Better humans?

August 17, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Lion Namibia KimA University of Oxford ethicist believes that new technologies should be used to “make humans better”. This is just plain scary if you ask me. Australian born ethicist, Julian Savulescu, was recently in Sydney where he gave a lecture entitled “The Ethics of New Science and Human Enhancement”.

Savulescu spoke about radical technologies currently available such as cloning, artificial reproduction and stem cell developments. Now, I’m all for these technologies if they are used to improve human well-being or cure diseases, but I get a tad concerned when I hear ethicist’s like Savulescu say that we could use genetic testing to “select better children”.

We are already in the grip of a society obsessed with human enhancement, which produces plastic looking people or people willing to inject botox into their bodies (let’s recall botox is a botulism toxin). We are a society more interested in self-image, beauty and money – so where would we draw the line on human enhancement?

The good professor makes a comparison between fish oil and direct genetic intervention when he comments that parents try to intervene in their children’s’ lives with supplements like fish oils to hopefully improve brain functioning. And because we intervene, he believes this should give us license to meddle from the start of life – through IVF – to test for factors we may not desire in our children such as depression or neuroses. He’s also a great fan of using performance enhancing drugs in sport, calling for a change in rules so that safe performance enhancers could improve sport for athletes and fans.

This just doesn’t sit well with me. Did the good professor ever watch Gattaca – a film about a future society in which your DNA determined your status in life? Ethan Hawke’s character was born with a congenital heart condition, which snuffed his chances of being a space traveller. So he assumes the life of someone whose DNA would allow him to achieve his dream of space travel. The plot of this film was all about how natural babies, who were born into a genetically-enhanced world, didn’t stand a chance against babies whose DNA was twigged in the womb so they would live a long and disease free life. Great in theory, but it led to a society that discriminated not along racial lines but according to genetics.

Why is that we are never satisfied with what Nature has given us? What is it about humans that we seem to strive for homogeneity rather than diversity – we want to look alike toting the latest huge designer hand bag; we want the perfect pert nose or Angelina Jolie lips; we buy magazines with glossy photos of Barbie-doll looking celebrities who are lauded as the idealised standard. Why can we not accept flaws or imperfections and simply be happy and get on with life?

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Entry filed under: Future trends, Rant, Society.

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