Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

“Morally Enhance” Humans to Become Liberals!


Mainstream bioethics–particularly in the universities–is about promoting ideological liberalism almost all of the time. Oxford’s Julian Savulescu is one of the most prominent, a eugenicist maximalist and crass utilitarian, who advocates against human exceptionalism and for genetic engineering, killing the cognitively devastated for their organs, promoted the moral propriety of infanticide, etc.–sort of the fraternal twin of Peter Singer (they are both Aussies) with a caffeine IV drip.

His newest cause is to promote “moral enhancement” of the human species to make us better liberals. He doesn’t put it that way, of course, but that is clearly what he means.  Savulescu has now co-authored a book to that effect with a co-believer named Ingmar Persson: Unfit for the Future: The Urgent Need for Moral Enhancement.  The authors present a preview of their thesis in Philosophy Now. First, the problem is us:

A basic fact about the human condition is that it is easier for us to harm each other than to benefit each other. It is easier for us to kill than it is for us to save a life; easier to injure than to cure. Scientific developments have enhanced our capacity to benefit, but they have enhanced our ability to harm still further. As a result, our power to harm is overwhelming. We are capable of forever putting an end to all higher life on this planet. Our success in learning to manipulate the world around us has left us facing two major threats: climate change – along with the attendant problems caused by increasingly scarce natural resources – and war, using immensely powerful weapons. What is to be done to counter these threats?

Give peace a chance?

Actually, it is easier to destroy.  Very few people can do tremendous harm. But think about the incredible energy that is invested around the world in building up–sometimes at great personal risk.  And that effort has been increasing over the centuries. Religion, or at least the values it inspired, e.g., altruism, universal human equality, charity, etc., has a lot to do with that–but religion is so 15th Century to the atheist intellectual, which is why they usually depict orthodox faith as a negative.

And don’t count on democracy to save us.  According to S and P, we are too selfish and too into our own welfare to vote the long view. No, democracy is the problem, not the solution.

The answer? The current liberal default position; experts and technocracy, in this case, the genetic and neural manipulation of the entire human species. And lest you doubt that the point is to hardwire ideological Leftwingism into our DNA, get a gander at who they want to remake us to emulate:

Our moral shortcomings are preventing our political institutions from acting effectively. Enhancing our moral motivation would enable us to act better for distant people, future generations, and non-human animals. One method to achieve this enhancement is already practised in all societies: moral education. Al Gore, Friends of the Earth and Oxfam have already had success with campaigns vividly representing the problems our selfish actions are creating for others – others around the world and in the future.

Alas, too  many of us laugh at Gore rather than follow him. Something must be done!

Our knowledge of human biology – in particular of genetics and neurobiology – is beginning to enable us to directly affect the biological or physiological bases of human motivation, either through drugs, or through genetic selection or engineering, or by using external devices that affect the brain or the learning process. We could use these techniques to overcome the moral and psychological shortcomings that imperil the human species. We are at the early stages of such research, but there are few cogent philosophical or moral objections to the use of specifically biomedical moral enhancement – or moral bioenhancement. In fact, the risks we face are so serious that it is imperative we explore every possibility of developing moral bioenhancement technologies – not to replace traditional moral education, but to complement it.

This is the scam that has become the highest level of academia, at least in the humanities. Tenured professors get paid a lot of money and enjoy near absolute job security so they can promote utter claptrap in the practical sense–what, we’re really going enhance 9 billion people?–and attempt to impose liberal ideology on students and society.

But taking the argument seriously, for a moment, exactly whose “morals” should be imposed?  Or to put it another way, why would the world agree to become Western liberals–what with their general antipathy to orthodox religion, disbelief in the sanctity of life, and hostility toward human thriving in the name of “saving the earth?”  I mean, if we ever could actually impose moral views through technological manipulations, why wouldn’t Taliban morally enhance (from their perspective) in the direction of Islamic fundamentalism?  Wouldn’t we just end up where we are now, but with less chance of prevailing by moral persuasion?

Bottom line: Savulescu and Persson don’t believe that liberalism can actually prevail in the public square. So, they hope to one day use the naked power of biology to refashion the world in their ideological image.  It is a confession of ideological impotence.


Subscribe to National Review