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The case against perfection - Michael J. Sandel

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The case against perfection - ethics in the age of genetic engineering
Michael J. Sandel
Paperback / softback
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
UK Publication Date

"Sandel explores a paramount question of our era: how to extend the power and promise of biomedical science to overcome debility without compromising our humanity. His arguments are acute and penetrating, melding sound logic with compassion."
-Jerome Groopman, author of How Doctors Think

Breakthroughs in genetics present us with a promise and a predicament. The promise is that we will soon be able to treat and prevent a host of debilitating diseases. The predicament is that our newfound genetic knowledge may enable us to manipulate our nature-to enhance our genetic traits and those of our children. Although most people find at least some forms of genetic engineering disquieting, it is not easy to articulate why. What is wrong with re-engineering our nature?

The Case against Perfection explores these and other moral quandaries connected with the quest to perfect ourselves and our children. Michael Sandel argues that the pursuit of perfection is flawed for reasons that go beyond safety and fairness. The drive to enhance human nature through genetic technologies is objectionable because it represents a bid for mastery and dominion that fails to appreciate the gifted character of human powers and achievements. Carrying us beyond familiar terms of political discourse, this book contends that the genetic revolution will change the way philosophers discuss ethics and will force spiritual questions back onto the political agenda.

In order to grapple with the ethics of enhancement, we need to confront questions largely lost from view in the modern world. Since these questions verge on theology, modern philosophers and political theorists tend to shrink from them. But our new powers of biotechnology make these questions unavoidable. Addressing them is the task of this book, by one of America's preeminent moral and political thinkers.

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Michael J. Sandel is Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University.

In the future, genetic manipulation of embryos is expected to have the potential to go beyond the treatment of diseases to improvements:
children who are taller, more athletic, and have higher IQs...In The Case against Perfection, Michael Sandel argues that the unease many people feel about such manipulations have a basis in reason...This beautifully crafted little book...quickly and clearly lays out the key issues at stake.
Christian Science Monitor - Gregory M. Lamb

In this short and provocative treatise, Sandel, who is professor of government at Harvard and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, takes on the question of why certain kinds of newly available genetic technologies make us uneasy...[his] book reminds us that the proper starting point for bioethics is not, "what should we do?" but rather, "what kind of society do we want?" And "what kind of people are we?"
The Scientist - Faith McLellan

The Case against Perfection by Michael Sandel is a brief, concise, and dazzling argument by one of America's foremost moral and political thinkers that brings you up to speed on the core ethical issues informing current debates about genetic engineering and stem cell research.
BBC Radio - Gabriel Gbadamosi

We live in a world, says Michael Sandel, where "science moves faster than moral understanding." But thanks to Sandel, moral understanding is catching up. Cloning, stem cell research, performance-enhancing drugs, pills that make you stronger or taller: if some scientific development bothers you, but you can't explain why, Michael Sandel will help you to figure out why you're troubled. And then he'll tell you whether you should be.
Michael Kinsley

Sandel explores a paramount question of our era: how to extend the power and promise of biomedical science to overcome debility without compromising our humanity. His arguments are acute and penetrating, melding sound logic with compassion. We emerge from this book feeling edified and inspired.
Jerome Groopman, Harvard Medical School, author of How Doctors Think

Nobody's perfect, and Mr. Sandel's book makes an instructive and engaging case that that nobody should be.
New York Sun - Yuval Levin

[A] graceful and intelligent new book.
New England Journal of Medicine - Carl Elliott

In a highly readable, wise and little book titled The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering, Michael Sandel argues that parents' quest to create the ideal child reflects a drive for mastery and domination over life.
Vancouver Sun - Douglas Todd

Given the vast gulf between progressive and conservative thinking, the time is ripe for a philosopher to take on the issues of biotechnology.
And in The Case against Perfection Harvard's Michael Sandel does just that, attempting to develop a new position on biotechnology, one that, like Sandel himself, is not easily identified as either left or right.
A former member of the President's Council on Bioethics, Sandel is uniquely well suited for this task, and to challenge the left to get its bearings on the brave new biology...Sandel poses an important challenge to contemporary progressives who have failed to grasp the importance of the emerging biopolitics.
Democracy - Jonathan Moreno

An illuminating ethical analysis of stem-cell research concludes this stellar work of public philosophy.
Booklist - Ray Olson

[Sandel] makes the compelling case that gentic engineering to gain advantage for ourselves and our children is deeply disempowering, because it turns us away from the communal good, toward self-centered striving.
The Lancet - Anne Harding

Anyone who thinks our culture is too competitive and consumer-driven should find that Sandel's diagnosis resonates. He provides not only a warning about the shape of the future, but equally an indictment of--or at least a call to examine--our individual moral lives and our contemporary social values. Those who support the practice of genetic enhancement argue that the technology is not substantially different from other forms of "enhancement" we use to improve our lives and the lives of our children. Sandel agrees, but he does not base his argument on any particular distinction about the means of enhancement; rather he is deeply concerned about the underlying impetus of mastery and dominion.
Bioethics Forum - Debra Greenfield

Keyword Index
Genetic engineering - Moral and ethical aspects.
Country of Publication
Number of Pages

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