Should parents try to give their children the best lives possible? Yes. Do parents have an obligation to give their children the widest possible set of opportunities in the future? No. Understanding how both of these things may be true will allow us to go a long way towards understanding why a Deaf couple might wish their child to be born Deaf and why we might have reason to respect this desire.
This chapter introduces debates about freedom of speech and argues that very few if any individuals support no restrictions whatsoever on freedom of speech. The question is therefore not should we restrict freedom of speech but rather what sorts of speech and how?
This paper attempts some predictions about the social consequences of nanotechnology and the ethical issues they raise. I set out four features of nanotechnology that are likely to be important in determining its impact and argue that nanotechnology will have significant social impacts in—at least—the areas of health and medicine, the balance of power between citizens and governments, and the balance of power between citizens and corporations. More importantly, responding to the challenge of nanotechnology will require confronting “philosophical” questions about (...) the sort of society we wish to create and the role that technology might play in creating it. This in turn will require developing institutions and processes that allow the public to wield real power in relation to technological trajectories. My ultimate contention is that the immediate task established by the likely social impacts of nanotechnology is not so much to develop an ethics of nanotechnology as to facilitate an ethical conversation about nanotechnology. (shrink)
‘Liberal eugenics’ has emerged as the most popular position amongst philosophers writing in the contemporary debate about the ethics of human enhancement. This position has been most clearly articulated by Nicholas Agar, who argues that the ‘new’ liberal eugenics can avoid the repugnant consequences associated with eugenics in the past. Agar suggests that parents should be free to make only those interventions into the genetics of their children that will benefit them no matter what way of life they grow up (...) to endorse. I argue that Agar's attempt to distinguish the new from the old eugenics fails. Once we start to consciously determine the genetics of future persons, we will not be able to avoid controversial assumptions about the relative worth of different life plans. Liberal eugenicists therefore confront the horns of a dilemma. Whichever way they try to resolve it, the consequences of widespread use of technologies of genetic selection are likely to look more like the old eugenics than defenders of the new eugenics have acknowledged. (shrink)
Following the success of Sony Corporation’s “AIBO”, robot cats and dogs are multiplying rapidly. “Robot pets” employing sophisticated artificial intelligence and animatronic technologies are now being marketed as toys and companions by a number of large consumer electronics corporations. -/- It is often suggested in popular writing about these devices that they could play a worthwhile role in serving the needs of an increasingly aging and socially isolated population. Robot companions, shaped like familiar household pets, could comfort and entertain lonely (...) older persons. This goal is misguided and unethical. While there are a number of apparent benefits that might be thought to accrue from ownership of a robot pet, the majority and the most important of these are predicated on mistaking, at a conscious or unconscious level, the robot for a real animal. For an individual to benefit significantly from ownership of a robot pet they must systematically delude themselves regarding the real nature of their relation with the animal. It requires sentimentality of a morally deplorable sort. Indulging in such sentimentality violates a (weak) duty that we have to ourselves to apprehend the world accurately. The design and manufacture of these robots is unethical in so far as it presupposes or encourages this delusion. -/- The invention of robot pets heralds the arrival of what might be called “ersatz companions” more generally. That is, of devices that are designed to engage in and replicate significant social and emotional relationships. The advent of robot dogs offers a valuable opportunity to think about the worth of such companions, the proper place of robots in society and the value we should place on our relationships with them. (shrink)
Concern for “reproductive liberty” suggests that decisions about embryos should normally be made by the persons who would be the genetic parents of the child that would be brought into existence if the embryo were brought to term. Therapeutic cloning would involve creating and destroying an embryo, which, if brought to term, would be the offspring of the genetic parents of the person undergoing therapy. I argue that central arguments in debates about parenthood and genetics therefore suggest that therapeutic cloning (...) would be prima facie unethical unless it occurred with the consent of the parents of the person being cloned. Alternatively, if therapeutic cloning is thought to be legitimate, this undermines the case for some uses of reproductive cloning by implying that the genetic relation it establishes between clones and DNA donors does not carry the same moral weight as it does in cases of normal reproduction. (shrink)
The normative significance of the distinction between therapy and enhancement has come under sustained philosophical attack in recent discussions of the ethics of shaping future persons by means of preimplantation genetic diagnosis and other advanced genetic technologies. In this paper, I argue that giving up the idea that the answer to the question as to whether a condition is “normal” should play a crucial role in assessing the ethics of genetic interventions has unrecognized and strongly counterintuitive implications when it comes (...) to selecting what sort of children should be brought into the world. According to standard philosophical accounts of the factors one should take into account when making such .. (shrink)
Unmanned systems in military applications will often play a role in determining the success or failure of combat missions and thus in determining who lives and dies in times of war. Designers of UMS must therefore consider ethical, as well as operational, requirements and limits when developing UMS. I group the ethical issues involved in UMS design under two broad headings, Building Safe Systems and Designing for the Law of Armed Conflict, and identify and discuss a number of issues under (...) each of these headings. As well as identifying issues, I offer some analysis of their implications and how they might be addressed. (shrink)
