhancement no. 1 (1996): 18-46, at 18-19; D. Wikler, “Can We Learn from Eugenics?” Journal of neficence: Reasons Not to Have Disabled is not that religious conservatives will Medical Ethics 25, no. 2 (1999): 183-94. Children,” 51-53. In a 2009 article that prevent couples from making use of 4. J. Harris, Enhancing Evolution: The appeared after this paper was submitted for these technologies, but that parents Ethical Case for Making Better People (Princ- publication, Savulescu and Kahane admit eton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, that the principle of procreative beneficence will eventually have no choice but is a “maximising” principle but deny that it to make use of them. Without them, 2007). 5. The cover illustration of the hardcopy need rest on consequentialist foundations their children will stand no chance of edition of this book—a muscled male arm, or that it is incompatible with deontologi- competing effectively in the world. dressed in what appears to be Superman’s cal or virtue ethical approaches to morality; Once enhancement becomes pos- blue costume, with the rising sun behind J. Savulescu and G. Kahane, “The Moral it—suggests that Harris is not unduly con- Obligation to Create Children with the sible, refusal to adopt it will appear Best Chance of the Best Life,” Bioethics 23, unreasonable; because the welfare of cerned about the historical resonances of his philosophical program. no. 5 (2009): 274-90, at 283. However, children is at stake, parents’ failure to 6. J. Savulescu, “Procreative Beneficence: the case they make is unconvincing. Nei- do “the right thing” will appear espe- Reasons Not to Have Disabled Children,” ther deontology nor virtue ethics naturally cially egregious.54 in The Sorting Society, ed. L. Skene and J. admit maximizing principles of this sort; Thomson (Cambridge, U.K., and New deontological frameworks will typically The advocates of enhancement characterize our obligations with reference may well represent the tradition of York: Cambridge University Press, 2008); J. Savulescu, “In Defence of Procreative to principles that set out necessary stan- the Enlightenment, but as other crit- Beneficence,” Journal of Medical Ethics 33 dards rather than goods to be maximized, ics have suggested, this tradition has (2007): 284-88; J. Savulescu, “Genetic In- while virtue ethics is notoriously hostile to a more problematic relation to hu- terventions and the Ethics of Enhancement the idea that “more is always better.” More- of Human Beings,” in The Oxford Hand- over, if, as Savulescu and Kahane suggest man freedom than its adherents sup- here, the reasons provided by procreative pose.55 In the eyes of those dedicated book on Bioethics, ed. B. Steinbock (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2006), 516- beneficence can be outweighed or defeated to achieving a more rational world, 35; J. Savulescu, “New Breeds of Humans: by nonconsequentialist considerations, human nature is likely to appear as an The Moral Obligation to Enhance,” Ethics, then—assuming that nonconsequentialist obstacle to be overcome. Given the Law and Moral Philosophy of Reproduc- accounts of the ethics of reproduction may tive Biomedicine 1, no. 1 (2005): 36-39; J. adduce such considerations—it is simply merit and importance of the goal, it40 HASTINGS C E N T E R R E P O RT January-February 2011
  11. 11. unclear whether anything like an obligation Rights and Selective Abortion,” in Abor- 27. Savulescu, “Procreative Beneficence:to have “the best child” would appear in tion Wars: A Half Century of Struggle, ed. R. Why We Should Select the Best Children,”such accounts. Solinger (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univer- 424; Savulescu, “Procreative Beneficence: 9. W. Glannon, “CQ Review: Enhanc- sity of California Press, 1997); S. Wendell, Reasons Not to Have Disabled Children,”ing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making The Rejected Body (New York: Routledge, 60-62. See also Savulescu and Kahane,Better People, by John Harris,” Cambridge 1996). However, while there are good rea- “The Moral Obligation to Create ChildrenQuarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 17 (2008): sons to think carefully about what counts with the Best Chance of the Best Life,” 288.473-76, at 473. Harris’s homepage at the as “severe” disabilities or a “serious genetic 28. Savulescu, “Procreative Beneficence:University of Manchester