Volume 22, 2006
Science, Technology, and Social Justice
Autonomy, Pluralism and the Future of the Species
Agar and Habermas on Liberal Eugenics
The present essay tries to address certain questions arising from the conjunction of biological and political issues by entering into the debate surrounding what Nicolas Agar has called “liberal eugenics.”1 The advocates of liberal eugenics argue for the moral validity of both ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ eugenics: genetic interventions which target the prevention of diseases are ‘negative’ while ‘positive’ interventions ‘enhance’ the hereditary capacities of future persons. But is there a necessary contradiction, or at least pronounced tension, between the liberal eugenicist’s emphasis on parental choice in the realm of genetic decision-making
and liberal principles, such as pluralism and autonomy? If so, why? In this paper, I examine Agar’s defense of liberal eugenics. I then discuss the criticisms raised by Jurgen Habermas in “The Debate on the Ethical Self-Understanding of the Species,” concluding that it is necessary to pursue a cautious strategy in the utilization of genetic technologies.