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The Peril and Promise of Medical Technology


D. Gareth Jones

Medical technology is one of the most powerful forces in the modern world, with enormous opportunities for good. For many in affluent countries, the expectations of what constitutes the good life have been transformed, as neonatal mortality rates have declined, life expectancy has increased, and one disease after another has been defeated. However, it is not an unalloyed blessing, as social patterns have been transformed, family structures have been challenged, and ordinary people as well as health professionals and scientists confront novel ethical dilemmas.
Gareth Jones writes not only as a scientist and bioethicist but also as a Christian. His aim is to make sense of some of the myriad issues encountered in a world dominated by medical technology. These include manipulation at the earliest stages of embryonic human life, through to ageing and attempts at bringing about physical immortality. The perceived power of genes is critically examined, as are claims that morality can be enhanced using technology. The centrality of the brain for making us what we are is sympathetically examined, against the backdrop of the ongoing debate on dualism and physicalism. Acknowledging our ever-increasing dependence upon medical technology, the author explores ways in which we can live in hope rather than fear.


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Chapter 6 Technological enhancement of morality


An emerging theme within an increasing amount of current thinking centres on ways in which humans can transcend their humanness, or become more than human. Looy alludes to this in her survey of the theological frontiers of psychology.1 This is one of the most provocative frontiers promulgated by those who wish to transform the dimensions of human nature. While there are many facets to this endeavour, the one that is both best known and also most extreme is that of transhumanism, with its myriad goals of not only dramatically extending human abilities and life span technologi- cally, but also finding ways of overcoming the burden of our mortality.2 However, there are many who may not consider themselves transhuman- ists, but who have vast agendas for enhancing human cognitive abilities, and even some who see it as their task of advocating for the enhancement of specifically moral attitudes.3 The thrust in all cases is to accomplish these ends utilizing the latest developments in biomedical technology. It is this that sets them apart from so much that has gone on in the past, and that is based on the alleged infinitely malleable nature of the human body and brain.4 1 Heather Looy, ‘Psychology at the Theological Frontiers’, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 65/3 (2013), 147–55. 2 J. Garreau, Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies – and What It Means to Be Human (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2005). 3 Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu, Unfit for...

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