Asked to name “the most technologically sophisticated people on this continent,” few would short-list the Amish. But Mother Jones contributing writer Bill McKibben praises these considered Americans in Enough, his rumination on science and selfhood. McKibben doesn’t want his readers to drive buggies, but he does want to slow the “all-out race to technologize” that has gripped the Western world. He admires the Amish for eschewing technologies that threaten their community’s cohesion, while embracing others (say, mechanical manure spreaders) that prove useful tools.
The Amish show that “technological discrimination” is still “within the realm of human possibility.” And Enough argues that we need such powers of discernment, now more than ever, as we face innovations — cloning, genetic engineering — that challenge our very understanding of humanity.
In the opening chapter, McKibben recounts his elation at pushing his physical limitations to complete a marathon. But what if those limitations ceased to exist — if his genetically engineered great-grandson could run 26 miles without difficulty? Enough asks simply, earnestly whether better race times (or longer life spans, higher IQs, more symmetrical jawlines) will, in fact, make us better people.