Philosophy & Technology

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 495–512 | Cite as

Enhancing the Species: Genetic Engineering Technologies and Human Persistence

Special Issue


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.


Genetic engineering Enhancement ethics Extinction ethics 



I would like to thank Michael Selgelid, Kim Sterelny, two anonymous reviewers for Philosophy and Technology and the editors of this special issue for comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Philosophy, Research School of Social SciencesAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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