Carl Friedrich Gethmann

The Human Genome as a Fact and as a Task

Onsdag 29. april kl 12.15 - 1400
Undervisningsrom 1, Georg Sverdrups hus, Blindern

1 The Constructive Apriori of New Genetics
Advances in the natural sciences show that the human being is becoming increasingly successful (according to the Bacon Programme for modern science and philosophy) in shifting cognitively and operatively the border of the inaccessible and invariable. Given that genetic knowledge in relevant degree is desirable, because in this way one hopes to achieve certain aims ( viz. the treatment of diseases) better than up to now, then there is an ethical obligation to maximise such knowledge: In order to enable the acquisition of more knowledge, the underlying ability must be made available. The ability (to construct) is the pre-condition that enables the acquisition of knowledge. In terminological reference to Immanuel Kant it can also be said that producing knowledge in the empirical sciences is characterised by an Apriori of construction. It is often overlooked that – regardless of the freedom of research – the research scientist has to accept commitments already in the constitution of knowledge and not only on the application of such knowledge (for example, regarding safety in the laboratory) and must observe prohibitions – neither the constitution of knowledge nor equally the application of knowledge occur in a morally indifferent space.

2 Naturalness and Morality
If certain aims pursued by man in regard to nature, for example to produce foodstuffs or for the treatment of diseases, can be justified to everyone, then intervention in the genetic inventories from the ethical point of view is not only a permissible action but even under certain circumstances to be regarded as an advisable option. For the question whether an intervention affecting “nature” is ethically justifiable or not, it is not the reference to the given state of nature, but rather the reference to normative needs that is decisive. In consequence of the approach outlined here, acting in accordance with nature does not mean interpreting moral rules from certain natural (biological or physical) characteristics of objects and living beings, - a view contained in certain versions of “The Ethics of Nature” and “the Law of Nature”.  Hence, acting in accordance with nature much rather means establishing orientation markers with respect to the fact that many things (including our own selves) have come into being without our assistance, that we and other objects are not to be treated merely as the products of our own self. Even if we cannot do what we want to do, nature does not tell us what we should do.

3 Shaping the Process of Evolution
The removal of defect-allele for grave hereditary diseases is only ethically justifiable on the basis of medical indication in individual cases but not as a man-made programme for shaping evolution stemming primarily from an intention with genetic effects on the population as a whole. The main benefits will stem from a better understanding of the mechanisms of evolution with regard to their normal workings and of the aetiopathology of the human body, by means of which it will be possible to achieve improved diagnostic methods and the development of new therapeutic approaches.

 

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Gethmann:
The Human Genom as a Fact and as a Task