It is remarkable how much robotics research is promoted by appealing to the idea that the only way to deal with a looming demographic crisis is to develop robots to look after older persons. This paper surveys and assesses the claims made on behalf of robots in relation to their capacity to meet the needs of older persons. We consider each of the roles that has been suggested for robots in aged care and attempt to evaluate how successful robots might (...) be in these roles. We do so from the perspective of writers concerned primarily with the quality of aged care, paying particular attention to the social and ethical implications of the introduction of robots, rather than from the perspective of robotics, engineering, or computer science. We emphasis the importance of the social and emotional needs of older persons—which, we argue, robots are incapable of meeting—in almost any task involved in their care. Even if robots were to become capable of filling some service roles in the aged-care sector, economic pressures on the sector would most likely ensure that the result was a decrease in the amount of human contact experienced by older persons being cared for, which itself would be detrimental to their well-being. This means that the prospects for the ethical use of robots in the aged-care sector are far fewer than first appears. More controversially, we believe that it is not only misguided, but actually unethical, to attempt to substitute robot simulacra for genuine social interaction. A subsidiary goal of this paper is to draw attention to the discourse about aged care and robotics and locate it in the context of broader social attitudes towards older persons. We conclude by proposing a deliberative process involving older persons as a test for the ethics of the use of robots in aged care. (shrink)
Since the 1980s, a number of medical researchers have suggested that in the future it might be possible for men to become pregnant. Given the role played by the right to reproductive liberty in other debates about reproductive technologies, it will be extremely difficult to deny that this right extends to include male pregnancy. However, this constitutes a reductio ad absurdum of the idea of reproductive liberty. One therefore would be well advised to look again at the extent of this (...) purported right in other contexts in which it is deployed. (shrink)
This paper discusses the ethical and regulatory issues raised by “intragenics” – organisms that have been genetically modified using gene technologies, but that do not contain DNA from another species. Considering the rapid development of knowledge about gene regulation and genomics, we anticipate rapid advances in intragenic methods. Of regulatory systems developed to govern genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, the Australian system stands out in explicitly excluding intragenics from regulation. European systems are also (...) under pressure to exclude intragenics from regulation. We evaluate recent arguments that intragenics are safer and more morally acceptable than transgenic organisms, and more acceptable to the public, which might be thought to justify a lower standard of regulation. We argue that the exemption of intragenics from regulation is not justified, and that there may be significant environmental risks associated with them. We conclude that intragenics should be subject to the same standard of regulation as other GMOs. (shrink)
I apply an agent-based virtue ethics to issues in environmental philosophy regarding our treatment of complex inorganic systems. I consider the ethics of terraforming: hypothetical planetary engineering on a vast scale which is aimed at producing habitable environments on otherwise “hostile” planets. I argue that the undertaking of such a project demonstrates at least two serious defects of moral character: an aesthetic insensitivity and the sin of hubris. Trying to change whole planets to suit our ends is arrogant vandalism. I (...) maintain that these descriptions of character are coherent and important ethical concepts. Finally, I demonstrate how the arguments developed in opposition to terraforming, a somewhat farfetched example, can be used in cases closer to home to provide arguments against our use of recombinantDNA technologies and against the construction of tourist developments in wilderness areas. (shrink)
The risk posed to the community by possible xenozoonosis after xenotransplantation suggests that some form of 'community consent' is required before whole organ animal-to-human xenotransplantation should take place. I argue that this requirement places greater obstacles in the path of ethical xenotransplantation than has previously been recognised. The relevant community is global and there are no existing institutions with democratic credentials sufficient to establish this consent. The distribution of the risks and benefits from xenotransplantation also means that consent is unlikely (...) to be forthcoming. Proceeding on the basis of hypothetical consent to a package of global health measures that includes xenotransplantation, as Rothblatt has recently advocated, is more problematic than she acknowledges. Given that it may place the lives of citizens of poor nations at risk to benefit the citizens of wealthy nations, xenotransplantation raises significant questions of international justice. (shrink)
Since the first sex reassignment operations were performed, individual sex has come to be, to some extent at least, a technological artifact. The existence of sperm sorting technology, and of prenatal determination of fetal sex via ultrasound along with the option of termination, means that we now have the power to choose the sex of our children. An influential contemporary line of thought about medical ethics suggests that we should use technology to serve the welfare of individuals and to remove (...) limitations on the opportunities available to them. I argue that, if these are our goals, we may do well to move towards a “post sex” humanity. Until we have the technology to produce genuine hermaphrodites, the most efficient way to do this is to use sex selection technology to ensure that only girl children are born. There are significant restrictions on the opportunities available to men, around gestation, childbirth, and breast-feeding, which will be extremely difficult to overcome via social or technological mechanisms for the foreseeable future. Women also have longer life expectancies than men. Girl babies therefore have a significantly more “open” future than boy babies. Resisting the conclusion that we should ensure that all children are born the same sex will require insisting that sexual difference is natural to human beings and that we should not use technology to reshape humanity beyond certain natural limits. The real concern of my paper, then, is the moral significance of the idea of a normal human body in modern medicine. (shrink)
