“Neo-Evolution”

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on April 26, 2011

By Matthew Eppinette, CBC New Media Manager

Just watched the above TED Talk on “Neo-Evolution.” From the description:

Medical ethicist Harvey Fineberg shows us three paths forward for the ever-evolving human species: to stop evolving completely, to evolve naturally — or to control the next steps of human evolution, using genetic modification, to make ourselves smarter, faster, better. Neo-evolution is within our grasp. What will we do with it?

It’s an interesting talk on what might be possible with genetic modification. But he presents everything in glowing terms. Are there no downsides or possible downsides to genetic manipulation? Not in this talk.

At the end of the presentation he asks if we will make a kinder society through neo-evolution. This is a bit of a leap. Nothing he has said indicates that there is a genetic manipulation that makes humans kinder. Will making making people “smarter, faster, better” also make them kinder? If so, how?

He offers a very brief statement about wisdom, and whether we will have the wisdom to use technology wisely when it comes to neo-evolution. From where will we obtain the wisdom we need? He offers no answer.

This is a complicated topic, and no one could do it justice in 17 minutes. I get that. But the lack of ethical reflection — there was hardly an acknowledgement of an ethical dimension at all — is quite disappointing.

For more on this topic, see Beyond Therapy.

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