Last December, Routledge published Human Dignity in Bioethics: From Worldviews to the Public Square (2012) edited by Stephen Dilley (St. Edward’s U.), and Nathan J. Palpant (U. of Washington). The publisher’s description follows.
Human Dignity in Bioethics brings together a collection of essays that rigorously examine the concept of human dignity from its metaphysical foundations to its polemical deployment in bioethical controversies. The volume falls into three parts, beginning with meta-level perspectives and moving to concrete applications.
Part 1 analyzes human dignity through a worldview lens, exploring the source and meaning of human dignity from naturalist, postmodernist, Protestant, and Catholic vantages, respectively, letting each side explain and defend its own conception. Part 2 moves from metaphysical moorings to key areas of macro-level influence: international politics, American law, and biological science. These chapters examine the legitimacy of the concept of dignity in documents by international political bodies, the role of dignity in American jurisprudence, and the implications—and challenges—for dignity posed by Darwinism. Part 3 shifts from macro-level topics to concrete applications by examining the rhetoric of human dignity in specific controversies: embryonic stem cell research, abortion, human-animal chimeras, euthanasia and palliative care, psychotropic drugs, and assisted reproductive technologies. Each chapter analyzes the rhetorical use of ‘human dignity’ by opposing camps, assessing the utility of the concept and whether a different concept or approach can be a more productive means of framing or guiding the debate.
Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law, and Lawyer’s Work will host a lecture on January 24 by Archbishop Timothy Dolan as part of its “Law & the Gospel of Life” series. Archbishop Dolan will discuss bioethics. Details are here.
In coming years, government and religion will have to come to terms with new biomedical technologies that greatly enhance human capacity. The state will need to address the potential for vastly increased life spans – a nice problem, but an issue for entitlements, if nothing else — as well as possible distributive inequalities. Religions will face questions about traditional ethics, particularly in respect of human reproduction, and may even face deeper doubts about theologies that teach the need for transcending the human condition. Why would we need divine grace if we could correct our flaws ourselves?
I’m skeptical that we are on the brink of a “post-humanity,” myself, or that religion is about to become obsolete. Utopians always promise that we are only a breakthrough or two away from a Bright Tomorrow in which we will control our own destiny, and the “Singularity” sounds like another futurist fantasy to me. Still, it’s worth thinking about technologies that do seem likely. Allen Buchanan (Duke) has written a new book, Better Than Human (Oxford), that addresses the subject. The publisher’s description follows.
Is it right to use biomedical technologies to make us better than well or even perhaps better than human? Should we view our biology as fixed or should we try to improve on it? College students are already taking cognitive enhancement drugs. The U.S. army is already working to develop drugs and technologies to produce “super soldiers.” Scientists already know how to use genetic engineering techniques to enhance the strength and memories of mice and the application of such technologies to humans is on the horizon.
In Better Than Human, philosopher-bioethicist Allen Buchanan grapples with the ethical dilemmas of the biomedical enhancement revolution. Biomedical enhancements can make us smarter, have better memories, be stronger, quicker, have more stamina, live much longer, avoid the frailties of aging, and enjoy richer emotional lives. In spite of the benefits that biomedical enhancements may bring, many people instinctively reject them. Some worry that we will lose something important-our appreciation Continue reading