With talk of transhumanism and the enhancement of human capacities, ours is an age which seems increasingly to countenance the surpassing or even the total overriding of the limits of the human species, for better or for worse. In a closely related spirit, Jacques Testart tells us, eugenic tendencies are back, though not in this case as a consequence of authoritarian acts or policies but as a result of the headway made by the idea that we could, thanks to medical advance, eventually eliminate all risk of pathology or “abnormality” in new-born children. It is this surreptitious slide towards a new eugenics, which he describes as “soft, consensual and democratic”, that Jacques Testart describes in this article. He shows how, thanks to the advances made in pre-implantation diagnosis, combined with progress in the fields of cell biology and computing, ways are being developed to sort and select embryos which are the most perfect possible by currently prevailing social standards.
However as Testart, himself a pioneer in medically assisted procreation (he enabled the birth of the first “test tube baby” to occur in France in 1982), these substantial advances, which he describes in the course of his article, are not sufficient to guarantee the birth of perfect individuals and remain fallible. Moreover, they raise serious ethical questions about the delineation of what is considered “normal”, particularly in a society that tends towards cut-throat competition, and about the form of social organization to which the practice of a new eugenics of this kind might lead.