Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People

Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People

Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People

Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People


Decisive biotechnological interventions in the lottery of human life--to enhance our bodies and brains and perhaps irreversibly change our genetic makeup--have been widely rejected as unethical and undesirable, and have often met with extreme hostility. But in Enhancing Evolution, leading bioethicist John Harris dismantles objections to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, designer babies, and cloning to make a forthright, sweeping, and rigorous ethical case for using biotechnology to improve human life.

Human enhancement, Harris argues, is a good thing--good morally, good for individuals, good as social policy, and good for a genetic heritage that needs serious improvement. Enhancing Evolution defends biotechnological interventions that could allow us to live longer, healthier, and even happier lives by, for example, providing us with immunity from cancer and HIV/AIDS. But the book advocates far more than therapies designed to free us from sickness and disability. Harris champions the possibility of influencing the very course of evolution to give us increased mental and physical powers--from reasoning, concentration, and memory to strength, stamina, and reaction speed. Indeed, he supports enhancing ourselves in almost any way we desire. And it's not only morally defensible to enhance ourselves, Harris says. In some cases, it's morally obligatory.

Whether one looks upon biotechnology with hope, fear, or a little of both, Enhancing Evolution makes a case for it that no one can ignore.


Suppose a school were to set out deliberately to improve the mental and physical capacities of its students. Suppose its stated aims were to ensure that the pupils left the school not only more intelligent, healthier, and more physically fit than when they arrived, but more intelligent, healthier, and more physically fit than they would be at any other school. Suppose they further claimed not only that they could achieve this but that their students would be more intelligent, enjoy better health and longer life, and be more physically and mentally alert than any children in history. Suppose that a group of educationalists, outstanding ones of course, far more brilliant than any we know of to date, had actually worked out a method of achieving this, in the form perhaps of an educational and physical curriculum. What should our reaction be?

Well of course our reaction would be one of amazement; it would certainly be an unprecedented event—a breakthrough in education. But should we be pleased? Should we welcome such a breakthrough? We might of course be skeptical, we might doubt such extravagant claims, but if they could be sustained would we want our children to go to such a school? And if the school our own children attended was not run according to the new educational methods, would we want these to be adopted as soon as possible?

We ought to want this. It is, after all, part of what education is supposed to be for. Indeed, if the claims were not expressed hyperbolically and competitively, this is what, if we knew little about education, we . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.