The question of the morality of war is something of an embarrassment to liberal political thinkers. A philosophical tradition which aspires to found its preferred institutions in respect for individual autonomy, contract, and voluntary association, is naturally confronted by a phenomenon that is almost exclusively explained and justified in the language of States, force and territory. But the apparent difficulties involved in providing a convincing account of nature and ethics of war in terms of relations between individuals has not prevented (...) liberal theorists from attempting this task. This paper examines a recent attempt by Igor Primoratz to sketch out the implications of a consistent liberalism for just war doctrine and, in particular, as regards the question of who may be a legitimate target of attack in wartime. Primoratz’s paper itself is a critique of Michael Waltzer’s authoritative exposition of just war theory for failing to be sufficiently and consistently liberal. The debate between these two authors is a productive site for investigating the potential and limitations of liberal theories of just war. (shrink)
This paper analyses rhetorics of scientific and corporate enthusiasm surrounding nanotechnology. I argue that enthusiasts for nanotechnologies often try to have it both ways on questions concerning the nature and possible impact of these technologies, and the inevitability of their development and use. In arguments about their nature and impact we are simultaneously informed that these are revolutionary technologies with the potential to profoundly change the world and that they merely represent the extension of existing technologies. They are revolutionary and (...) familiar. In debates surrounding possible regulation of these technologies it is claimed both that their development is inevitable, so that regulation would be fruitless, and that increased research funding and legislative changes are necessary in order that we can enjoy their benefits. That is, they are inevitable and precarious. An increased awareness of these rhetorical contradictions may allow us better to assess the likely impact and future of nanotechnology. (shrink)
Ravelingien et al have suggested that early human xenotransplantation trials should be carried out on patients who are in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) and who have previously granted their consent to the use of their bodies in such research in the event of their cortical death. Unfortunately, their philosophical defence of this suggestion is unsatisfactory in its current formulation, as it equivocates on the key question of the status of patients who are in a PVS. The solution proposed by (...) them rests on the idea that it should be up to people themselves to determine when they should be treated as dead. Yet the authors clearly believe (and state) that patients who are in a PVS are in fact dead. Finally, given the public good that their proposal is intended to achieve, the moral importance they place on the consent of a person to the use of his or her body in research is ultimately only defensible in so far as this consent represents the wishes of a living person. It is thus only a gentle caricature of their position to suggest that according to their account, consent to participation in xenotransplantation research is a “right of the living dead”. The equivocation by Ravelingien et al on the question of whether these people are living or dead means that they avoid confronting the implications of their argument. The solution proposed by Ravelingien et al to the problem of how we should proceed with xenotransplantation research is therefore not as neat as it first seems to be. (shrink)
In this paper I will argue that contemporary non-Aboriginal Australians can collectively be held responsible for past injustices committed against the Aboriginal peoples of this land. An examination of the role played by history in determining the nature of the present reveals both the temporal extension of the Australian community that confronts the question of responsibility for historical injustice and the ways in which we continue to participate in those same injustices. Because existing injustices suffered by indigenous Australians are essentially (...) continuous with the racist history of the invasion of the Australian continent and dispossession of the Australian Aboriginal peoples, we may be held responsible for the wrongs committed in the course of that history. (shrink)
A number of advances in assisted reproduction have been greeted by the accusation that they would produce children ‘without parents’. In this paper I will argue that while to date these accusations have been false, there is a limited but important sense in which they would be true of children born of a reproductive technology that is now on the horizon. If our genetic parents are those individuals from whom we have inherited 50% of our genes, then, unlike in any (...) other reproductive scenario, children who were conceived from gametes derived from stem cell lines derived from discarded IVF embryos would have no genetic parents! This paper defends this claim and investigates its ethical implications. I argue that there are reasons to think that the creation of such embryos might be morally superior to the existing alternatives in an important set of circumstances. (shrink)
The ‘marketplace of ideas’ is an influential metaphor with widespread currency in debates about freedom of speech. We explore a number of ways competition between ideas might be described as occurring in a marketplace and find that none support the use of the metaphor. We suggest that an alternative metaphor, that of the ‘garden of ideas’, may offer more productive insights into issues surrounding the regulation of speech.
