Synthetic Biology and MoralityArtificial Life and the Bounds of Nature

Synthetic Biology and MoralityArtificial Life and the Bounds of Nature

Gregory E. Kaebnick and Thomas H. Murray

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780262019392

Publisher: The MIT Press


Synthetic biology, which aims to design and build organisms that serve human needs, has potential applications that range from producing biofuels to programming human behavior. The emergence of this new form of biotechnology, however, raises a variety of ethical questions—first and foremost, whether synthetic biology is intrinsically troubling in moral terms. Is it an egregious example of scientists “playing God”? This book takes on this key ethical question, as well as others that follow, offering a range of philosophical and political perspectives on the power of synthetic biology. The chapters consider the basic question of the ethics of making new organisms, laying out the conceptual terrain and offering opposing views of the intrinsic moral concerns. The chapters discuss the possibility that synthetic organisms are inherently valuable and address whether, and how, moral objections to synthetic biology could be relevant to policy making and political discourse. Variations of these questions have been raised before, in debates over other biotechnologies, but, as this book shows, they take on novel and illuminating form when considered in the context of synthetic biology.