Brave New Tools; but There Are Reasons Not to.(BOOKS)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 2, 2002 | Go to article overview

Brave New Tools; but There Are Reasons Not to.(BOOKS)


Byline: Martin Sieff, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Francis Fukuyama will likely never escape the vague but increasing sense of ridicule that has accompanied him ever since he proclaimed "The End of History" and the eschatological Hegelian triumph of the liberal democratic nation state in his 1989 book "The End of History and the Last Man." The definitive put down of that long fashionable and still deeply influential, but astonishingly naive and dangerously over-optimistic thesis, was provided by wry former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski when he dryly opined, "After the End of History comes . . . more history."

It was therefore, with both anticipation and foreboding that one opened the pages of "Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution," Mr. Fukuyama's latest opus. Would one be saddled with more of the same ponderous Great Thoughts - the most pretentious collection of truisms and cliches wrapped around the wackiest wild predictions since Alvin Toffler last put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard?

Mercifully no. Mr. Fukuyama's forays into the ethics, opportunities and deadly dangers of biotechnology are a revelation and a relief. They are a relief because, although the implications of the technology are vast, Mr. Fukuyama wisely restrains himself from the kind of sweeping conclusions that finally made the intellectual roller-coaster ride of "The End of History" so hard to swallow. Here he is asking intelligent questions instead of proclaiming ludicrous answers. And they are a revelation because Mr. Fukuyama documents how so much of what is still widely assumed to be bizarre, impossible fantasy is now on the brink of becoming achievable fact.

This is an excellently written, muscularly argued and very useful overview of much of the research and most of the ethical arguments about What We Should Do and Not Do in dealing with the immensely powerful biotechnological and genetic engineering tools that are now inexorably falling into our hands. Unlike in "The End of History" and some of his earlier works, Mr. Fukuyama here does not attempt to produce any vast sweeping and original conceptual overview within which to view his subject. The concerns he expresses and quotes from the mouths of others have been a staple of scientific and philosophical debate since Aldous Huxley wrote his presciently brilliant "Brave New World" more than seven decades ago.

Instead the author wears the hats of reporter and philosophical tour guide, or debate moderator, and they sit well on him. Usually it is a scathing put down to say the author of a major new study lacks originality. Here it is meant as high praise. Mr. Fukuyama brings together much scientific and sociological research with a concise and valuable discussion of how human species behavior has been assessed and evaluated.

The decent, liberal democratic Mr. Fukuyama also shows both mischief and shrewdness in using quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche to introduce many of his chapters. The brilliant but loathsome Nietzsche carries more than a hint of menace and daring disquiet whenever he is rolled out, despite all the attempts of generations of ludicrous mainstream American admirers - whom Irish scholar Conor Cruise O'Brien memorably characterized as "The Gentle Nietzschians" - to prettify him and purge him of brutality and disrepute.

By allowing Nietzsche's tone to impregnate his pages, Mr. Fukuyama maintains a sense of danger and of the potential of Promethean power straining at the leash to explode and run rampant that the quiet, measured tone of his own prose alone would not. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Brave New Tools; but There Are Reasons Not to.(BOOKS)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.