Many are not convinced the glittering promise of genetic manipulation implies the presence of a pot of gold. Science often moves faster than moral understanding. The Internet is a prime example. The greatest tool yet developed for expanding human knowledge and, by extension, reducing human suffering, is primarily used by the masses for viewing pornography and deleting email spam. Of course, human morality in the aggregate has not yet caught up to the implications of E = MC2, originally published in 1905.
For some, the gift of life is paramount. Children should be appreciated as the gifts they are. If we are seduced by the sirens of science, the breakdown of society will ensue and social solidarity will dissolve.
Of course, some level of social breakdown has already occurred due to a failure of personal responsibility. Litigation runs wild in the U.S. – the McDonald’s “coffee case” being a notorious example. Trial attorneys typically portray their clients as victims using the “Twinkie defense”, which set the standard for the “I’m not responsible” defense strategies.
Let’s assume that genetic enhancements will become available, although this is unlikely for the foreseeable future. Let’s imagine that athletes could upgrade the physiology of muscle recovery. If everyone could do it, the playing field remains level. Yes, they would be post-human, but I see no benefit in remaining merely human.
Twenty-first century humans are certainly post-human compared to those of even the 19th century. We don’t succumb to infectious disease, on average, as easily as those humans did. On average, we’re several inches taller and we live longer. We run much faster, jump much higher, and periodically set new world records for powerlifting. In the recent 2010 Winter Olympics ladies figure skating competition, Mao Osada landed three triple axels, a feat which had never been done by a woman before.
None of these enhancements have come about through overt genetic manipulation, but doesn’t such manipulation result from pairings such as Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi? Surely their children are more likely to be better athletes than the average college student. Systematizing the process (if possible) would merely be more efficient.
There’s a wider benefit. Good genes over time create fitter humans – the entire gene pool could become optimized over a number of generations. Certainly, such humans would have genomes qualitatively and quantitatively different from the genomes of 10,000 years ago. But over evolutionary time, viruses infiltrate our nuclei and update our 3 billion base pairs. Again, systematization of this “creation”-based process could provide great benefit.
Such genetic enhancement might create a sort of ennui, in which individuals would no longer wish to succeed by their own efforts. But this is unlikely. Professional baseball stars who used performance-enhancing drugs did not merely show up at the ball park after their trainers injected the meds. They attended daily practice, hit in the batting cage, and continued to take instruction. They followed all their life-long training methods, putting in the time and the effort. All the drugs did was make them stronger, and possibly quicker.