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Recent developments in biotechnology and genetic research areraising complex ethical questions concerning the legitimate scopeand limits of genetic intervention. As we begin to contemplate thepossibility of intervening in the human genome to prevent diseases,we cannot help but feel that the human species might soon be ableto take its biological evolution in its own hands. 'Playing God' isthe metaphor commonly used for this self-transformation of thespecies, which, it seems, might soon be within our grasp.
In this important new book, Jurgen Habermas - the most influentialphilosopher and social thinker in Germany today - takes up thequestion of genetic engineering and its ethical implications andsubjects it to careful philosophical scrutiny. His analysis isguided by the view that genetic manipulation is bound up with theidentity and self-understanding of the species. We cannot rule outthe possibility that knowledge of one's own hereditary factors mayprove to be restrictive for the choice of an individual's way oflife and may undermine the symmetrical relations between free andequal human beings.
In the concluding chapter - which was delivered as a lecture onreceiving the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for 2001 -Habermas broadens the discussion to examine the tension betweenscience and religion in the modern world, a tension which exploded,with such tragic violence, on September 11th.read more
"The Future of Human Nature" is a slim volume that consists of two related essays on bioethics and a lecture that Habermas gave shortly after September 11th attacks. In the course of the book, Habermas presents a thoughtful and reasoned (as opposed to most of what is available from bioconservativist authors) point of view against the genetic engineering of human beings. It doesn't attempt to pile up all possible conservative arguments but rather goes down its own original road, carefully elaborating everything it assumes and concludes. Habermas really aims to make a point rather than give an overview.Although the book really is about bioethics it actually deserves a wider audience as it both relies on and expresses Habermas' moral philosophy.read more
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