Beyond Human Nature: Human-Racism in the Debate Over Genetic and Nanotechnological Enhancement

In Nanoscale. New York, NY, USA: pp. 61-70 (2007)
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Abstract

The alleged threats to human nature are at the root of many concerns about the use of nanotechnology to extend human health and capabilities. Bu the concept of human nature is illusory, selectively deployed, and does not impose any ethical constraint on human enhancement. Human nature is not only a meaningless concept, a product of our imperfect human cognition and a relic of the idea of a "soul," but, as it is deployed today against human enhancement technologies, it is also a morally offensive, racist concept. The "human-racists" who deploy the concept of human nature are more inclusive than their forebears, but the make the same mistake of tying citizenship and value to biology. By setting aside the concept of human nature, we can affirm the value of the myriad aspects of human existence that we wish to preserve and extend using human enhancement technologies, including whatever genetic capacities and limits we may discover. Human enhancement technologies, such as those that may be enabled by nanotechnology and genetic engineering, enable us to define a new and more dynamic set of human capabilities, and to better achieve many moral virtues, regardless of whether they are part of "human nature" or not.

Author's Profile

James J. Hughes
University of Massachusetts, Boston

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