Bioethics Blogs

“The Natural”

Saying nothing new, but trying to say it in a different way…

One response to ethical problems posed by bleeding-edge biotechnologies is to assert that there are some things that ought not be attempted, some boundaries that ought never be transgressed, regardless of the supposed good that may be envisioned.  (I continue to hold that human IVF was one such boundary, but that was definitively crossed with the birth of Louise Brown when I was in college.)  To support such an assertion it is at least intuitively attractive to appeal to “the natural” as something that is given, certainly not culturally constructed, and at some level not to be tinkered with.  This approach is of course most common for theists; “God is the Creator, and the created realm has a given natural order, that ought to be left alone/approached with reverence, humility, and awe, and in which certain kinds of beings—most notably humans—should be free from attempts at alteration.  Such alterations are the province of God alone.”  Or words to that effect.  An appeal like this will readily been seen as a common move made in discussions about heritable genetic alterations, human enhancement, etc.  It will also be readily recognized as a version of the common objection about man “playing God.”  I admit to pursuing such an appeal, I hope in a way that is not obscurantist, in my thinking about bioethics.

However, specifying exactly what is “natural” and therefore off limits, and what specific rules ought to demarcate the boundaries, can be a frustratingly elusive task.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.