, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 495-512
Date: 31 Jul 2012

Enhancing the Species: Genetic Engineering Technologies and Human Persistence

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Abstract

Many of the existing ethical analyses of genetic engineering technologies (GET) focus on how they can be used to enhance individuals—to improve individual well-being, health and cognition. There is a gap in the current literature about the specific ways enhancement technologies could be used to improve our populations and species, viewed as a whole. In this paper, I explore how GET may be used to enhance the species through improvements in the gene pool. I argue one aspect of the species that may be desirable to enhance is ‘persistence’ or long-term viability. I then look at some of the ways in which GET could be used to improve human persistence and argue that the use of GET to secure benefits for individuals may compromise persistence. This suggests conflicts between uses of GET to enhance individuals and uses to promote the persistence of the species may occur. As GET are further developed, the likelihood that these conflicts will actually arise, and how we should resolve them if they do, will need to be considered.