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The view now often dubbed "liberal eugenics" holds that people should be able to choose genetic enhancements for their offspring, should these become safely available. This view is opposed by what I will call the "human nature" objection to genetic technology. This objection holds that human nature, or "what it is to be human," is definable and natural (that is, has not been tampered or interfered with, by, say, human technology). The human nature objection also assumes that a clear line can be drawn between what is natural and what is unnatural, and that this line marks a moral difference: whatever is unnatural is wrong, or at least morally suspect, and whatever is natural is morally valuable, perhaps intrinsically valuable. From this assumption comes the claim that human nature is fixed, to the extent that it should not be improved upon. Proponents of this objection, such as Jurgen Habermas, George Annas, and Francis Fukuyama, conclude that genetic technology is intrinsically wrong, since it threatens something intrinsically valuable. Human nature thus requires protection. Annas urges the establishment of a "human species protection" treaty, calling such technologies "crimes against humanity." (1) Habermas states his support for a "right to a genetic inheritance immune from artificial intervention"--a right that has also been requested by the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Council. (2) Francis Fukuyama argues for the establishment of a new regulatory agency with "a mandate to regulate biotechnology on grounds broader than efficacy and safety" and with "statutory authority over all research and development." (3)

Science & Nature
November 1
Hastings Center

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