Our moral shortcomings are preventing our political institutions from acting effectively. Enhancing our moral motivation would enable us to act better for distant people, future generations, and non-human animals. One method to achieve this enhancement is already practised in all societies: moral education. Al Gore, Friends of the Earth and Oxfam have already had success with campaigns vividly representing the problems our selfish actions are creating for others – others around the world and in the future. But there is another possibility emerging. Our knowledge of human biology – in particular of genetics and neurobiology – is beginning to enable us to directly affect the biological or physiological bases of human motivation, either through drugs, or through genetic selection or engineering, or by using external devices that affect the brain or the learning process. We could use these techniques to overcome the moral and psychological shortcomings that imperil the human species. We are at the early stages of such research, but there are few cogent philosophical or moral objections to the use of specifically biomedical moral enhancement – or moral bioenhancement. In fact, the risks we face are so serious that it is imperative we explore every possibility of developing moral bioenhancement technologies – not to replace traditional moral education, but to complement it. We simply can’t afford to miss opportunities. We have provided ourselves with the tools to end worthwhile life on Earth forever. Nuclear war, with the weapons already in existence today could achieve this alone. If we must possess such a formidable power, it should be entrusted only to those who are both morally enlightened and adequately informed.

OUPblog » Blog Archive » Unfit for the future: The urgent need for moral enhancement. How delightful. The professors making this proposal consider some objections to their scheme, but none of them are actual objections. They seem not to have considered some fairly obvious questions: Who gets to decide what counts as a “moral enhancement”? (Aside from the obvious candidate, Al Gore.) Presumably few people will think that they need to be morally enhanced, so if this system is to work people will have to be forcibly subjected to the necessary procedures: do the professors find the costs of that coercion trivial? Moreover, how would they know if the enhancement procedure works? (Because people would then earnestly say, “I love Big Brother”?)

Notice also the nod to eugenics (“genetic selection or engineering”): those deemed morally inadequate would be sterilized, and future babies DNA-adjusted for proper beliefs.

The only people who ever — ever — make proposals like this are those who think they’ll be in charge and will not themselves be subjected to anything against their will. See the third chapter of Lewis’s The Abolition of Man for details.