Re: Genome issues

From: Joseph Sterlynne (
Date: Tue Jun 27 2000 - 14:03:19 MDT

> Although the wording suggests otherwise, I think this is primarily
> intended to be a body which makes *moral* recommendations. They aren't
> there to give technical advice.

They explicitly include [philosophers] in their suggestion. I doubt that
they want people to offer advice on aesthetics or eternal recurrence or
something. (Well, we don't need them, either, since philosophy's purview
has finally become usurped by science.) They're probably referring to
philosophers of ethics and religious practitioners.

> I don't think it will be possible to find a group of people who have
> "collective authority" on upcoming moral issues, especially in the
> context of a world with incredible diversity of cultures.

Perhaps this is the closest thing to agreeing---in Bill Joy's classic
words---[as a species] to the application of science and technology. So
the sixty members of the U.N. Genomics Council will all vote and by means
of a simple majority reassure us that our species is unified.

> Is it really plausible that the religious countries where women must go
> veiled and drug use leads to execution can agree with European countries
> where women go topless on the beach and drugs are freely available?

While there are nations where religious dictums are explicitly and strongly
represented in the law I'd say that the United States (where I live) is a
rather religious country, partly in terms of law and very much so in terms
of populace. It's not unreasonable to suspect that a fair amount of the
collective ethical objections to genetic engineering in the U.S. and Europe
is ultimately derived from religious conviction or influence (although
there are plenty of religious people who have no problem with it).

> But in proposing to advise political and business leaders I think the
> idea is to remove some options from end users, to take away their freedom
> to make their own decisions.

All right, that penultimate paragraph has gotten us all suspicious now. So
what can we do now to encourage open research, development, and

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