Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Is there a case against the case against perfection?

Harvard’s Michael Sandel has taken this article and turned it into a book, described here and reviewed, by Slate’s William Saletan, here.

Sandel appears to respect the religious case against perfection and seems to try to fashion a secular counterpart. Saletan isn’t persuaded:

Once gene therapy becomes routine, the case against genetic engineering will sound as quaint as the case against running coaches.

In other words, saying that enhancement isn’t sporting isn’t good enough. Here’s what Saletan prefers:

Given a choice between a world of fate and blamelessness and a world of freedom and responsibility, I’ll take the latter. Such a world may be, as Sandel says, too daunting for the humans of today. But not for the humans of tomorrow.


In a world without givens, a world controlled by bioengineering, we would dictate our nature as well as our practices and norms. We would gain unprecedented power to redefine the good. In so doing, we would strip perfection of its independence. Its meaning would evolve as our nature and our ideals evolved.

Saletan concedes that this apparently endless "evolution" might not be good for us. But he can’t know for sure, without either a vision of nature or of the God who created it.

Discussions - 2 Comments

And to think, people used to deride science fiction for depicting futures where everyone was physically perfect. They should have been deriding science fiction for depicting futures with 1950s standards of perfection.

Is it just me or is there something positively Rousseauian (or maybe Nietzschean) about Saletan's "power to redefine the good"? I wonder who this "we" is that will get to redefine "our nature"?

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