The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering with Michael Sandel and William Haseltine speaking at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival. Elliot Gerson moderates the discussion.
Some of the most inspired and provocative thinkers, writers, artists, business people, teachers and other leaders drawn from myriad fields and from across the country and around the world all gathered in a single place - to teach, speak, lead, question, and answer at the 2006 Aspen Ideas Festival. Throughout the week, they all interacted with an audience of thoughtful people who stepped back from their day-to-day routines to delve deeply into a world of ideas, thought, and discussion.
Elliot Gerson is an executive vice president at the Aspen Institute, responsible for Policy and Public Programs and relations with international partners. The Institute’s policy programs focus on important domestic and international issues and improve decision-making by providing neutral venues, nonpartisan analysis, and candid dialogue among leaders. The Institute’s public programs—including the Aspen Ideas Festival—open the Institute’s doors to a broader audience. The Institute also has international partners in France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Prague, Romania, and Spain. Gerson is the American secretary of the Rhodes Trust and manages the US Rhodes Scholarships. Previously, Gerson was a US Supreme Court clerk, practiced law, held executive positions in state and federal government and on a presidential campaign, and was president of leading insurance and health care companies.
William A. Haseltine is chairman of Haseltine Global Health, LLC, a virtual pharmaceutical company dedicated to developing new and more efficient means to develop new life saving drugs and medical devices. He is also president of the Haseltine Foundation for Medical Sciences and the Arts, a foundation that supports access to high quality health for the poor and middle class of developing countries and that also fosters a dialog between sciences and the arts.
He is an adjunct professor at The Scripps Institute for Medical Research. Prior to his work as chairman, he was a professor at Harvard Medical School and chairman of Human Genome Sciences, Inc. He serves as a member of the board of trustees of several Foundations and NGOs and has been an advisor to several biotechnology and venture capital companies.
Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. His latest book is What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Sandel’s other books include Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? and Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, among others. His work has been translated into 19 foreign languages. In 2010, China Newsweek named him the most influential foreign figure of the year in China. In 2009, Sandel delivered the prestigious BBC Reith Lectures, broadcast in the United Kingdom and worldwide on the BBC World Service. In the United States, Sandel has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; he is also on the Council on Foreign Relations.
Artificial manipulation, modification, and recombination of DNA or other nucleic-acid molecules in order to modify an organism or population of organisms. The term initially meant any of a wide range of techniques for modifying or manipulating organisms through heredity and reproduction. Now the term denotes the narrower field of recombinant-DNA technology, or gene cloning, in which DNA molecules from two or more sources are combined, either within cells or in test tubes, and then inserted into host organisms in which they are able to reproduce. This technique is used to produce new genetic combinations that are of value to science, medicine, agriculture, or industry. Through recombinant-DNA techniques, bacteria have been created that are capable of synthesizing human insulin, human interferon, human growth hormone, a hepatitis-B vaccine, and other medically useful substances. Recombinant-DNA techniques, combined with the development of a technique for producing antibodies in great quantity, have made an impact on medical diagnosis and cancer research. Plants have been genetically adjusted to perform nitrogen fixation and to produce their own pesticides. Bacteria capable of biodegrading oil have been produced for use in oil-spill cleanups. Genetic engineering also introduces the fear of adverse genetic manipulations and their consequences (e.g., antibiotic-resistant bacteria or new strains of disease). See alsobiotechnology, molecular biology.
Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering - Putting the Cart Before The Horse
If we accept that life is a continuing and self-replicating process which goes across all species, then it follows that doing the hokey-pokey IS what it's all about. If we do not accept that, then we need first to explore what life is. This is not done.
When that is settled, the issue of first importance is, "are moral/ethical discussions appropriate to the species spanning process, life, or are such discussions to be limited to just one of the millions of species of life, homo sapiens and if so, why?".
Only when that discussion is completed we will have a base for moral/ethical discussions on reproduction. (see also Sandel's Aristotle's ethos discussion, which, while interesting, also asks the wrong question a priori )
Within the actual discussion (child by design) the comparative 'inflicting harm on a child (by design)' as opposed to the 'physcially attractive, athletic, high SAT' child by design through unnatural methods is suggested as a valid ethical question.
Some people in the audience either objected to both (expressed conclusion based on show of hands) or were without opinion (an option not suggested, thus ignored - form your own conclusions on ignorance).
Not asked first, and thus not explored (and presuming as intent that the discussion is limited to just one species), is the question, "are there moral/ethical implications of circumventing nature (genetic inability to reproduce as a couple) by unnatural methods to create a human life and if so why, what are they and are they static?". Clearly this is an area for consideration necessary to take place well before any moral/ethical implications of 'design' can be considered.
If moral/ethical implications of the 'design' aspects are to be considered, the responsibilities to 'design process success' must first be addressed. If such success of artificial process cannot be guaranteed, is there any reason to discuss moral/ethical implications of a process of randomness?
The quest for designer children and the ethos of discrimination (again see Sandel's Aristotle ethos discussion) through artificial selective breeding (a big 'whoops' for the couple which erred in the traditional approach to breeding selectivity since the couple has the inability to reproduce).
The Moderator, with interruption, asks, "If that particular drug (designer amphetamine) can reverse Alzheimer's, also can enhance mental ability, why can I not take it to enhance my own mental ability, to enhance my memory...?"
Other than understanding the caveat of unintended consequences, under the Constitution (American society) you can. In order to have the right to free speech (Amendment I) you must have the right to your thoughts and your percepts (Amendment IX).
Oh, I could go on. But that involves philosophy and not the entertainment which has been offered by the panel.
Please do view this interesting short video debate on 'Ethics in an Age of Genetic Engineering'. It stimulates thinking. I viewed and commented with the thoughts that came to me after viewing. Worth recommending for you to your selected friends.
Man is imperfect. An omnipotent Divine (that is, a being beyond all possible human capability potentials), it can be inferred even by exercise of our intellect in an open manner, has willed a system of the cosmos and the beings, including man and the ecology on earth in the most perfect manner. Science and technology is purely a product of the imperfect human intellect which is conditioned by the space-time constraint. There must be several dimensions additional to space-time, which only the super-intlligent cosmic conscious knows and uses as tool to maintain and keep the cosmic system evolving. If man wants to change it, he is simply ill-equipped to do that, but in his ego, he cannot comprehend the fact of his incapacity. Genetic engineering is product of human intellect. Ethics have to do with feelings, emotions, sentiments, and other binding cement for a cogent and cohesive world and universe. Choosing sex or other features of a child being conceived can lead to a world of monsters and universal extinction when too many monsters are there and fight out one another. This fundamental truth can be elaborated at considerable length.