Lachen, Beger als Zahnarzt (anthropologische Messung)

Striving for perfection – eugenics and posthumanism

Could eugenics and posthumanism, be seen as containing the same ideological foundation? Both of them seems to have a striving for perfection as a central motivation. This striving, as we know, manifested itself in one of the most terrible disasters of humanity – the holocaust / the Nazi eugenics program. Almost everyone would probably agree that killing other people, based on their genepool would be extremely inhumane and cruel, and seen as something belonging to the past. But what about choosing abortion because your unborn child shows signs of downs syndrome or infantile autism? What if you could make sure your child wouldn’t be predisposed to depression, cancer or low intelligence? In other words, what if you could make your child flawless? Is eugenics suddenly okay, as long as the selection process does not involve the direct killing of other living human beings?

One of the most interesting things about eugenics – especially in the light of new technologies – is that it raises questions about our perception of ourselves in relation to nature. Are we inseparable from nature (whatever technologies humans create and use is still part of nature and eugenics is therefore a natural part of evolution)? Or are we separate from nature (what separates humans from other animals is our “ability to act as moral agents, to reason and use language, and to emphasize” (Fukuyama p. 162) and we are therefore responsible for our choices)?

Can our striving for perfection be boiled down to a fundamental dissatisfaction with life as it is, to such a degree, that we are willing to pursue the idea of perfection despite our knowledge that it notoriously seems to involve inhumanity in some form? Wouldn’t it be better to give attention to the root of the “problem” instead of its many symptoms, or is the striving in itself, above everything else, what really makes us human?

Francis Fukuyama: Agency or Inevitabllity: Will Human Beings Control Their Technological Future? in: Thomsen, et. al: The Posthuman Condition: Ethics, Aesthetics and Politics of Biotechnological Challenges, pp. 162, Aarhus University Press, 2012

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Sebastian Edin

Hej Maja,

Thanks for the above post! You mention a “striving for perfection” as a convergence point between eugenics and posthumanism—my question is as follows: Is this “striving for perfection”, this pursuit of a mastery over “nature” through technological advancements not more a trait of trans-humanist, rather than post-humanist, thinking (and I would argue for a separation between the two, seeing as how transhumanism, far from being posthumanist, really only augments humanist transcendentalist ideals)?

/ Sebastian