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A Science of Human Nature?

Philosophical Disputes at the Interface of Natural and Social Science

Studying at Cambridge

Tim Lewens interviewed about evolution, bioethics and human nature

last modified Jul 12, 2016 03:03 PM

Tim Lewens has been interviewed by Richard Marshall about evolution, bioethics and human nature for 3:AM Magazine.

"….My worry about quite a bit of the literature on enhancement is that it trades on the definition of enhancement itself. ‘Enhancement’ just means making things better, so it seems that anyone who opposes enhancement must be unable to understand what ‘enhancement’ means. In that sense, being against enhancement is a bit like being against progress: the whole point of ‘progress’ is that it means things get better… Except that in practice, of course, we know very well that promises of progress often disappoint. What is more, the enhancement literature can sometimes have a utopian quality about it.

Suppose genetic interventions were risk free, and suppose we didn’t have to worry about inequality, and suppose we knew exactly which changes to human capacities will make people better off, then wouldn’t a world of the enhanced be desirable? Well, yes, but the problem is that we’ve supposed away most of the real problems that make sensible people opposed to ‘enhancement’: worries about whether being more intelligent will really make our lives better, worries about whether genetic interventions might have significant side-effects, worries about the exacerbation of existing inequalities, worries about the reinforcement of harmful anxieties about our bodies and minds, worries about whether we aren’t guilty of focusing in a rather indulgent way on technical fixes to non-urgent problems… In a sense these are all problems about how to evaluate risks."

The full interview can be found here.