05 December 2006

The New Atlantis

The new New Atlantis is now up on the web, including a piece called "Beyond the Right to Life" from Wilfred McClay:

Even the most complacent observers of the contemporary scene know that we find ourselves in a time of extraordinary promise and peril for the human condition. The two prospects are tightly intertwined. We are proud of our ability to free ourselves from material necessity and from outdated traditions and inherited cultural prejudices, and take for granted an ever-growing knowledge of, and control over, the physical mechanisms of our existence. We feel confident that there are no mysteries or constraints that our knowledge cannot eventually master, no diseases it cannot cure, no possibilities it cannot open to us. And yet nearly all of us experience, from time to time, a shudder of anxiety at the unknown landscapes into which all this is carrying us. Our medical and biotechnological breakthroughs increasingly arrive on our doorsteps with the faint odor of ancient transgression still clinging to them. Every day human ingenuity pushes us into some precinct that was once off-limits, while practices that were once forbidden or rare or unthinkable become commonplace with astonishing rapidity. The momentum of innovation at times seems unstoppable, answerable neither to effective political control nor to effective moral interdictions grounded in a shared metaphysics.



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