In ‘Moral Enhancement, Freedom, and the God Machine’, Savulescu and Persson argue that recent scientific findings suggest that there is a realistic prospect of achieving ‘moral enhancement’ and respond to Harris's criticism that this would threaten individual freedom and autonomy. I argue that although some pharmaceutical and neuro-scientific interventions may influence behaviour and emotions in ways that we may be inclined to evaluate positively, describing this as ‘moral enhancement’ presupposes a particular, contested account, of what it is to act morally (...) and implies that entirely familiar drugs such as alcohol, ecstasy, and marijuana are also capable of making people ‘more moral’. Moreover, while Savulescu and Persson establish the theoretical possibility of using drugs to promote autonomy, the real threat posed to freedom by ‘moral bioenhancement’ is that the ‘enhancers’ will be wielding power over the ‘enhanced’. Drawing on Pettit's notion of ‘freedom as non-domination’, I argue that individuals may be rendered unfree even by a hypothetical technology such as Savulescu and Persson's ‘God machine’, which would only intervene if they chose to act immorally. While it is impossible to rule out the theoretical possibility that moral enhancement might be all-things-considered justified even where it did threaten freedom and autonomy, I argue that any technology for biomedical shaping of behaviour and dispositions is much more likely to be used for ill rather than good. (shrink)
This paper criticises John Harris's attempts to defend an account of a ‘harmed condition’ that can stand independently of intuitions about what is ‘normal’. I argue that because Homo sapiens is a sexually dimorphic species, determining whether a particular individual is in a harmed condition or not will sometimes require making reference to the normal capacities of their sex. Consequently, Harris's account is unable to play the role he intends for it in debates about the ethics of human enhancement.
A series of recent scientific results suggest that, in the not-too-distant future, it will be possible to create viable human gametes from human stem cells. This paper discusses the potential of this technology to make possible what I call ‘in vitro eugenics’: the deliberate breeding of human beings in vitro by fusing sperm and egg derived from different stem-cell lines to create an embryo and then deriving new gametes from stem cells derived from that embryo. Repeated iterations of this process (...) would allow scientists to proceed through multiple human generations in the laboratory. In vitro eugenics might be used to study the heredity of genetic disorders and to produce cell lines of a desired character for medical applications. More controversially, it might also function as a powerful technology of ‘human enhancement’ by allowing researchers to use all the techniques of selective breeding to produce individuals with a desired genotype. (shrink)
Disability activists influenced by queer theory and advocates of “human enhancement” have each disputed the idea that what is “normal” is normatively significant, which currently plays a key role in the regulation of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Previously, I have argued that the only way to avoid the implication that parents have strong reasons to select children of one sex (most plausibly, female) over the other is to affirm the moral significance of sexually dimorphic human biological norms. After outlining the (...) logic that generates this conclusion, I investigate the extent to which it might also facilitate an alternative, progressive, opening up of the notion of the normal and of the criteria against which we should evaluate the relative merits of different forms of embodiment. This paper therefore investigates the implications of ideas derived from queer theory for the future of PGD and of PGD for the future of queerness. (shrink)
We commonly identify something seriously defective in a human life that is lived in ignorance of important but unpalatable truths. At the same time, some degree of misapprehension of reality may be necessary for individual health and success. Morally speaking, it is unclear just how insistent we should be about seeking the truth. RobertSparrow has considered such issues in discussing the manufacture and marketing of robot ‘pets’, such as Sony’s doglike ‘AIBO’ toy and whatever more advanced devices (...) may supersede it. Though it is not his only concern, Sparrow particularly criticizes such robot pets for their illusory appearance of being living things. He fears that some individuals will subconsciously buy into the illusion, and come to sentimentalize interactions that fail to constitute genuine relationships. In replying to Sparrow, I emphasize that this would be continuous with much of the minor sentimentality that we already indulge in from day to day. Although a disposition to seek the truth is morally virtuous, the virtue concerned must allow for at least some categories of exceptions. Despite Sparrow’s concerns about robot pets (and robotics more generally), we should be lenient about familiar, relatively benign, kinds of self-indulgence in forming beliefs about reality. Sentimentality about robot pets seems to fall within these categories. Such limited self-indulgence can co-exist with ordinary honesty and commitment to truth. (shrink)