Unintended Bad Consequences

Allen Buchanan

in Beyond Humanity?

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199587810
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728761 | DOI:

Series: Uehiro Series in Practical Ethics

Unintended Bad Consequences

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This chapter grapples with what is here taken to be the most serious objection to embarking on the enhancement project: the risk of unintended bad consequences. It argues that the discussion of this risk has been distorted by a failure to appreciate the full range of the possible benefits of enhancement and by mistaken views about evolution. The simple but often neglected point is that the assessment of risk is comparative. Building on the discussion of the potential benefits of enhancement in Chapter 2 and on the basis of a more adequate understanding of evolution, the chapter offers a set of cautionary heuristics designed to reduce the risk of unintended bad consequences in the case of what many regard as the riskiest type of enhancement: deliberate germline genetic modification.

Keywords: biomedical enhancement; cost-benefit analysis; evolution; heuristics; the precautionary principle; risk

Chapter.  14591 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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