Creation Ethics: Reproduction, Genetics, and Quality of Life

Creation Ethics: Reproduction, Genetics, and Quality of Life

Creation Ethics: Reproduction, Genetics, and Quality of Life

Creation Ethics: Reproduction, Genetics, and Quality of Life


The ethics of creating-or declining to create-human beings has been addressed in several contexts: debates over abortion and embryo research; literature on "self-creation"; and discussions of procreative rights and responsibilities, genetic engineering, and future generations. Here, for the first time, is a sustained, scholarly analysis of all of these issues-a discussion combining breadth of topics with philosophical depth, imagination with current scientific understanding, argumentative rigor with accessibility. The overarching aim of Creation Ethics is to illuminate a broad array of issues connected with reproduction and genetics, through the lens of moral philosophy. With novel frameworks for understanding prenatal moral status and human identity, and exceptional fairness to those holding different views, David DeGrazia sheds new light on the ethics of abortion and embryo research, genetic enhancement and prenatal genetic interventions, procreation and parenting, and decisions that affect the quality of life of future generations. Along the way, he helpfully introduces personal identity theory and value theory as well as such complex topics as moral status, wrongful life, and the "nonidentity problem." The results include a subjective account of human well-being, a standard for responsible procreation and parenting, and a theoretical bridge between consequentialist and nonconsequentialist ethical theories. The upshot is a synoptic, mostly liberal vision of the ethics of creating human beings.

"This is a valuable book on a fascinating topic, written by a major figure in the field. The topic of the ethics of creating people is both practically urgent, as new technologies develop for shaping human offspring, and also of great theoretical importance for ethics and meta-ethics because it engages the deepest issues, including those of moral status, the nature of justice, and identity. DeGrazia has already proved to be an important force in shaping the debate regarding these issues. Anyone writing on this topic will have to address this book head-on. The style is remarkably lucid and almost jargon-free. Given that the book is filled with complex, sustained argumentation, this is quite an accomplishment. This book will be of interest to legal scholars, philosophers working in normative ethics, meta-ethics, and bioethics, and public policy scholars." - Allen Buchanan, James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Duke University


To create is to bring into existence. Creation may involve simply making something, or it may involve invention—coming up with something new. Human beings create myriad things: buildings and books, thermometers and theories, microphones and marriages, paintings and peace treaties. Human beings even create, or decide not to create, human beings.

First, and most obviously, we human beings create other human beings through procreation—reproduction, as it is usually called. Most human reproduction occurs naturally, by way of sexual intercourse. Some reproduction, though, is made possible by artificial means such as in vitro fertilization. And, of course, people sometimes decide to terminate the process of reproductive creation by aborting pregnancies.

In addition to creating new human beings, people sometimes deliberately create, or refrain from creating, particular kinds of human beings—that is, human beings with particular characteristics—by controlling reproduction in various ways: carefully choosing a reproductive partner, or a sperm or egg donor; deciding to carry a fetus to term or aborting in view of what they think the offspring will or would be like; employing prenatal genetic diagnosis and selecting embryos on the basis of test results. At some point in the future, we will probably have the options of prenatal genetic therapy and prenatal genetic enhancement, which will extend the power to create human beings with particular characteristics.

Sometimes human creative activity is self-directed because people sometimes engage in self-creation. Although a person does not literally bring herself into . . .

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