controversies & ethics

S. LaBonne labonnes at csc.albany.edu
Tue Jan 31 19:39:33 EST 1995

In article <3gm7u9$t5e at nntp1.u.washington.edu>,
Jared Roach <roach at u.washington.edu> wrote:

>        Now one might argue that the speed of recombinant research
>has two dangers:
>        1) The rest of the ecosystem is not changing as fast to
>modify itself so as to maintain some kind of ecological "balance."
>Furthermore, scientists may be slower to understand ecological impact
>than they are in developing new organisms.

This is not an ethical issue until the ecological problems are
shown to be more concrete than vague forebodings.  Even then,
it is not an ethical problem of a new _kind_, being nothing
more than the familiar tradeoffs between benefits and environmental
impact that must be considered in the case of virtually _any_
technological change.

>        2) The human race as a whole (or national governments, or
>individuals) is slow to reach consensus on ethical issues (i.e.
>religion, abortion, the creation of new species, etc.)  Science
>should slow its pace of discovery to allow Ethics to catch up.

There is much to be said for this contention, but again biotechnology
is not unique in giving rise to such considerations.

I still say there are _no_ ethical considerations that are _unique to
biotechnology as such_, and I fail to see the case for singling out
biotechnology in an ethics course; what's more, this tends to give
scientifically naive students, and members of the public, an
irrational fear of biotechnology over and above other technologies.
Naturally, biotechnology can serve as a valuable source of _examples_
in discussions of the ethics of applying new technologies in general.

Steve LaBonne *********************** (labonnes at csc.albany.edu)
"It can never be satisfied, the mind, never." - Wallace Stevens

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