Bioethics, as a subject overlapping both the sciences and
humanities, is one of many disciplines that seek to understand the essential
qualities of what it is to be human. Each discipline takes a different approach
to this question, none address the whole question but perhaps the answer is in
the collective of disciplinary contexts. I am first and foremost a scientist
but I am not going to address the question as a scientist. To do that would
mean hypothesizing what those essential qualities are and then devising
empirical approaches to prove or disprove that hypothesis. Rather I am going to
approach that question as an ethicist. As an ethicist I see my approach not as
answering the question but to carefully analyze the question itself.
This question is simplified by the fact that there is just
one species of human being, Homo sapiens. Yes, there is only one species.
Despite many forces which place emphasis on the differences among us we are a
single species sharing many more commonalities than differences. Our task would
be much more complicated if we lived in a place such as the fictional Middle
Earth. Middle Earth was the site of the Tolkien novels The Hobbit and the Lord
of the Rings trilogy. Many have read these, often as a rite of passage during
our college days. We have since had the opportunities to see the movies. These
books described a world in which there were many types of humans each sharing
commonalities and differences with each other. In addition to Men, Middle Earth was populated
by Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Hobbits, and Orcs and probably a few more I cannot
remember at the moment.
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.