Francis Fukuyama is a provocative and informative writer who makes the argument in Our Posthuman Future (2002) that we had better wake up and take some real, effective regulatory action to control the rapidly changing field of biotechnology before we find ourselves losing our humanity.
Human beings have always differed from the rest of living things in the extent of our ability to modify our environment through cultural means. There are some evolutionary biologists who think that the invention of stone tools and learning to control fire created selective pressures eventually resulting in the dramatic reduction of the human jaw. There can be no question that cultural innovations such as dressing in animal skins and textiles made of natural fibres allowed early man to conquer regions of greater cold and altitude than he had formerly been able to survive in.
So there is nothing new about man making himself, and modifying the effect the natural environment has on him. The novelty of current developments in a whole variety of life sciences is that they give us new powers to model our minds and bodies in ways that can only be dimly guessed at today. This revolution promises to make us live healthier and longer, but just as we found with nuclear energy, it has both potentially beneficial and harmful effects. While the benefits of splitting the atom gave us nuclear power, it has also threatened to exterminate all life on earth. Fukuyama makes an impassioned and cogent plea to the reader to be more educated about the deleterious side effects of some apparently beneficial technologies, and urges the strict regulation of the emerging life-altering technologies such as cloning, genetic engineering, and the manipulation of behavior and feeling through the use of mind-altering drugs.
Fukuyama does a good job of outlining the history of science that has led us to this juncture. He examines the perennial and unresolvable nature-nurture ar...