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In Our Posthuman Future, one of America's most conspicuous public intellectuals, Francis Fukuyama, explores the profound political, social and spiritual implications of the biotechnology revolution. He argues that if we are to avoid some of the worst political consequences of the biotech revolution then sweeping national and international regulation is required.
The heart of the book lies in his discussion of the philosophical issues raised by our ability to manipulate human nature. Fukuyama argues that future biotech capabilities may give us the capacity to effectively control human behaviour but may ultimately lead us into a "posthuman" future. What is ultimately at stake in the biotech revolution, according to Fukuyama, is the loss of our human essence. This amounts to more than a mere change in genetic constitution because the politically indispensable concept of human rights is derived not from God nor from man himself, but from nature.
Fukuyama has some plausible predictions about the way the American political landscape will shift as a result of the biotech revolution. The left, he predicts, will be split between pro-personal autonomy and environmentalist/anti-eugenicist wings, while the right will be split on libertarian versus social-conservative camps. He is also right on target with his critique of the aggressive atheism of scientific materialist philosophers who suppose that religiously motivated objections to biotechnology will wither away in the wake of the forces of modernity.
However, overall, it is difficult to share Fukuyama's sense of the importance of "natural rights" to the discussion of biotechnology. Even if one accepts the idea that it is possible and worthwhile to identify the "species-typical behaviour" of humans, why should we accept that the abandonment of the idea of a "single human nature shared by all peoples of the world"--what Fukuyama calls "Factor X"--fatally undermines our commitment to the idea of universal human equality? Similarly, why should we accept the idea that to manipulate human genes is to manipulate human values? Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the central argument Our Posthuman Future is a stimulating and provocative read, virtually guaranteed to annoy large numbers of philosophers and scientists. --Larry Brown --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man; Trust) is no stranger to controversial theses, and here he advances two: that there are sound nonreligious reasons to put limits on biotechnology, and that such limits can be enforced. Fukuyama argues that "the most significant threat" from biotechnology is "the possibility that it will alter human nature and thereby move us into a `posthuman' stage of history." The most obvious way that might happen is through the achievement of genetically engineered "designer babies," but he presents other, imminent routes as well: research on the genetic basis of behavior; neuropharmacology, which has already begun to reshape human behavior through drugs like Prozac and Ritalin; and the prolongation of life, to the extent that society might come "to resemble a giant nursing home." Fukuyama then draws on Aristotle and the concept of "natural right" to argue against unfettered development of biotechnology. His claim is that a substantive human nature exists, that basic ethical principles and political rights such as equality are based on judgments about that nature, and therefore that human dignity itself could be lost if human nature is altered. Finally, he argues that state power, possibly in the form of new regulatory institutions, should be used to regulate biotechnology, and that pessimism about the ability of the global community to do this is unwarranted. Throughout, Fukuyama avoids ideological straitjackets and articulates a position that is neither Luddite nor laissez-faire. The result is a well-written, carefully reasoned assessment of the perils and promise of biotechnology, and of the possible safeguards against its misuse. (Apr.) Forecast: As the FSG publicity material notes, Fukuyama famously declared in the wake of communism's collapse that "the major alternatives to liberal democracy" had "exhausted themselves." This less dramatic assessment should still win a hearing, if not among scientists then among a public concerned about science's growing power.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
There is no great revolutionary thesis here of the kind that Fukuyama astonished the world with in his previous work, claiming that the end of history had come and it is the... Read morePublished on March 28 2004 by Shalom Freedman
I guess someone has to play the job of the paranoid futurist and Fukuyama has done a great job of it in the past. Here, he is no better. His aim: the biotech industry. Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2004 by Kevin Currie-Knight
While containing some interesting remarks, Fukuyama's book does not present a good argument to support his main thesis -namely, that human nature is a source of normativity. Read morePublished on Jan. 29 2003
Fukuyama has a gift. He takes the great issues of the day and discerns the grand theoretical explanation for them, even while the controversy and chaos of the present swirls... Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2003 by Michael Solender
This is an exploration on several levels -- advances in biotechnology and where they are headed, and what it means to be human. Read morePublished on Jan. 5 2003 by Emil L. Posey
I was very impressed with the depth and scope of Fukuyama's examination of the call to regulate biotechnology and especially with the fairness of his presentation and tone. Read morePublished on Nov. 12 2002 by Dennis Littrell
I worked through this book in a class I took at Duke University this fall. We spent about three weeks on this book and at the end there was nothing left to its claims about... Read morePublished on Nov. 7 2002
In his latest work, Frank Fukuyama, a political scientist with a talent for sweeping analysis and cogent policy insights, turns to the fascinating and (from a layman's perspective)... Read morePublished on Aug. 2 2002 by T. Graczewski
What are the longrange consequences of the biotechnology revolution? Our Posthuman Future argues that what is at stake is the ability to control and shape human behavior and human... Read morePublished on July 11 2002 by Midwest Book Review