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What's wrong with enhancements?
  1. Larry S Temkin
  1. Correspondence to Professor Larry S Temkin, Department of Philosophy, Rutgers University, 1 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1107, USA; ltemkin{at}

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As I read Paula Casal's excellent paper, ‘Sexual Dimorphism and Human Enhancement,’1 three thoughts kept circulating through my mind. First, I found myself largely in agreement with virtually everything she wrote. In particular, if Casal was being accurate and fair in writing that ‘Robert Sparrow alleges that those who…advocate biomedical welfare enhancements are committed to selecting only female embryos because women live longer than men,’1 then she has given compelling reasons for believing that that claim is, on reflection, as ludicrous as it first sounds! In fact, I can think of many additional reasons to those which Casal forcefully adduced for rejecting the view in question, but I do not see the need to present them here, given the abundance of sufficiently compelling reasons Casal already presented.

Second, I confess that as I read Casal's article a strong feeling of shame washed over me in virtue of my being a man! Indeed, I found myself thinking that Jonathan Glover's important and chilling book Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century2 was misleadingly, and somewhat unfairly, titled. Heretofore, when I have read Glover's powerful book, which details many of the twentieth century's worst instances of large-scale crimes against humanity, I have often been overcome by a sense of shame of the actions of my species, homo sapiens; but Casal's article suggests that perhaps the scope of my shame has been too wide, and grossly unfair to the distaff members of our species! In the well-worked expression ‘man's inhumanity to man,’ the second use of the word ‘man’ undoubtedly extends to all humans, but the first use overwhelming (although not exclusively) picks out men insofar as it denotes the actual flesh and blood perpetrators of the horrific actions in question (as Glover himself notes2). Accordingly, perhaps a …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • i The Seventh Annual Joint Applied and Urban Ethics Conference at Rutgers University—Newark, in Spring 2006, had the rather telling title: ‘Perfect’ Minds in 'Perfect’ Bodies: The Ethics of Biomedical Enhancement.

  • ii My point here is reminiscent of a similar one made by Susan Wolf in her important article ‘Moral Saints.’4

  • iii This is, in fact, one of the main themes of my article ‘Is Living Longer, Living Better?5

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