Biotechnology and the Good Life

In October 2003, the President’s Council on Bioethics released a report entitled Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness. The report examines a wide range of real and potential biotechnologies: genetic control over our offspring, drugs that alter mood and memory, genes that boost human muscles, interventions that extend the human lifespan. Rather than simply assessing the pros and cons of each technology, the report explores the aspirations these innovations aim to satisfy, and the place of biotechnology in the pursuit of the good life.

In the symposium that follows, The New Atlantis asked five authors to reflect on Beyond Therapy—the questions it asks, the dilemmas it raises, and the choices it sets before us. Wilfred M. McClay offers a general reflection on the report’s significance for American public life. The other authors consider each of the major subjects of the report: Steve Talbott on “better children,” Charles T. Rubin on “superior performance,” Diana Schaub on “ageless bodies,” and Peter A. Lawler on “happy souls.”