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November 09, 2007


Peter Coville

Hmmm it seems to me that you could be brushing away Sandel's arguments just a little lightly. Of course, saying that "much of Sandel's argument will appeal to religious believers" is a way of discrediting Sandel's arguments rather too easily, in the firm knowledge that the majority of your readers will be atheists/agnostics. More importantly though - and I don't know whether Sandel himself criticizes genetic perfectionism in precisely these terms - isn't it true that much of human achievement, whether it be sporting, ethical, emotional or other, does take its significance from the (present) fact that human nature sets limitations on action? One doesn't need to be a religious believer to hold this view. Much of great human culture relies on the assumption that human nature is fixed and limited, hence its universal appeal. Think of Shakespeare's characters struggling with mortality, ambition and jealousy. Perhaps the extent of our limitations - including the central one: mortality - are such that we've got nothing much to worry about from genetic manipulation, for the time being at least. And perhaps gripping onto the comforter of human nature is the last form of conservatism, which will need to be overcome and left behind, as a childish thing in the life story of the species. Yet throwing overboard "the given" as it is expressed in human culture, whether religious or artistic, and effacing the distinction between nature - as what is given - and culture - as what humans might change, would at least seem to merit a debate!


Well I am a Muslim and I don't see how I could justify refraining from becoming more perfect. Did God not create us to become more like Him?

And why on Earth do so many believers use the phrase "playing God"? How can anyone ever play God?

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