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One of the challenge points on the Better World Books 2017 Reading […]
Leon R. Kass
Presidents Council on Bioethics
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A groundbreaking new exploration of the promises and perils of biotechnology -- and the future of American society.
Biotechnology offers exciting prospects for healing the sick and relieving suffering. But because our growing powers also enable alterations in the workings of the body and mind, they are becoming attractive to healthy people who would just like to look younger, perform better, feel happier, or become more "perfect."
This landmark book -- the product of more than sixteen months of research and reflection by the members of the President's Council on Bioethics -- explores the profound ethical and social consequences of today's biotechnical revolution. Almost every week brings news of novel methods for screening genes and testing embryos, choosing the sex and modifying the behavior of children, enhancing athletic performance, slowing aging, blunting painful memories, brightening mood, and altering basic temperaments. But we must not neglect the fundamental question: Should we be turning to biotechnology to fulfill our deepest human desires?
We want better children -- but not by turning procreation into manufacture or by altering their brains to gain them an edge over their peers. We want to perform better in the activities of life -- but not by becoming mere creatures of chemistry. We want longer lives -- but not at the cost of becoming so obsessed with our own longevity that we care little about future generations. We want to be happy -- but not by taking a drug that gives us happy feelings without the genuine loves, attachments, and achievements that are essential to true human flourishing. As we enjoy the benefits of biotechnology, members of the council contend, we need to hold fast to an account of the human being seen not in material or mechanistic or medical terms but in psychic, moral, and spiritual ones. By grasping the limits of our new powers, we can savor the fruits of the age of biotechnology without succumbing to its most dangerous temptations.
"Beyond Therapy" takes these issues out of the narrow circle of bioethics professionals and into the larger public arena, where matters of this importance rightly belong.
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