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wundayatta's avatar

In improving human capabilities, should we deny ourselves free choice?

Asked by wundayatta (58604points) June 30th, 2009

I am thinking of things like genetic engineering, study drugs, and sports doping. All these things help us improve our capabilities. Yet we choose to forgo some.

Some of the reasons that we, as a society, make it illegal to enhance our capabilities is that we think it makes it unfair (in sports) or it might harm the individual.

If you make something that improves performance illegal, you then have to enforce your will. You enter a cat and mouse game where people are trying to get an advantage using a technique you can’t catch, and you try to develop ways of catching those techniques. If you let people use any technique, then all athletes would have a choice, and wouldn’t be punished for their choice.

However, should we let people choose to harm themselves? If so, why are some harms allowable, but others not? Why is doping illegal, but playing football (American) or boxing is not? Why is genetic improvement by selecting a mate considered allowable, but manipulating genes more precisely is worrisome? Why do we make drugs that allow us to study better and do better on tests illegal? Should we continue to discriminate against some capability-enhancing techniques, or should all be fair in maximizing our abilities?

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6 Answers

CMaz's avatar

” If you let people use any technique, then all athletes would have a choice, and wouldn’t be punished for their choice.”
They have the choice, they do it all the time. As long as it does not harm others, and as a civilized society we want to avoid the bad example from people harming themselves.
But, when fair play is involved. It takes that away.
If you then said we will make it available to all players. It would always be a need of more and more. We know that eventually, players would be dropping dead at every game. Just so they can be the winner or try to be. Have to set a base line to avoid ego getting in the way of their own self distruction..
Genetic engineering is a whole other thing. Watch the movie Gattaga. At least for now, to alter someone’s genetic information to make them healthier, smarter and stronger. Would mean some would not be.
And, you are (think you are) removing natural selection from the equation. No matter what you do. It will always be survival of the fittest.
Today everyone (more then in the past) can stay in the game. (of life) When there was a time if you were not healthy enough you died. We all want to be the strongest or fool ourselves in believing it.
Why are some harms allowable and some not. There is not enough time in the day to manage all of it.
Especially when we tend to want what we want for the sake of having it. So we try to weed out the bigger issues but that allows for others to get under the fence.
Funny thing about human nature. Power, especially absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It is not about the best way to maximize our abilities. It does come, in drips. But some will not benefit from it.
That is why people fight to prevent it. That prevention can be good. That is why we vote. That is why the hands of time go slowly.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

was going to spit of quite a healthy dose of Nihilism right there but you pretty much get the point already…

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

That advancement would come at too high a cost. There are several sci fi writers who have addressed this such as Heinlein in Starship Troopers.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I think the primary moral issue here is that there is inequality in who has access to 1. enhancement drugs and 2. education about those drugs. Add that on top of the equality that already exists and then go try and get a job against one of these enhanced players (say in sports) and you find yourself at a huge disadvantage.

So I would say the second moral arguement then is: Should those who choose healthy lifestyles (and forego the drugs) be put at a disadvantage?

I would also state that the more practical reasoning behind these laws is capitalism and control. Many things are illegal because it makes money having them as illegal or because it fuels a certain political propoganda.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

The answer to all of your questions stems from the diversity of society. Not everyone thinks like you. Not everyone thinks like me. What we have is a balance. It’s a balance I happen to enjoy.

hellboy's avatar

First of all these performance enhancing drugs have there certain serious side effects and it gives one upper hand than the others.
Secondly sports are supposed to be played with the natural strength granted to us by the nature itself.

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