2004 Lectures: Jonathan Glover

Professor Jonathan Glover

Professor Jonathan Glover

We were honoured to welcome Professor Glover to Oxford to deliver the Inaugural Uehiro Lectures in Practical Ethics in 2004. 

The lecture series was entitled 'Choosing Children: the Ethical Dilemmas of Genetic Intervention', and were published as a book by Oxford University Press in 2008.

Professor of Ethics at King's College, University of London, Jonathan Glover also serves as the director of the Center for Medical Law and Ethics. In that role, he guides the center's teaching, research, and discussion of law and ethics in relation to medicine and health care. He currently is working on ethical issues in psychiatry and questions raised by the Human Genome Project. Dr. Glover is the author of several books on ethics, including Causing Death and Saving Lives and an investigation of evil, entitled Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century. He chaired a European Commission Working Party on Assisted Reproduction, which produced Ethics of New Reproductive Technologies: the Glover Report to the European Commission. For many years, he was a Fellow of New College at Oxford University.

Personal website.


Choosing Children: Genes, Disability, and Design

Book cover: Choosing Children

Oxford University Press

  • Should parents be free to choose what kind of children they have?
  • What is disability, and should it be eradicated?
  • Is it ethical to use genetic technology to 'enhance' human beings?
  • A lucid introduction to some of today's most contentious issues
  • Jonathan Glover is the leading writer on these topics
  • Choosing Children is the ideal short guide for general readers

Progress in genetic and reproductive technology now offers us the possibility of choosing what kinds of children we do and don't have. Should we welcome this power, or should we fear its implications? There is no ethical question more urgent than this: we may be at a turning-point in the history of humanity. The renowned moral philosopher and best-selling author Jonathan Glover shows us how we might try to answer this question, and other provoking and disturbing questions to which it leads.

Surely parents owe it to their children to give them the best life they can? Increasingly we are able to reduce the number of babies born with disabilities and disorders. But there is a powerful new challenge to conventional thinking about the desirability of doing so: this comes from the voices of those who have these conditions. They call into question the very definition of disability. How do we justify trying to avoid bringing people like them into being?

In 2002 a deaf couple used sperm donated by a friend with hereditary deafness to have a deaf baby: they took the view that deafness is not a disability, but a difference. Starting with the issues raised by this case, Jonathan Glover examines the emotive idea of 'eugenics', and the ethics of attempting to enhance people, for non-medical reasons, by means of genetic choices. Should parents be free, not only to have children free from disabilities, but to choose, for instance, the colour of their eyes or hair? This is no longer a distant prospect, but an existing power which we cannot wish away. What impact will such interventions have, both on the individuals concerned and on society as a whole?

Should we try to make general improvements to the genetic make-up of human beings? Is there a central core of human nature with which we must not interfere?

This beautifully clear book is written for anyone who cares about the rights and wrongs of parents' choices for their children, anyone who is concerned about our human future. Glover handles these uncomfortable questions in a controversial but always humane and sympathetic manner.

"Glover's book is informative, argumentative and well structured." (Daniel Loewe Medicine Health Care and Philosophy)

OUP Webpage.