For our class’ last research project, I chose to analyze the text of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Sepcifically, I wanted to analyze the use of eugenics and technology in the book that interact with the behavior and evolution of humans. During my research, I came across a paper written by a moral ethics professor at the University of Oxford in 2004 that explains his thought process to why there is a “moral obligation to enhance human beings.”
The paper is written by Julian Savulescu, the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, the director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, and part of a collaboration that is devoted to examining the ethical implications of cloning and researching stem cells. As a significant member in the science and ethics community, Savulescu believes that it is not only right but that there is a “moral obligation” to enhance humans to a new breed.
In his introduction, Savulescu reviews research on gene therapy that has been shown to completely change behavior in species. Through gene manipulation and embedding genes with desired traits from one closely related species to another in the reward center of the brain, researchers have completely transformed behaviors of certain animals. In one example, researchers have turned lazy monkeys in to workers that will never stop. They have also converted polygamous breeds of species into monogamous ones. This would be the technology used by future doctors to enhance humans and create a new breed.
Savulescu combats the argument of meddling with God’s will with the fact that abortion procedures are being performed at a high rate. He argues that if this is not meddling with God’s will, than neither is meddling with only the genes of an embryo, not getting rid of it all together. In a couple pages, Savulescu details his thought process behind the ethics of enhancing the human genome. His central argument states that we already take it upon ourselves to provide for someone’s health, with health comes well-being, which is something that humans are striving for. If we, as humans and as a society, believe it is moral to give someone life saving surgery, or provide antibiotics which improve health and well-being, than it is moral and ethical to enhance humans to a new breed that will be more well off and happier in the long run. It would be possible to increase intelligence, reward behaviors that benefit us more and forgo the behaviors already embedded in us that we find fault with.
After coming to terms with this paper, I understand the thought process behind enhancement and ponder if I personally would have my children enhanced with traits that will help them in their lives. Personally, I would subscribe to the use of gene therapy to help my child and advocate the use of it. I imagine a world in which a person with a debilitating handicap because of genes can and should be corrected by the means that are working today in research labs. A person’s paralyzing shyness that has adverse effects on their well-being (i.e. making friends) could be cured with biological methods. Another example would be the ability to help someone with A.D.D or A.D.H.D and help them to be able to focus and work faster than they would living with this disorder or using any medication on the market today. Would you help your child if gene therapy could benefit him in the long run, or is it too dangerous of a technology that it could lead to a society like in the Brave New World?
Article: Savulescu, Julian. “New Breeds Of Humans: The Moral Obligation To Enhance.” Reproductive Biomedicine Online (Reproductive Healthcare Limited) 10.(2005): 36-39. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Nov. 2013.
Biographical info for Savulescu from his page on Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics Blog: (http://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/staff/staff/director/julian_savulescu)