Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics

Special Section: Alpha and Omega: Ethics at the Edges of Life

Genetic Engineering and Environmental Ethics

Andrew Dobsona1

a1 Chair of the Politics Department at Keele University, Staffordshire, England.

When God gave humankind dominion over the earth he may not have known exactly what we would be able to do with it. The technical capacities to which the production and reproduction of our everyday life have given rise have grown at an astonishing and, it seems, ever-increasing rate. The instruments that we use to do work on the world have become sharper and more refined, and the implications of human interventions in the nonhuman environment are much more far-reaching than could have been imagined even forty years ago. It has become something of a cliche to say that our technical abilities have outstripped the wisdom to know when, where, and how we should appropriately use them, but techniques such as genetic engineering invite the dusting-off of the cliche and the asking of the question implicit in it: We know we can splice genes, but should we splice them? We might of course come to the conclusion that we should only splice some of them some of the time, but even arriving at that conclusion presupposes that the ethical question has been asked and answered.

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