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Compare and assess Leon Kass’s and Nick Bostrom’s arguments about the potential of biotechnology. what are their major points of disagreement? Essay Example


The debate centred on biotechnology is just warming up through the opinions of Leon R. Kass and Nick Bostrom. There are heavy underlying factors which cannot be overlooked whichever way one opts to view the debate. Leon R. Kass is a bioconservative while Nick Bostom is a transhumanist. Bioconservatives are basically in opposition to the use of technology to modify human nature. Their idea is centred on the notion that technologies that bring about human enhancement tend undermine human dignity. Trans-humanists on the other hand tend to believe that human enhancement technologies should be available to everyone for them to choose on which technologies they may apply to themselves as well as their children-to-be. Trans-humanists opine that the human enhancement technologies will offer great potential for valuable and beneficial uses to human. ‘Ultimately it is possible that such enhancements may make us…’post human’ , beings who may have infinite health-spans, much greater intellectual faculties than any current being as well as the ability to control their own emotions…’ (Nick Bostrom).

Leon R. Kass calls for caution and concern at the rate of the present and projected biotechnological application by human beings. For instance, he singles out that powers made possible by the biomedical science can be applied for non-therapeutic or ignoble purposes; serving ends that range from the frivolous and disquieting to offensive and pemicious. These powers may be converted to instruments of bioterrorism like, drugs that may obliterate memory or genetically engineered drug-resistant bacteria, drugs to tame rowdies and fertility blockers for welfare receivers.

According to Leon, many people are increasingly concerned as to where the biotechnology is heading and they are worried that the society will be harmed or they become diminished in ways that could undermine the highest possibilities of human life. Transhumanists rejoinder is that nature’s gifts are sometimes poisoned and should not be accepted, as they are e.g. Dementia, malaria, cancer, aging cognitive shortcomings, starvation, and unnecessary suffering.

It is in view of this that they advocate for use of biotechnology, this is one profound point of difference with bioconservatives. According to the transhumanists, our own species-specified natures are a main cause of thoroughly unrespectable and unacceptable susceptibility for diseases, murders, genocide, cheating, torture, and even racism, which should be well countered through biotechnology. Instead of sticking to the natural order, transhumanists maintain that we can legitimately change ourselves and natures with regard to humane values and general aspirations. On the other hand, the bioconservatives believe that human beings should not interfere with God’s creation while in pursuit of “perfection” of both the body and the mind.

Of great concern to most people, according to Leon R. Kass, is “man playing God” or about the Brave New World, which promises post human future. It raises issues on bioethics touching on the results of the biomedical engineering, what constitutes human flourishing, and the subsequent threat of dehumanization or super humanization. This is in complete contrast with what Nick Bostrom advocates for. Leon R. Kass raises three major objections to the usage of biomedical technologies that go “beyond therapy” to reflect the dominant values of the modern world.

The first objection relates to health-obsessed culture, in which the safety of the biological interventions may harm the individuals who partake of them. For instance athletes who take performance enhancing steroids are most likely to suffer from premature heart diseases in future. Either way, college students who take Ecstasy are bound to damage dopamine receptors in their basal ganglia hence suffer Parkinson’s diseases. According to Leon R. Kass, no biological agent that is prescribed to perfect oneself is entirely safe. On this issue he concludes by asserting that one should not risk their basic health in the pursuit of “better than well” enhancements.

The second objection is centered on the fundamental issue of coercion and freedom. This may be the case when biotechnical power is used by some people upon others without their consent, say in social control or for putative improvement which may selection of sex or sexual orientation of an unborn child. This is one of the major arguments against human cloning whereby the genetic despotism of one generation is charged to the next. Either way what is mostly used by many people and permitted may become mandatory by default. There is need for one to be conformist in the society by doing what others doing so as to fit in. This kind of restriction of freedom may mostly lead to homogenization, which is not healthy for a society. The third objection according to Leon R. Kass as pertain the use of personal enhancers by competitors in certain games, students while taking examinations and other people who engage in competitive activities.

The intake of steroids by some athletes may give them undue advantage over the others. Distributive justice does not take precedence over the unfairness question among those who are taking the enhancers and those who are not. This may be occasioned by systematic disparities between who will have access to the enhancers and those that will not have any access to the enhancers. The major point of interest is not the equality of access, but rather the badness or goodness of the thing on offer.

Nick Bostrom is of a different view from those of Leon R. Kass, for instance the assumption by the bioconservatives that the ”genetic modifications that are inheritable or other human enhancements technologies would lead to two distinct and separate species” should be questioned. On the contrary there is likely hood of a continuum of differently enhanced or modified people. There are also high prospects that they may live harmoniously with one another. The notion that there may be a fight between the different classes of people seems to be far fetched. Stigmatization, inequality, and discrimination either to or against the post humans or humans are acceptable social problems, which can be handled through social remedies.

Another assumption that our descendants will be more technologically advanced than we are, and yet defenseless against our machinations to expand their capabilities are almost certainly incorrect. This is because if someone desired to lead a short life, be less healthy and be less intelligent they would still get a means of achieving their desires. Nick points out that “if the parental choice in determining the basic capacities of new people is entrusting the child’s welfare to nature, that is blind chance, then the decision should be easy” Had Mother Nature been a real parent , she would have been in jail for child abuse and murder. This is why the transhumanists accept of course, just as the society may in special circumstances override parental autonomy they may provide an alternative through genetic interventions for the child-to-be.

In conclusion, the transhumanist viewpoint is that there is no need as if there existed a deep moral divergence between technological and the other ways of enhancing human lives, notably the bioconservatives view. In defense of the post human dignity, the transhumanist promote a more inclusive and humane ethics which would ensure future technologically modified people to be humane.

Works cited