978-0-374-23643-4 / 9780374236434

Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution


Publisher:Farrar, Straus and Giroux



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About the book:

In Our Posthuman Future, one of America's most conspicuous public intellectuals, Francis Fukuyama, explores the profound political, social and spiritual implications of the biotechnology revolution. He argues that if we are to avoid some of the worst political consequences of the biotech revolution then sweeping national and international regulation is required.

The heart of the book lies in his discussion of the philosophical issues raised by our ability to manipulate human nature. Fukuyama argues that future biotech capabilities may give us the capacity to effectively control human behaviour but may ultimately lead us into a "posthuman" future. What is ultimately at stake in the biotech revolution, according to Fukuyama, is the loss of our human essence. This amounts to more than a mere change in genetic constitution because the politically indispensable concept of human rights is derived not from God nor from man himself, but from nature.

Fukuyama has some plausible predictions about the way the American political landscape will shift as a result of the biotech revolution. The left, he predicts, will be split between pro-personal autonomy and environmentalist/anti-eugenicist wings, while the right will be split on libertarian versus social-conservative camps. He is also right on target with his critique of the aggressive atheism of scientific materialist philosophers who suppose that religiously motivated objections to biotechnology will wither away in the wake of the forces of modernity.

However, overall, it is difficult to share Fukuyama's sense of the importance of "natural rights" to the discussion of biotechnology. Even if one accepts the idea that it is possible and worthwhile to identify the "species-typical behaviour" of humans, why should we accept that the abandonment of the idea of a "single human nature shared by all peoples of the world"--what Fukuyama calls "Factor X"--fatally undermines our commitment to the idea of universal human equality? Similarly, why should we accept the idea that to manipulate human genes is to manipulate human values? Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the central argument Our Posthuman Future is a stimulating and provocative read, virtually guaranteed to annoy large numbers of philosophers and scientists. --Larry Brown

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