The ecological imperative and its application to ethical issues in human genetic technology

Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics 2003:63-65 (2003)
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As a species, we are on the cusp of being able to alter that which makes us uniquely human, our genome. Two new genetic technologies, embryo selection and germline engineering, are either in use today or may be developed in the future. Embryo selection acts to alter the human gene pool, reducing genetic diversity, while germline engineering will have the ability to alter directly the genomes of engineered individuals. Our genome has come to be what it is through an evolutionary process extending over millions of years, a process that has involved exceedingly complex and unpredictable interactions between ourselves or our ancestors and myriad other life forms within Earth's biosphere. In this paper, the ecological imperative, which states that we must not alter the human genome or the collective human genetic inheritance, will be introduced. It will be argued based on ecological principles that embryo selection and germline engineering are unethical and unwise because they will diminish our survivability as a species, will disrupt our relationship with the natural world, and will destroy the very basis of that which makes us human.

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W. Malcolm Byrnes
Howard University


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