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“Equality is a political, not a biological concept,” Moreno correctly responds. Fukuyama is wrong when he asserts that equality rests on biological facts. Instead, the ideal of political equality arose from the Enlightenment’s insistence that since no one has access to absolute truth, no one has a moral right to impose his values and beliefs on others. In any case, there is every prospect that biotechnological progress will enhance human dignity by ameliorating rather than exacerbating physical and intellectual inequalities. For example, researchers are currently making headway toward new biopharmaceutical interventions to enhance intelligence, boost physical stamina, and retard aging, tools that can be used by anyone. Later in this century, when safe genetic engineering becomes possible, parents will be able to give their children the beneficial genes for improved health and intelligence that other children receive naturally.
Toward the end of his tour of our biopolitical discontents, Moreno makes the intriguing suggestion that “we might be allowing history to effect a sort of sleight of hand.” He argues that our preoccupations with genetics and stem cells may be distracting us from where the real action is: neuroscience. Thanks to the convergence of computational science and nanotechnology, human consciousness may increasingly be embodied in machines. “The motivating idea of biopolitics has been the fear of biology without humanity,” muses Moreno. “The converse, humanity without biology, might rather be what we should worry about.” I look forward to his next book on neuropolitics.
Moreno observes that bioconservative fears, both right- and left-wing, can never be wholly resolved. He adds, “But a liberal democratic society has nothing to fear and everything to gain by fostering a scientific attitude.” If the idea of progress still means anything—and I think it does—it must mean moving in the direction that enables more and more individuals to flourish. In his highly readable and provocative book, Moreno makes clear that progress, including biotechnological progress, is still America’s most important product.
Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent.