Meditation and prayer can have the same physiological effects as drugs.
The “cyborgs” of science fiction blend human bodies with electronic and mechanical tools (Hughes 2004).
This entry is not concerned with every activity and intervention that might improve people’s embodied lives.
The focus of this entry is a cluster of debates in practical ethics that is conventionally labeled as “the ethics of human enhancement”.
An important part of the orientation for those new to thinking about enhancement ethics is the ways in which current debates are shaped by the history of earlier efforts at perfecting people.
At one level, perfectionist and meliorist impulses have deep roots in Western philosophical and religious thinking, which both modern science and medicine have inherited (Keenan 1999; Comfort 2012).For example, as section 2.3 below shows, equivocations between biological and evaluative senses of the term “human” are rich sources of many superficial disagreements in these debates.Is there anything special about being a member of the biological species that enhancements could threaten, or are those who criticize enhancement as “dehumanizing” really thinking about the loss of other markers of the moral status we confer on persons?The prospect of uploading minds into computers to create bodiless human life is sometimes characterized as “radical enhancement” (Agar 2013).But as important and intriguing as these mixed cases are from ethical and conceptual perspectives (Hogle 2005), this essay will only engage them in two ways.This broad definition flows from and reflects the foundational literature in this area (Parens 1998), but it also has several implications that are sometimes forgotten.First, it means that simple line-drawing exercises aimed at isolating “enhancement technologies” from other biomedical interventions for special precautionary regulation or oversight are destined to be ineffective (.This means that the developers of even the most outré enhancement interventions will almost always be able to appeal to some correlative therapeutic uses to justify their research, testing, and release into the market (Mehlman 1999).On the other hand, simply pointing out that biomedical technologies can have both therapeutic and enhancement uses does nothing to collapse the logical distinction between those uses, or to defeat the claim that those distinguishable uses might warrant different ethical responses (Buchanan 2011).Whether a given biomedical intervention counts as an enhancement depends on how it is used.When ankle-strengthening surgery is used to improve a bicyclist’s competitive edge, it might raise enhancement concerns, but as a treatment for a bicyclist’s ankle injury, it does not.