Human Perfection and Contemporary Enhancement Technologies

Human Perfection and Contemporary Enhancement Technologies

Jesús Parra-Sáez (University of Murcia, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7152-0.ch005

Abstract

Human perfection has been one of the main objectives of the human species since the appearance of Homo sapiens, but contemporary biomedical technologies represent a promise to achieve it in the near future. In view of the new possibilities offered by new technologies, a scientific-philosophical theoretical debate has emerged between those who are in favor of its use on humanity for non-therapeutic purposes (posthumanists) and those who reject it (bioconservatives). In this chapter, the so-called “enhancement technologies,” the problems derived from their use with the aim of radically altering human abilities, and some of the most recent practical cases that have transcended the theoretical debate about their legitimacy are analyzed.
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Background

The last third of the 19th century was characterized by the extension of eugenics thinking in the scientific, political, and social fields of the Victorian United Kingdom. It was the British anthropologist and geographer Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, who in his book Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development (Galton, 1907) proposed “eugenics” as the only science capable of achieving the desired enhancement of human abilities.1 Following this ideology, several countries around the world—especially Great Britain, the United States, and Germany—began in the first half of the 20th century a chain of negative eugenic policies based on segregation, racism, and the sterilization of immigrants or disabled people with the fundamental objective of preventing the racial degeneration of their people.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics: Research center that promotes the public debate and ethical-critical reflection on issues related to practical ethics, such as biotechnological human enhancement.

Perfectionist Human Enhancement: Enhancement through technological tools focused on the strengthening of the positive (non-therapeutic/pathological) characteristics of the human being, such as those related to the level of their physical strength or intelligence.

Foresight Institute: It is an organization responsible for research around the correct application of biotechnology on the human being, and the prevention of risks associated with its misuse.

Center for Research Ethics and Bioethics: Swedish research center of a multidisciplinary nature that tries to solve ethical-philosophical and legal aspects in the field of bioethics and medicine.

Immortality Institute: International foundation that investigates the possibility of ending aging as an inescapable cause of death, with the indefinite extension of human life through biomedical technologies. Currently the foundation works under the name of “LongeCity.”

Eugenics: Emerging racial ideology in the second half of the nineteenth century, whose main objective was to carry out a qualitative improvement of the human species through the fight against racial degeneration.

Bioconservatism: Current of scientific-philosophical thought that rejects the application of biotechnology on the human being with perfectionist purposes, legitimizing its use exclusively for therapeutic purposes.

Enhancement Technologies: Biotechnological tools developed between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, which offer the possibility of enhancing human abilities beyond the strictly natural.

Posthumanism: Current of scientific-philosophical thought that legitimizes the application of biotechnology on the human being, with therapeutic and perfectionist objectives.

Therapeutic Human Enhancement: Enhancement through technological means focused on the detection and subsequent elimination of diseases or genetic-hereditary pathologies in the human being.

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