Transhuman Babies and Human Pariahs 203
accommodate creatures other than humans in a “Transhuman” society grounded on democratic
principles.178 Therefore, Hughes’ theory favors a general notion of personhood as a basis to award
legal rights and protections to genetically modified humans.179 Moreover, Hughes’ perspective on
“personhood” is in line with the Transhumanist belief that human nature in itself, is to seek
evolution of the present human form through technological means.180
The problem with this view is that “personhood” is an inherently vague, largely undefined
legal notion, and therefore, a legal system based on generic “personhood” could potentially extend
personhood rights to any genetically modified human—no matter how “non-human” he or she
is—or deny personhood rights to those who should be entitled to them.181 Hughes’ approach also
leaves other concerns expressed by opponents unaddressed; for example, how would humans and
modified humans have a functional coexistence in society?182 This concern goes at the heart of the
proposition that germline genetic engineering can be detrimental to the current socio-legal status
quo.183 Nevertheless, although Hughes promotes the idea of general personhood, he also makes an
important acknowledgement, which is that “human specific DNA is only relevant to citizenship to
the extent that it codes for the mental and emotional abilities that we identify as essentially human.”
The aforementioned proposals are at opposite ends in the ideological spectrum. They also,
constitute an impressive intellectual exercise, which is unhelpful for practical purposes; their
broadness and reliance on the unsupported notion that personhood depends upon an arbitrary
element of human essence—whether ethereal or tangible—renders them unusable in a practical,
legal sense. Philosopher Hannah Arendt explained the inherent problem of such proposition in her
book, The Human Condition:
The problem of human nature, the Augustinian question mihi factus sum (“a
question I have become for myself”), seems unanswerable in both its individual
psychological sense and its general philosophical sense. It is highly unlikely that
we, who can know, determine, and define the natural essences of all things
surrounding us, which we are not, should ever be able to do the same for ourselves-
this would be like jumping over our own shadows. Moreover, nothing entitles us to
assume that man has a nature or essence in the same sense as other things. In other
words, if we have a nature or essence, then surely only a god could know and define
it, and the first prerequisite would be that he be able to speak about a “who” as
though it were a “what.” The perplexity is that the modes of human cognition
applicable to things with natural qualities, including ourselves to the limited extent
180 Michael Hauskeller, Prometheus Unbound: Transhumanist Arguments From (Human) Nature, 16 ETHICAL
PERSP. 3, 9-10 (2009), http://www.ethical-perspectives.be/viewpic.php?LAN=E&TABLE=EP&ID=1165.
181 HUGHES, supra note 177, at 79, 93.
182 See Andrews, Annas & Isasi, supra note 12, at 153. The authors believe that the widespread implementation of
the technology would result in the emergence of the “posthuman” and as such, “the new species or subspecies, or
‘posthuman,’ will likely view the old “normal” humans as inferior, even savages, and fit for slavery or slaughter. Id.
at 162 “The normal, on the other hand, may see the posthumans as a threat and if they can, may engage in a
preemptive strike by killing the posthumans before they themselves are killed or enslaved by them.” Id.
183 See generally id.
184 HUGHES, supra note 177, at 93 (emphasis added).