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Monday, November 26, 2018

An evaluative conservative case for biomedical enhancement

John Danaher
British Journal of Medical Ethics
Volume 42, 9 (2018)

Abstract

It is widely believed that a conservative moral outlook is opposed to biomedical forms of human enhancement. In this paper, I argue that this widespread belief is incorrect. Using Cohen's evaluative conservatism as my starting point, I argue that there are strong conservative reasons to prioritise the development of biomedical enhancements. In particular, I suggest that biomedical enhancement may be essential if we are to maintain our current evaluative equilibrium (ie, the set of values that undergird and permeate our current political, economic and personal lives) against the threats to that equilibrium posed by external, non-biomedical forms of enhancement. I defend this view against modest conservatives who insist that biomedical enhancements pose a greater risk to our current evaluative equilibrium, and against those who see no principled distinction between the forms of human enhancement.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite the widespread belief that conservative moral principles are opposed to human enhancement, there are in fact strong reasons to think that human enhancement has conservative potential. This is because technological development does not take place in a vacuum. One cannot consider the effects of biomedical enhancement technology in isolation from other trends in technological progress. When this is done, it becomes apparent that AI, robotics and information technology are developing at a rapid pace and their widespread deployment could undermine much of our current evaluative equilibrium. Biomedical enhancement may be necessary, not merely desirable, if we are to maintain that equilibrium.

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