Is it ethical for medical science to do more than treat illness-to actually make us "better than human"? Currently the U.S. military is searching for a drug that will allow soldiers to stop sleeping, completely-and tests have already been conducted on promising candidates. In fact, scientists are presently investigating many ways to alter our DNA and give us abilities that we currently lack-much as we produce genetically modified fish and crops. Where do we draw the line, between using medical science to improve our lives, and providing an unfair advantage enjoyed only by those who afford it? In Better than Human, noted bioethicist Allen Buchanan grapples with the ethical dilemmas of the medical revolution now upon us. Biomedical enhancements, he writes, can make us smarter, have better memories, be stronger, quicker, have more stamina, live much longer, be more resistant to disease and to the frailties of aging, and enjoy richer emotional lives. They can even improve our character, or at least strengthen our powers of self-control.
One problem, he argues, is that the debate over these enhancements has divided into polar extremes-into denunciations of meddling in the natural (or divine) order, or else a heady optimism that we can cure all that ails humanity. In fact, Buchanan notes, the human genome has always been unstable, and intervention is no offense against nature. But we must be aware of the danger of unintended consequences of these enhancements, and avoid the risk that only the wealthy will enjoy enhancements, exacerbating social inequalities. "Allen Buchanan has, throughout his career, shown an almost uncanny ability to see the issues on the horizon of professional ethics," writes leading bio-ethicist Tom Beauchamp. In Better than Human, Buchanan takes readers on a fascinating tour of that horizon, laying out a reasoned, practical path to reach it safely.