Faster, Higher, More Moral?: Human Enhancement and Christianity

With Drs. Moira McQueen and Tracy Trothen I co-authored an article in Religions. Journal link. Download open-access version.

Our work was presented as a panel for the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions and as a public lecture at the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. Event page. Youtube link.


The three authors of this article explore the intersection of moral enhancement, ethics, and Christianity. Trothen reviews the meaning and potential of moral enhancements, considering some of the risks and limitations. Trothen identifies three broad ethical questions, which all three authors agree upon, that arise from a Christian theological perspective: what it means to be human, choice, and social justice. Trothen concludes that respect for human dignity and social justice requires rejecting a reductive view of moral improvement as purely biochemical. Buttrey then argues that biomedical moral enhancement (BME) is simply one in a series of attempts to morally improve human beings and can be compared to other efforts such as neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics. He argues that BME cannot be simultaneously more reliable than moral education in virtue and no more restrictive of human freedom. He concludes by suggesting that tensions between BME and Thomistic virtue are even stronger due to Christian conceptions of martyrdom and radical self-denial. Finally, McQueen argues that Christianity emphasizes the common good and social justice as essential for human flourishing. Building on the foundation established by Trothen and Buttrey, McQueen insists that accurate cognitive knowledge is needed to make good conscience decisions, but emphasizes that right human action also requires the exercise of the will, which can be undermined by AI, automation, and perhaps also BME. She concludes by encouraging further attention to the true nature of human agency, human freedom, and wisdom in debates over AI and biomedical enhancement. The authors conclude that BMEs, if they become medically safe, may be theologically justifiable and helpful as a supplement to moral improvement.