states that “John disorder,” there is a broad consensus in the Reasons Not to Have Disabled Children.”Harris has, throughout his career, defended literature that the use of PGD to prevent 29. The revised formulation of the prin-broadly libertarian - consequentialist ap- the birth of children with such conditions is ciple of procreative beneficence offered inproaches to issues in bioethics,” http:// morally acceptable and significant support Savulescu and Kahane (“The Moral for the thought that it is morally obliga- ligation to Create Children with the Bestjohn_harris/default.htm, accessed October tory; Buchanan, “Choosing Who Will Be Chance of the Best Life”) stipulates that the5, 2010. Disabled.” principle “assumes that the child created 10. J. Cohen and G. Tomkin, “The Sci- 17. Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 8-9; Sa- will be the reproducers’ biological child”ence, Fiction, and Reality of Embryo Clon- vulescu, “Procreative Beneficence: Why We (note 3, 274-75). However, the authors of-ing,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 4, Should Select the Best Children,” at 419. fer no defense of this 3 (1994): 193-203. If the technology 18. Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 9 and 30. Buchanan, Brock, Daniels, andto create germ cells from somatic cells via 185. Wikler, From Chance to Choice; Cannold,induced pluripotent stem-cells is realized, 19. Ibid., 9. “Reprogenetic Technologies,” 70; Glover,then this will further extend the potential 20. Savulescu endorses engineering psy- Choosing Children, 54-55; M. Parker, “Theof PGD by greatly increasing the number of chological character traits with the goal of Best Possible Child,” Journal of Medicalembryos a couple can create. improving individuals’ welfare; “Genetic Ethics 33 (2007): 279-83. 11. D. Parfit, Reasons and Persons (Ox- Interventions and the Ethics of Enhance- 31. R. Sparrow, “Better than Men? Sexford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1984), ment of Human Beings.” and the Therapy/Enhancement Distinc-351-79. 21. This argument is developed at more tion,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 20, 12. The most high-profile and challeng- length in R. Sparrow, “Procreative Benefi- no. 2 (2010): 115-44, at 122, attempts to make an argument along cence, Obligation, and Eugenics,” Genom- 32. Sparrow, “Should Human Beingsthese lines is Jurgen Habermas, The Future ics, Society, and Policy 3, no. 3 (2007): Have Sex?”of Human Nature (Cambridge, U.K.: Polity 43-59; and R. Sparrow, “Should Human 33. Denton, Enough Rope; Harris, En-Press, 2003). Beings Have Sex? Sexual Dimorphism and hancing Evolution, 72-85, 94-95; Savulescu, 13. C. Farrelly, “Virtue Ethics and Pre- Human Enhancement,” American Journal “Genetic Interventions and the Ethics ofnatal Genetic Enhancement,” Studies in of Bioethics 10, no. 7 (2010): 3-12. Enhancement of Human Beings” and “Pro-Ethics, Law, and Technology 1, no. 1 (2007): 22. Agar, Liberal Eugenics, 111-120; A. creative Beneficence: Why We Should Se-1-13. Buchanan, D.W. Brock, N. Daniels, and lect the Best Children.” 14. L.R. Kass, Life, Liberty and the De- D. Wikler, From Chance to Choice (Cam- 34. J. Savulescu, “Deaf Lesbians, ‘De-fense of Dignity: The Challenge of Bioethics bridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, signer Disability,’ and the Future of Medi-(San Francisco, Calif.: Encounter, 2002), 2000), 156-61; Harris, Enhancing Evolu- cine,” British Medical Journal 325 (2002):267-68; E. Parens, “The Goodness of Fra- tion, 1-7; Harris, Clones, Genes and Immor- 771-75.gility: On the Prospect of Genetic Tech- tality, 171-74, 203; Savulescu, “Procreative 35. Glannon, “CQ Review: Enhancingnologies Aimed at the Enhancement of Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Evolution,” 273. In describing Harris andHuman Capacities,” Kennedy Institute of Best Children”; Savulescu, “New Breeds of Savulescu as libertarians in what follows, IEthics Journal 5, no. 2 (1995): 141-53; M.J. Humans,” 37. intend to characterize only their oppositionSandel, The Case against Perfection: Ethics in 23. Savulescu, “Procreative Beneficence: to the use of state power to bring about en-the Age of Genetic Engineering (Cambridge, Reasons Not to Have Disabled Children,” hancements and make no claims about theirMass.: Harvard University Press, 2007). 60-61. wider politics elsewhere. 15. A. Buchanan, “Human Nature and 24. I. de Melo-Martin, “On Our Obliga- 36. Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 71-72.Enhancement,” Bioethics 23, no. 3 (2009): tion to Select the Best Children: A Reply 37. J. Feinberg, “Wrongful Life and the141-50. to Savulescu,” Bioethics 18, no. 1 (2004): Counterfactual Element in Harming,” So- 16. This is not to deny that such a deci- 72-83, at 81. cial Philosophy and Policy 4, no. 1 (1987):sion raises serious ethical issues or that some 25. L. Cannold, “Reprogenetic Tech- 145-78.writers have objected to the use of PGD to nologies: Balancing Parental Procreative 38. Glover, Choosing Children, 50; Sa-prevent the birth of children with disabili- Autonomy and Social Equity and Justice,” vulescu, “Deaf Lesbians, ‘Designer Disabil-ties. See A. Asch, “Prenatal Diagnosis and in The Sorting Society, ed. L. Skene and J. ity,’ and the Future of Medicine.” This is anSelective Abortion: A Challenge to Prac- Thomson (Cambridge, U.K., and New important point on which Harris and Sa-tice and Policy,” American Journal of Public York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). vulescu appear to part company—althoughHealth 89, no. 11 (1999): 1649-57; A. Asch, 26. It is true that in different social set- I believe that this is more a matter of the“Why I Haven’t Changed My Mind about tings the ideal child will also differ. For language they prefer than a substantive dis-Prenatal Diagnosis: Reflections and Refine- instance, Harris and Savulescu’s arguments agreement. Harris insists that people can inments,” in Prenatal Testing and Disability imply that parents in China should have fact be harmed by decisions that resulted inRights, ed. E. Parens and A. Asch (Wash- children that instantiate Chinese ideals of their birth, if they are born in a “harmedington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, health and beauty. However, this does not condition” (where a harmed condition is2000); D. Kaplan, “Prenatal Screening and distinguish the new from the old eugenics; one that a rational person would prefer notIts Impact on Persons with Disabilities,” it has always been the case that eugenic ide- to be in); J. Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 91-Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 36, no. als have had such local character. 93; J. Harris, Clones, Genes and Immortality,3 (1993): 605-612; M. Saxton, “Disability 109-113. Harris also holds that individualsJanuary-February 2011 H A S T I N G S C E N T E R R E P O RT 41
  12. 12. are harmed if they are not enhanced—as it in Twentieth-Century France (Cambridge, 47. R. Wilkinson, Unhealthy Societies: would be rational to prefer to have superior U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990). The Afflictions of Inequality (London: Rout- capacities. However, he denies that children 42. Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 72-80; ledge, 1996); R.G. Wilkinson and K.E. who were born when other, better-off chil- Savulescu, “Deaf Lesbians, ‘Designer Dis- Pickett, “Income Inequality and Population dren might have been born are wronged by ability,’ and the Future of Medicine” and Health: A Review and Explanation of the the decision that led to their birth, as long “Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Evidence,” Social Science and Medicine 62 as they have “lives worth leading.” More- Select the Best Children.” (1996): 1768-84. over, he denies that parents should be re- 43. It might be possible to finesse the 48. Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 21- quired by legislation to avoid harming their argument here and hold—as Harris and 22; Harris, Clones, Genes and Immortality, children in this fashion, which suggests that Savulescu apparently do—that we should 223-25. the moral weight of this harm is, on his ac- always prioritize the welfare of existing 49. This “right” will, of course, be only count, negligible. I have therefore chosen to persons over the welfare of future persons. a useful fiction according to a consequen- follow Glover (Choosing Children, 25) and However, there is a significant risk that any tialist account of our obligations; Harris, interpret Harris as claiming that choices such attempt would make the consequen- Clones, Genes and Immortality, 257, and The about which individuals to bring into the tialist case for enhancement effectively col- Value of Life, xvi. world “harm” the resulting individuals only lapse. Presumably the force of the claim 