Theology and Philosophy

Research Seminar - 4 April

Presenter: Dr Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University)

Title: "Buchanan on the conservative argument against human enhancement from biological and social harmony"

In his recent Beyond Humanity? (2011), Allen Buchanan takes issue with a slew of arguments against human enhancement put forward by prominent conservative intellectuals. For the most part I find Buchanan's dissection of conservative opposition to human enhancement to be very persuasive. In this paper I want to discuss Buchanan's treatment of the conservative line of argument against human enhancement 'from biological and social harmony' (Buchanan 2011, pp. 161-2). In my view this line of argument against human enhancement has much more going for it than Buchanan allows. I will not argue that it is a strong enough to warrant the banning of the use of all human enhancement technologies, as many conservatives (and some liberals) might urge, but I will argue that it gives us reason to be very cautious about the widespread adoption of particular human enhancements. I will also demonstrate that there is nothing distinctively conservative about this line of argument. It deserves to be taken seriously by both liberals and conservatives.

Steve Clarke is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt University and a Senior Research Associate in the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. He is the author of over sixty papers in refereed journals and edited collections, as well as two books, including The Justification of Religious Violence, Malden MA, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. He is also a co-editor of three books. The most recent of these is Clarke, S., Powell, R. and Savulescu. J. (eds.) 2013. Religion, Intolerance and Conflict: a Scientific and Conceptual Investigation, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.