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Posted by on Jul 5, 2013 in Announcements, Bioethics, Books, Culture, Law, Personal, Philosophy, Politics | 4 comments

Page proofs for Humanity Enhanced

I’m currently doing my first layer of page-proof checking for Humanity Enhanced, which will be published by MIT Press early in 2014. As I just observed on Twitter, a problem with selling copies of this book will be getting the public excited about the claim that we don’t have a horrible, urgent Frankensteinian crisis to worry about – I’m referring to all the moral panic about human cloning, etc., since the announcement about Dolly’s cloning back in 1997. It’s a lot easier to sell books arguing how terrible things are than one that argues for calming of fears.

The book suggests that the crisis we currently face is not the coming of Frankensteinian or apocalyptic technologies that must be controlled as a matter of urgency. Rather, there is a crisis for liberal tolerance. As I say near the end, “We can maintain the candles of liberty and reason in what has become a dark area of public policy.”

There’s an issue of general importance here, and it follows on from the argument of Freedom of Religion and the Secular State (although the first version of Humanity Enhanced was actually written first).  We live in a society where liberal principles that protect our freedom, such as the Millian harm principle, appear to have lost much of their prestige with politicians, law reformers, and the public. This goes well beyond issues of restricting genetic technologies. Humanity Enhanced can be seen as a much more general protest against the new, illiberal direction.