Fitter, Happier, More Productive . . .

— Tyler Cowen points to Michael Sandel's Kass-like essay on the perils of genetic enhacement in the New Atlantic. Tyler makes a good point: if you're worried genetic engineering will indirectly imperil some social value, like solidarity, say, you can always solve the problem by directly engineering a better sense of solidarity. Sure, but I think Sandel may be worried that it may take a while to learn how to rejigger our sense of solidarity while the ability to build in a few extra inches, or a few points of IQ, purple eyes, or whatever, is coming soon. So we might get a solidarity problem in the interim.
Anyway the prospect of genetic engineering raises all sorts of interesting moral puzzles. Does hedonic utilitarianism imply that we ought to re-engineer people to find breathing, say, especially pleasurable? If I propose that some aspect of our existing moral sensibility be re-engineered, does any argument against my proposal based in our existing moral sensibility beg the question?

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center