50. It should also be noted that there are in a technical, nonstandard use of the term. that we have an obligation to enhance our some enhancement technologies that would To the extent that Harris wishes to maintain children is that it will sometimes give us rea- affect persons, such as gene therapies, phar- that people may be harmed by circumstanc- sons to do things we would otherwise not maceuticals like hGH or modifinal, and es that also determine their identity, then be inclined to do. Yet if the welfare of future cybernetic implants. Any obligation to em- the argument that coercion will sometimes persons is always trumped by that of exist- ploy such technologies would have much be justified in order to prevent such harm ing persons, then parents will never have more dramatic implications for the extent will have that much more force. reasons to change their minds about their to which we should respect the liberty of 39. Savulescu, “Deaf Lesbians, ‘Designer reproductive decisions because their exist- parents not to provide these to their chil- Disability,’ and the Future of Medicine”; J. ing preferences—which would be frustrated dren, as failure to provide these enhance- Savulescu, M. Hemsley, A. Newson, and B. were they to do something else—will settle ments would directly harm existing persons. Foddy, “Behavioral Genetics: Why Eugenic the matter. While Harris and Savulescu also believe Selection Is Preferable to Enhancement,” 44. Parfit, Reasons and Persons, 361-64. that we should pursue such enhancements, Journal of Applied Philosophy 23, no. 2 45. The most thorough and impressive discussion of the policy implications of this (2006): 157-71, at 162. investigation of this topic to date remains position is a matter for another paper. 40. Harris, Enhancing Evolution, 72-85, Buchanan, Brock, Daniels, and Wikler, 51. Agar’s Liberal Eugenics is perhaps the 94-95; Savulescu, “Deaf Lesbians, ‘Design- From Chance to Choice. leading candidate here. er Disability,’ and the Future of Medicine,” 46. Importantly, the mere existence of 52. After the cover illustration, perhaps and “Procreative Beneficence: Why We the option of enhancement may harm oth- the next most striking feature of Harris’s Should Select the Best Children.” ers by coopting them into a genetic rat race book Enhancing Evolution is its tone, which 41. D.J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugen- in order to secure access to important goods conveys its author’s obvious contempt for ics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Hered- that include a positional component; Can- the arguments he is dismissing. ity (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985); nold, “Reprogenetic Technologies.” This 53. Kass, Life, Liberty and the Defense of L.L. Lovett, Conceiving the Future: Prona- fact may ground an argument in favour Dignity; F. Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Fu- talism, Reproduction, and the Family in the of denying people access to enhancement ture: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revo- United States, 1890–1938 (Chapel Hill, in order to avoid establishing a destructive lution (London: Profile Books, 2003); M. N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, collective action problem—although this is Sandel, The Case against Perfection. 2007); P.M.H. Mazumdar, Eugenics, Hu- controversial; Agar, Liberal Eugenics, 128- 54. Harris, Clones, Genes and Immortal- man Genetics, and Human Failings: The 31; Buchanan, Brock, Daniels, and Wikler, ity, 238-39; Savulescu, “New Breeds of Hu- Eugenics Society, Its Sources and Its Critics From Chance to Choice, 182-87; Bostrom, mans,” 38. in Britain (London and New York: Rout- “Human Genetic Enhancements,” 501-3; 55. Z. Bauman, Modernity and the Holo- ledge, 1992); D.B. Paul, Controlling Hu- Glover, Choosing Children, 80-81. How- caust (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, man Heredity, 1865 to the Present (Atlantic ever, my interest here is in arguments that 2000); M. Horkheimer and T.W. Adorno, Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1995); suggest people might be required to enhance Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical and W.H. Schneider, Quality and Quan- their children. Fragments, trans. E. Jephcott (Stanford, Ca- tity: The Quest for Biological Regeneration lif.: Stanford University Press, 2002).42 HASTINGS C E N T E R R E P O RT January-February 2011