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Bill McKibben, Enough


Today I wrote another book review, a review of Bill McKibben's Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, April 2003). The book review will be delivered by the Kyodo Tsushin press agency to many local newspapers around Japan. This book was very interesting. This is my first time to read Bill McKibben's book. A reviewer on Amazon.com writes as follows:

Unlike McKibben, who seems to view human beings as a fixed endowment (perhaps from a Creator), I think we can view ourselves as ever changing, ever evolving beings, constantly in the process of becoming. I welcome the excitement and prospect of our accelerated evolution. Yes, there are dangers ahead, so it is important to proceed with caution and full deliberation.

This is a shallow idea about technology and humanity. Mckibben's aim is to criticize the philosophy that lies behind this kind of thinking. Of course it is not so easy to criticize this "mainstream" ideology of contemporary scientific civilization, but some of Mckibben's arguments ought to be persuasive even to those who firmly believe in the progress of science and technology.

The main theme of the book is the "enhancement" of humans by the manipulation of human genes in fertilized eggs. It is not possible to manipulate human genes at present, but many scientists believe that it will become possible in the near future. That is to say, in the future we will be able to enhance our own children's IQ, physical abilities, looks, and so on, by manipulating the genes of the fertilized eggs of our child. Mckibben quotes various words of scholars who are saying that genetic enhancement is considered not only morally acceptable but also the necessary outcome of the progress of science.

Mckibben thinks that the introduction of enhanced abilities into children's genes will deprive them of the possibility of attaining their own happiness. People's happiness and deep fulfilment can only be achieved by going through suffering and limitations they experience in the voyage of life. Genetic enhancement gradually deprives us of happiness and human dignity. I think this is what Mckibben tried to stress in his book.

I believe what he wants to say is completely right, because I said the same thing in my book Painless Civilization in a different way. Both Mckibben's book and mine were published in 2003, the same year. I am very pleased to know we share the same perspective on contemporary society and civilization.

After reading his book, I start to think that I will have to write a paper on genetic enhancement from the perspective of painless civilization in English. What do you think of this idea?

(Topic to be continued...)

Photo: Trash cans.

 -- M.Morioka www.lifestudies.org

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