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Ethical manipulations: an ethical evaluation of the debate surrounding genetic engineering.

Authors
  • van Tongeren, P J
Type
Published Article
Journal
Human gene therapy
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1991
Volume
2
Issue
1
Pages
71–75
Identifiers
PMID: 1863642
Source
Medline
Keywords
License
Unknown

Abstract

"Manipulation" per se is not bad. The crucial question in the moral debate about genetic engineering is: When and how are we allowed to manipulate? Unfortunately, the moral discussion surrounding this question is itself being manipulated. There are moral manipulations (by those who wish to either reassure or to alarm) and there are ethical manipulations (the failed utilitarian calculus and the centering of the discussion only around rules, rights, and duties). A different ethical approach is needed: one based on virtues. The duty of ethics is to help us understand the moral possibilities in each situation, i.e., to develop our moral sensibility. In the area of genetic engineering research we are motivated by a will to know, but at the same time we fear total self knowledge. We want to control, to improve our world and ourselves, but we recoil at obtaining ultimate perfection. Therefore, we must value the unknowable, the uncontrollable. Our everincreasing capacity to mould the world and ourselves is making it more difficult to develop a sensitivity for what is given and cannot be made. It is dangerous for our ethics to assume the activistic traits of our technology. We risk losing a fundamental element of what we are, or ought to be. We should train ourselves in moral passivity.

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