Changing Nature's Course: The Ethical Challenge of Biotechnology

By Gerhold K. Becker; James P. Buchanan | Go to book overview

6
Ethical Considerations Arising From Economic
Aspects of Human Genetics

Edward S. Golub

Biotechnology can be defined as the creation of the tools that biologists use to study the genes of animals and plants, both to understand life processes, and to use this knowledge for commercial applications. 1 The Scientific Revolution in seventeenth-century Europe brought together of scientia and tecbne, knowing and doing so that at this crucial point in western intellectual history the confluence of understanding the world and using that understanding to change it came together to give us the basis of much of our science-based, industrialized world. 2 It is clear that biotechnology is the very visible marriage of scientia and techne, and because of this we cannot really consider the ethical aspects biotechnology without considering how it is to be used in commerce.

In this paper, I will not discuss biotechnology in terms of the study of the genes of plants, but only in terms of the study of the genes of one small, but extremely interesting group of animals — humans. And I will limit the discussion only to questions of medicine. I use this limited scope to accentuate ethical questions that are of concern not only to professional philosophers and ethicists, but also to scientists and physicians, and to ordinary citizens in society. Because of my background I approach the topic with a completely Eurocentric vision, but I am aware that the topic requires a more ecumenical approach to be really meaningful.


Science, Technology and the Framing of Disease

At the foundation of the association of biotechnology and medicine is the all but universal assumption that the maintenance and improvement of human

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