Genetics and Human Reproduction
This chapter provides background and an overview of genetics and human reproduction, including its scientific, social, and historical context. The chapter mentions ethical issues that arise in different areas of research related to genetics and human reproduction, including genetic testing and screening, genetic counseling, prenatal genetic testing, preimplantation genetic testing, surrogate pregnancy, reproductive cloning, somatic gene therapy, stem cell research, and genetic engineering of plants, animals, and humans. It also outlines some traditional critiques of attempts to control or manipulate human genetics and reproduction.
This chapter and chapter 12 address topics that are quite different from those covered in the rest of the book. Chapters 2 through 10 address ethical problems and issues that arise within the process of research itself, and do not discuss in any significant depth issues that arise because of the effects of research on society or the social context of research. Many issues, such as concerns about authorship, plagiarism, data management, publication, and peer review, have important impacts on the integrity of research but often have little direct impact on society. Other issues, such as intellectual property and the use of animal and human subjects, raise important issues for researchers and for society. This chapter and the next address topics that arise when scientists consider the social impact of research and its social context. This chapter considers ethical issues in genetics and human reproduction. (Much of the material covered in this chapter will be familiar to students of the biological sciences, and we apologize in advance for any material that seems introductory. However, many students of physics, chemistry, psychology, the humanities, and other disciplines are not familiar with some of the basic facts pertaining to genetics and human reproduction. Moreover, it is impossible to understand the ethical and political issues without having a firm grasp of the relevant scientific, historical, and social facts.)
Charles Darwin's (1809–1882) theory of evolution by natural selection was one of the most significant scientific developments in the nineteenth century. The publication of Darwin's book The Origin of Species (1859) had profound effects on the biological and social sciences as well as philosophy, politics, literature, and religion. Before this time, most scientists believed that all species, including human beings, did not change or evolve over time. Species were regarded as fixed forms or archetypes created and made by God (or Nature), and human beings were regarded as fundamentally different from animals because