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Enhancing Evolution: The Ethical Case for Making Better People 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0691128443
ISBN-10: 0691128448
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Editorial Reviews


"A persuasive case that today's biotechnologies...are on the continuum of an age-long pursuit by humans to improve themselves."--Judy Illes, Nature

"John Harris...assumes not only that biotechnological enhancement is going to happen but that we have a moral obligation to make it happen."--Scientific American

"[Harris] challenges conventional thinking about genetic engineering, stem-cell research, designer children and other concepts that make most people uneasy."--Richard Halicks, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"[Harris] is warmly enthusiastic about the possibilities; moreover he is unshakably convinced that all human beings, given that they are capable of moral sense, have a duty not only to make things better for people, but to make people better as well....It is a pleasure to read a book that is so jolly about the future of mankind."--Mary Warnock, THES

"[A] fine contribution to clear thinking and cogent argument in a field where these commodities have been in short supply."--Arthur Schafer, The Globe and Mail

"Professor Harris uses his philosophical skills very effectively to expose public confusion."--Robin Gill, Church Times

"This provocative book is a valuable retort to those who would summon the ghost of Frankenstein's monster at the first sight of a test tube."--Stephen Cave, Financial Times

"[Harris] raises the stakes. Harris argues that humanity has been evolving biologically for millennia, and that those who believe we should forego the opportunity to evolve further through the use of genetic technology are 'making a fetish of a particular evolutionary stage."--Richard Hayes, The American Interest

"Harris argues that biotechnological enhancements are morally good, a sensible social imperative, and necessary to improve humankind's genetic heritage. He believes people should seek increased powers and longer, healthier lives...He takes on objections to genetic engineering, stem-cell research, and designer babies. Harris's arguments for increased biotechnological intervention for the betterment of human life, though controversial, cannot be ignored."--J.A. Kegley, Choice

"Harris has a much wider understanding of enhancement than most bioethicists . . . he calls attention to the idea that there must be a new phase in human evolution so that darwinian evolution is replaced by a deliberately chosen process of selection--namely, enhancement."--John Collins Harvey, Journal of the American Medical Association

"This eleven-chapter book is a major contribution to the debate on enhancement. . . . Written with Harris' characteristic clarity and verve, the book is provocative, engaging, and at times entertaining. . . . Enhancing Evolution is bioethics at its best. It is scientifically well-informed, with imaginative examples, incisive critiques of widely held views against enhancement, and persuasive arguments in favor of these interventions. . . . Harris has hit a powerful volley against those who have argued that human enhancement is morally objectionable. The ball is now in their court."--Walter Glannon, Cambridge Quarterly Healthcare Ethics

"Enhancing Evolution represents something of a landmark volume in its systematic consideration of human enhancement both as a philosophical concept, and in terms of the emerging technological possibilities and consequences. It has at its heart some unashamedly utilitarian assumptions, with the aim of 'making the world a better place'."--Sarah Chan, EMBO Reports

"Harris' plea for enhancement is not only provoking. It is really thought-provoking since it demonstrates how deep the philosophical issues are and that we have to address them if we want to make explicit all the metaphysical, meta-ethical and ethical premises all participants in the debate rely on. But without such philosophical reflection a serious and fruitful discussion will not be possible. It is among the merits of this extraordinarily well written book to make this visible."--Michael Quante, Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

"Whether one looks upon biotechnology with hope, fear, or a little of both, Enhancing Evolution is a book that should not be ignored."--Human Reproduction and Genetic Ethics

From the Back Cover

"John Harris has an enormous reputation in bioethics for his adroit, acerbic, dead-on argumentation, his ingenuity at undermining familiar but flaccid argument, his immense imaginative capacities, and his skewering wit. These are rare qualities in an often goody-goody field like bioethics, and his intellectual skills earn him real respect. His philosophical work is an exploration, as he puts it, of our shared responsibility to make the world a better place. Enhancing Evolution is an ample demonstration of this work at its best."--Margaret P. Battin, University of Utah

"John Harris can be depended on to sharply challenge conventional thinking in bioethics, especially when that thinking takes a conservative cast. He does not disappoint here. Harris shows how deep-seated a part of human history enhancement is and how weak most objections to it are; indeed, he makes a persuasive case that it is not only generally morally permissible, but often morally required."--Dan W. Brock, director of the Division of Medical Ethics, Harvard Medical School

"John Harris's writings are always provocative as well as superbly reasoned. In this latest book, he succeeds in demolishing the arguments of those who claim that enhancements are a threat to humankind."--Ruth Macklin, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

"Enhancing Evolution is a pleasure to read and an important contribution to bioethics. Against writers such as Leon Kass, Michael Sandel, and Jürgen Habermas, John Harris argues for using genetic and other technologies to improve and extend human life, and even to design and clone humans. Whether or not one shares his optimism that humans are wise, prudent, or moral enough to use technology to benefit humankind, his cogent and elegantly expressed arguments must be taken seriously."--Bonnie Steinbock, University of Albany

"Over his illustrious career, John Harris has explored the most challenging bioethical questions with insight, engaging wit, and eloquence. In Enhancing Evolution, Harris does it again. He argues that it is not just an option but an obligation for people to use available biomedical technologies to enhance their own--and their children's--physical and mental abilities. Harris rightly deserves his reputation for fearlessly following his ethical arguments wherever they lead."--Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D.

