Think parents should be able to select their children’s talents and personalities? Or want to run and hide in the woods at the thought of it? Whatever your opinion, it is precisely the kind of question that Julian Savulescu wants you to take seriously. Professor of practical ethics at the University of Oxford, Savulescu thinks deeply about the ethics of the biological enhancement of the human race. In his view, not only should you stop fearing such changes, you should consider them for yourself. In fact, he argues, you may even have an ethical responsibility to genetically modify your children.
We got on the phone to discuss his thinking. Below is an edited version of our conversation, in which topics ranged from the limits of human nature to eugenics to inequality and genetically enhanced monkey-slaves. Obviously.
You advocate that, as a species, we have a moral obligation to enhance ourselves biologically. Why is that?
Humans have a lot of limitations. We have limitations in terms of aging, we have cognitive limitations, various physical limitations, and of course moral limitations. When science offers us the opportunity to overcome these limitations, we should ask the ethical question: “should we?” In some cases we shouldn’t, but in many cases we have a moral obligation to overcome those limitations.