Changing Nature's Course: The Ethical Challenge of Biotechnology

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

Project can live up to its promises. The HGP may allow us to more successfully pursue an approach to the practice of medicine and the delivery of health care that is more oriented toward prevention and early treatment. 50 If it is to fulfill those promises, however, society will have to give greater attention to anticipating concerns and issues; reveal the diverse stakeholders in the debate; more clearly articulate the moral values to which it is committed (and provide a clearer picture of how genetic technology fits into the structure of a good society); and come clean on the difficult policy decisions it faces. 51

Even technological Cassandras must admit that the progress made on the Project to this point is impressive. And as the fruits of the HGP are applied to practical human needs — as is beginning to happen now — the public's support for the Project will grow. But wishing for something good to happen is not the same as being assured that the good will result. For that to happen, society needs to take much more seriously the challenge and the risks of biotechnology.


Notes
3.
Mitcham notes that 'technology is . . . the making and using of artifacts in the most general sense,' Mitcham, 1980, 282. For many thinkers, the issues of major interest surrounding discussions of technology focus on its perceived dependence on or autonomy from human self-understanding and volition (Ellul, Marcuse, Heidegger); issues surrounding the general valuation of technology or identifiable technologies; its 'goodness' or 'badness' ( Rousseau, Tielhard de Chardin, Mumford); and the degree to which human beings either consciously or unconsciously appropriate technology (Ortega y Gasset), see Mitcham, 1980, 286-287.
4.
A number of philosophers and theologians appear to echo this general tendency linking technological discovery and development to fundamental human ontology. For example, Dessauer posits a 'technological mysticism' in which such activity is viewed as an extension of divine creation and incarnation. Mounier suggests that such a creative impulse reflects humanity's 'dermurgic function,' see Mitcham, 1980, 290-293. The Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin emphasizes the movement of the human spirit toward a moment of ultimate ontological transformation facilitated by and constituting a creative technological mastery of the world, Barbour, 1993, 7, 269. The Uruguayan Jesuit philosopher and liberation theologian Juan Luis Segundo argues that human creative activity ought to seek to establish humanity's 'dominion over nature' as one manifestation of its drive for human solidarity and supernatural transformation, Segundo, 1976, 150. Other thinkers focus on social effects as a means of justifying an optimistic reading of technology ( Buckminster Fuller, Herman Kahn, and Alvin Toffler).
5.
Ellul, 1964, 1990 and summarized in Mitcham, 1990, 287, 309-312.
8.
This argument is developed from various theological perspectives by George Bernanos, David Brinkman, and Emil Brunner. See also Ramsey, 1970, and contributions in Mitcham and Grote, 1984.

-100-

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