"Full of witty arguments, Enhancing Evolution is a powerful response to concerns about human enhancement and genetic selection. It is also a deep, enlightening, and delightful (often hilarious) philosophical read. Scholars studying these topics, as well as the status of embryos and research on human subjects, would be wise to give Harris's arguments serious consideration."--Nir Eyal, Harvard Medical School

"Enhancing Evolution is the most comprehensive, robust defense of human enhancement in the literature to date. Harris blends more than fifteen years of work on human enhancement into a single volume and mixes in new arguments that definitively make the pro case for enhancement. The bioconservatives are in retreat. Harris has now set the agenda for the future of humankind. This will be the locus classicus for the enhancement debate."--Julian Savulescu, University of Oxford

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (September 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691128448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691128443
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,917,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Worddancer redux VINE VOICE on September 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I thought twice about writing this review, and hesitated before finally submitting it to Amazon. If you really disliked a book, then why review it?

But the topic is just too important. Moreover, since the would-be reader is likely to expect brilliance--not to mention simple fairness in characterizing the views of people who have had the temerity to hold views that Harris rejects--from the pre-publication blurbs on the back of the book, there should be some counterweight.

The book is very short on argument: citing your previous publications is not producing an argument. (If you think that so many of the claims you make were decisively defended in your previous work, why trot them out again? If you think that they are so important that they must be adduced again, then you need to reprise your arguments, not merely assert your conclusions.) Neither is artfully choosing quotations from people who hold opposing views to make them (and anyone who does not hold Harris' views) look like idiots. Or choosing weaker expositors of those views rather than the strongest you can find.

Continuing with the theme of uncharitable interpretation: The book is as long on invective, and gratuitous rudeness as it is short on substantive argument. I do not agree with Michael Sandel's assessment of the problems with supporting genetic enhancement, and I think that his recent book on the subject does not expand or clarify the argument he made in his earlier ATLANTIC article. (I continue to think that the original article was better, in fact.) But Harris's criticism of Sandel is snide, nasty, sneering and self-congratulatory. There is SOME accuracy at the heart of the criticism: Sandel's argument is slight, to be sure.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter Gerdes on June 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The attitude we take toward human enhancement is one of the biggest policy choices we face in the coming years but it's one that rarely recieves any serious analysis. Harris, therefore, deserves credit not only for calling this issue to our attention but also approaching it in a rational objective fashion instead of relying on the eww factor or the emotional appeal of enhancement.

Unfortunately the book soon becomes rather repetitive. Each new chapter seems to do little than provide a new setting in which to propound his main points. These include:

1) Their is no principled distinction to be drawn between enhancement and things like vaccinations or preventative measures against cancer as both give us abilities we lack.

2) There is no principled reason to distinguish enhancement via good parenting and good schools from genetic enhancement. If we aren't willing to demand that rich parents/countries give up the permanent advantages arising from proper childhood nutrition we shouldn't treat the permanent advantages from genetic modification any differently.

3) Worries about safety and harmful side effects are reasons to proceed with caution and analyze individual proposals carefully but don't justify blanket rejection of the program of producing better humans.

Frankly the book gets boring quickly because the most visible opponents of genetic enhancement don't have an interesting responses to these points. Sandel seems to rely on confusing and vaguely worded polemics to defend what he is 'sure' must be right (and most philosophy grads I've asked can't decode a cogent argument from his stuff) and Habermas (sp?) is little better.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. Korthof on March 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Anonymous (Katonah, N.Y.) on December 10, 2007 wrote: "His dismissal of the human and civil rights of those who are flawed, i.e. people with disabilities discussed in chapter 6 is perverse" etc, but he does not give a quote to prove his accusation. In fact on the first page of chapter 6 John Harris wrote:

"A thesis of this book is that all persons are equal and none are less equal than others." (p.86)

Amazingly, this is completely the opposite of what Anonymous wrote! Anonymous did not present an argument, but pure emotion.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By WordLover on October 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Other books on this topic which readers may find more enlightening and persuasive include MORE THAN HUMAN by Ramez Naam, CITIZEN CYBORG by James Hughes, and LIBERATION BIOLOGY by Ron Bailey.
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