CLEVELAND Someday soon, men and women could be able to direct human evolution possibly to the point where parents could prevent passing on an inherent disease to their children, or space explorers might become more suited for travel to other planets.
In his new book officially published in October 2012, Maxwell J. Mehlman examines matters of law and bioethics certain to emerge.
Transhumanist Dreams and Dystopian Nightmares: The Promise and Peril of Genetic Engineering (Johns Hopkins University Press) is about balancing genetic innovation with caution. Natural evolution is a gradual process. Advances in genetic engineering are changing that picture with ways to improve human mental and physical capacities.
Mehlman is Arthur E. Petersilge Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He is co-director of The Law-Medicine Center at the university's law school and a professor of biomedical ethics at Case Western Reserve's School of Medicine.
With available technology, parents will be able to make crucial decisions about forming the next generation. Reproductive cells can be altered, for example, to remove risk of a disease passing to offspring. Mehlman refers to such genetic design as "evolutionary engineering."
In his book, Mehlman explains that "transhumanists" are those who are certain humanity can be improved and are convinced that evolutionary engineering will make humans disease-free, long-lived and perhaps even immortal, resilient to environmental change, and adaptable to new habitats.
"Quite literally, it could be our ticket to the stars," he writes.
He acknowledges that there are those whose belief systems are threatened by directed evolution. There are also concerns among members in the scientific community, who point to the intricacies of genetics and a need to better understand interactions between genes and the environment.
Despite concerns, technology adva
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Case Western Reserve University