I requested the first one from ILL, but when it came I couldn't remember why, at first. After a while I remembered that one of the commenters on barefoot meandering's video game blogpost had talked about the difference between accepting love and transforming love and had mentioned this book.
The two kinds of love turn out to be defined by someone called William May in The President's Council on Bioethics:
Parents find it difficult to maintain an equilibrium between the two sides of love. Accepting love, without transforming love, slides into indulgence and finally neglect. Transforming love, without accepting love, badgers and finally rejects. E.B. White captured nicely the difficulties of balancing the two contending passions as they pervade daily life:
"Every morning when I wake up, I am torn between the twin desires to reform the world and to enjoy the world and it makes it hard to plan the day."
It may not overreach to observe that modern science exhibits the two sides of love suggested here. On the one hand, science engages us in beholding; it lets us study and savor the world as it is. On the other hand, science and the technologies it generates engage us in moulding, in the project of transforming, amending, and perfecting the given world.
Coincidentally, this theme is present in the other book I read, which I picked fromthe Temporary Book Collection in our tiny local library. Dr Leman doesn't use the words, but he also discusses how parents can sometimes try so hard to improve their children that they implicitly seem to reject the child as he exists.
Now, back to science and the Case Against Perfection. Michael Sandel discusses the new possibilities for genetic enhancement that exist in our society now. He makes an analogy to the kind of low-tech enhancement that parents already practice. Expensive SAT prep classes, to the tune of thousands of dollars; preparation courses for 2 year olds, in order that they can compete for the "Baby Ivy" prep schools; help with homework and college apps. Where does it stop? He makes the excellent point that an increase in the possibilities brings with it an increase in responsibility, and guilt, and "ownership". When genetic enhancement of a child's height, or memory, or muscles, is a possibility, when does it start becoming an obligation, a duty? How much of the achievement can be considered the child's, when the parents are the ones designing the genetic possibilities?
He says you already see this a bit in Down Syndrome cases. Now that there is a possibility of genetic screening, there is also a possibility of termination of unwanted Down children. When there is that possibility, then the parents who choose not to test or terminate end up holding the bag -- it is almost "their fault" that they have a disabled child. (it's not in reality, of course, but I definitely have seen this reasoning in our society).
In a future where genetic tinkering is an option, will there be even more divisions between privileged and unprivileged, and will parental responsibility for bringing up "designer children" become all-encompassing? These are the questions the author asks, and they are not easy to answer. As he says, they are the kind of questions that "science" tends to avoid, because they seem to have "religious" implications, but in fact they can be addressed without specific religiosity.
I thought when I was reading the chapter on "low tech" enhancements like prep-testing for 2 year olds, that these things have a tendency to backfire. Children who have been extensively prepped for tests may not develop in other ways that are more important in the long term. The author does not mention this-- to make his argument against enhancements clearer, I think, he focuses only on the troubling aspects of genuine improvement. Only as an aside does he comment that improvements like eagle-eyes for golfers might have costs for the player's ability as well as benefits. But you do see that the success record for most "helicopter parents" and "hurried children" is mixed at the very least. This brings the problem back to the issue he mentioned -- that what humans seem to value in achievement is the natural gift plus what the person makes of it. We admire Achilles for his natural gifts, but are disappointed by his character flaws. We regret that Hector was defeated, yet in the long run admire him more for his defeat than we do Achilles for his victory.