On BioScience and Life and Such

Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

Correct me if I am wrong

In Uncategorized on March 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Background: The Hyperion Cantos book 1 and 2  and The New York Times on mitochondrial manipulation (see further description on bottom of page).

It is my impression that theres an underlying, and absolute, assumption that genetic engineering will lead to less diversity.


If given a choice of a range of possible engineered enhancements, would all societies, ethnicities and subgroups have the same preferences ?

I think not.

Then it follows that future genetic engineering will lead to greater diversity. Strange and unpredictable diversity.

The difference would be that it is now humankind deciding which different variants that are brought to life, not “nature”.

We would still need to accept and accomodate the “different” individuals in our society, probably even to a greater extent.

Would that not be a good thing ?

If you keeep putting up hurdles to stop implementation of advances in genetic engineering, are you not halting the development of a “natural” way to save humankind in the future ?

Genetic engineering is by this reasoning, the natural way forward.

It should be cool an unpredictable, just like nature is today.

The Hyperion Cantos book 1 and 2 describes a struggle between three parties: 1) artificial intelligence (AI), 2) a probable extension of our present tech-savvy society dependent on AI and 3) an AI-independent “natural” biologically diverse society (based on genetic engineering !?). Spoiler: The “natural” biological society wins.

Quote from NYT-article: “Some told the officials that the technique could introduce new genetic mutations into the human gene pool. Others warned that it could be used later for something ethically murkier — perhaps, said Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, “to engineer children with specific character traits.””

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Errors in ethics of genetic sorting

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

Six day old human embryo implanting
Image by Hljod.Huskona via Flickr

The traditional ethical reasoning when it comes to embryo-sorting, is that sorting out embryos with a certain condition diminishes the value of those already born with this condition. Consequently, by this way of thinking, a selected embryo must have an increased value. The selection itself (the absence of a given condition) increases it’s value over any other embryo in the pool of embryo-candidates.

Using the following arguments one can see how this is a logical error.

All human life is valued equally, must have equal rights and must be paid equal respect. This is regardless of how it was made (sons of bitches are as valuable as sons of kings) – these concepts are straightforward, uncontroversial and commonly held by enlightened people.

It follows that the process of sorting is irrelevant to the value of the selected embryo. The human that is born has equal value to any other human, not more – not less.

How then, can this human born out of selection in any way influence the value of anyone else ?

Answer is: he cannot and he does not.

Sorting is not a process that creates or changes value. Not for humans, not for animals, not for any object. The value is assigned later and is usually set by arbitrary or fixed rules. Gold is worth more than silver due to scarcity, a race horse is worth more than a donkey due to the size of potential revenues. Nature does the sorting of humans (decides which individuals who will mate and when they mate, decides whether the fertilized egg will implant and so on..). We have striven to assign equal value to any and all life that is born, even if it is sorted by nature’s sometimes chaotic set of rules. We have reached the point where all civilized people agree upon equal value for all.

Us taking charge in the sorting process does not change that. Sorting is consequently not unethical in terms of human value. Sorting only becomes unethical if it becomes mandatory by rules set by others than the parent(s). The right to say no to sorting is vital. If the right to say no is respected, then embryo sorting is ethically uncomplicated.

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New years resolution: Respect anti-vaccers, believe it or not

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2009 at 10:08 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

I get mad at anti-vaccers. I get frustrated with extreme conservatives and overly religious people. Not necessarily because of their beliefs, but because of what their beliefs lead them to – like anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research and, in general, anti-technology and anti-science.

But, from now on, I’ll stop getting mad, and I’ll welcome my frustrations. I just realized that I need to take the consequences from advocating the right to say “no” to technology. I believe the right to say “no” or more importantly, accept this “no” as just as fair and worthy a choice as “yes”, is the only way to protect ourselves from the perils of technology, be they merely ethical or plain deadly. My motto has long been, and still is: Equal rights for tech-denialists.

Why I realized ? I read two H+ magazine columns, one on correcting color blindness and one in athletic enhancement, both predicting the imminent arrival of the slippery slope genetic sorting future. A slippery slope I have done much thinking on myself, and now some re-thinking.

I very strongly believe that the only way to avoid the pitfalls at the end of the slippery slope is by giving everyone the irrefutable right to refuse to use all or any technological (including biomedical) advancement. And then to respect their choice. Only by giving equal rights to naysayers and tech-proponents will you avoid that any potentially society-threatening technology becomes pervasive and/or all-dominant. There will always be “anti-vaccers” to any new technology, and if the technology proves dangerous, they will, like it or not, become humanity’s saviors.

The consequence is that I need to accept the existence of anti-vaccers, I even need to respect their personal choice.

This does not mean that I will stop arguing my own beliefs, nor should anyone else. I still think the anti-vaccers are crazy, no offense !, and achieves only evil by allowing all but eradicated diseases to re-emerge. But, it means that I need to argue from a respectful perspective. Respectful because the principle of “the right to say no” is more important than any single cause, regardless how worthy.

Let this be my new-years resolution.

Quote of the month October 08

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2008 at 1:35 pm

I mostly disagree with Rebecca Taylor at Mary Meets Dolly, but this quote has a point, – several points actually, – and different ones I guess, depending on where you stand on religion….

Because science has no internal way to decide on ethical issues, it needs philosophy, history, theology and the law to be it’s moral compass. Nothing is quite as scary to me than the idea of science with no ethical constraints. Science without guidance from such scientifically distasteful things as “religion, politics, and personal ideolgies” is a horror I never want to witness.

Quote of the month

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2008 at 8:02 am

The May version of quote of the month comes from the CONCLUDING REMARKS in “Genomics and equal opportunity ethics” by A W Cappelen et al.:

“……….We have argued that genomics can provide us with information necessary to come closer to the ideal of equal opportunity ethics. Lack of genetic information has led to health policies that in some cases hold people responsible for too much and in some cases hold them responsible for too little. Recent advances in genomics may thus not only improve clinical practice and public health, but also help us to design fairer health policies………”

Note: quote removed from it’s original context (original article via PredictER News Brief) where also the dark side of the genomics age is elaborated on.

Ethical obviousness

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Just to clarify. Even though I sound like an opponent of genetic testing in my previous post………….. I’m not. And to emphasize this, here’s a quote that I sympathize with, from this post at genomeboy: “When people ask me whether I’m nervous about getting my DNA sequenced, my response is always the same: “My genome is the least of my problems.””

Although one could argue that since your genome is your be-all then your genome is your only problem, alternatively that you have no problems since your genome is you and yours..(……..sentence ended up in philosphical jibberish….)

Take home message: DNA-testing of consenting informed adults is fine for any test, – but ethical care should be taken when used in in prenatal care or in pre-symptomatic diagnostics of children unable to give their own informed consent….(…paragraph ended up in ethical obviousness…..)