To clone or not to clone? asks social philosopher Fukuyama (The Great Disruption, 1999, etc.) in his latest disquisition on science and society.
Reproductive cloning (people) and therapeutic cloning (embryonic stem cells) are not the author’s only concerns. What are we to do in a society that uses and abuses Prozac and Ritalin, one that is eager to exploit potential genes for intelligence or height or prolonged aging? Grim scenarios follow: the rich with designer babies; the poor ever more deprived; societies, even democracies, doomed to stagnation from the weight of aging natives dependent on youthful immigrants. And on and on to a “posthuman” existence in which membership in the human race may be problematic, given a genome spliced with so many non–Homo sapien genes. What to do? Fukuyama argues the need to restore notions of human rights, human nature, human dignity. Here he is in his element, critiquing the philosophies of Hobbes, Hume, Mill, Locke, Kant, Marx, et al., down to contemporary theorists. Fukuyama concludes that human values are intimately bound up with human emotions and that these are intrinsically linked to “species-typical behavior ” (human nature redux). The final leap is to human dignity, the notion that all humanity exists on a higher moral plane than the rest of the natural world. It follows that acts that deny human dignity, such as reproductive cloning, should be banned outright. As for therapeutic cloning, genetically modified foods, human genetic engineering, etc., Fukuyama urges regulation (providing a useful summary of rules currently in place here and abroad) and wariness. Though he has famously said that there can be no end to history as long as science marches on, he worries lest science take us over the edge of the slippery slope.
Many won’t buy the human dignity thesis or dystopian nightmares, but credit the author for laying out how we got to this pass and why we need to act.