The Debate on Bioethics

This week’s readings tie closely with our discussions from last week regarding the bioethics debate, human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research. Kathrin Braun’s account of the debate on reproductive and genetic technologies in Germany talks about the various discourses in linking ethics to politics surrounding the debate in bioethics. Macklin then goes into the neoconservative view on bioethics, as well as some of the criticisms in the rhetoric of new conservatives, thus increasing the split of the two “camps” (Braun, 43). The third reading up for discussion goes back to last week’s reading Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics, as Kass offers his remarks regarding the work of the President’s Council on Bioethics to essentially lay the groundwork for which the Council operates and to challenge the debate on public bioethics.

Braun closely examines the interconnectedness of policy and ethics in Germany and the ways that the German view might decrease polarization between the conservative view and liberal view. She goes into a discussion on the differing views of techno-skeptics and techno-optimists and how they primarily differ on how they interpret the issue of biotechnology. “Techno-optimists” give more credit to society in their ability to calculate risks associated with new technology and recognize the benefits of technology. Ethics is a deliberate choice and should add structure to the delicate task of “balancing diverging values,” best done by professionals in medicine and research (Braun, 43). On the other hand, skeptics believe that technology is limited, and society does not benefit from it as much as it pays. Motivation of techno-skeptics can come from either a primarily religious standpoint, or more secular. To me, the more noteworthy of the two is the secular view of “common ethos” coming from a post-Nazi era view that every life is worth living (Braun, 43). In order to discuss these diverging views, as Braun claims, a certain type of discourse must be present. Taking a more “managerial” approach, one focuses more on the potential benefits and risks posed by biotechnology and that ethics can help mitigate these risks. The “republican” discourse is a more social view in that risks associated with biotechnology can cause social problems and can only be amended by “citizen engagement” (Braun, 44).

In terms of a legal context, both the German Embryo Protection Act of 1991 and the German Constitution highly value human life and human dignity. Whereas the restrictive law focuses more on the human embryo, human cloning, and other reproductive technologies, the Constitution ties back to the common ethos views of secular techno-skeptics regarding the unmatched status of human dignity above all other rights. The techno-skeptics extended this argument to their denouncement of prenatal genetic diagnoses (PGD), claiming that it “endangers the moral foundations of German society” (Braun, 45). I ask you all to weigh in here: how would a techno-optimist view PGD in terms of the moral risks and benefits? Yes, they try to look at the benefits of technology, but how do you think they would overcome the battle between knowledge and emotionality/moral fundamentalism?

The split between techno-skeptics and techno-optimists furthered upon Nida-Rümelin’s article about human dignity only emerging with self-esteem, as well as with Singer’s views on newborns not having a right to life (Braun, 47). Braun then concluded with her own views of the benefits of the republican discourse and how it increases democracy in legislation, as well as broadening the discussion on ethical issues by means of considering these “medical issues” as more social ones (Braun, 49).

The debate on bioethics is not as much a recent topic of discussion as is the labeling of conservatives and liberals. Macklin, a “liberal, humanitarian bioethicist” speaks avidly against the new conservative bioethicists and the way they speak/write about issues regarding biotechnology and ethical concerns (Macklin, 42). She thoroughly criticizes the rhetoric of neoconservatives with four main points: the use of poetic language instead of empirical evidence, misleading terminology, offensive analogies, and generalizing without citing or quoting (Macklin, 38). A prominent example of the use of metaphors to overshadow reasoned arguments is in Levin’s mission statement on conservative bioethicists: “to prevent our transformation into a culture without awe filled with people without souls” (Macklin, 37). This rather extreme and “mystical” statement is quite vague, but emotionally charged. To me, he is trying to say that the practices of ART, human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research are “soulless” and that the outcomes will create generic, non-diverse individuals. What do you all think this mission refers to?

Another noteworthy example of one of the criticisms of conservative rhetoric concerning sweeping generalizations is in reference to the “unquestioning” and “unswerving commitment” (Macklin, 35, 36) to the conservative view. Both Kass and Meilaender, names we have studied in this course, hold these narrow views on conservatism and divergence from “the natural.” In an article written by Meilaender, he essentially claims that the ulterior motive of bioethicists is to have a say in committees and ethics boards in exchange for supporting the progression of science and technology (Macklin, 36). This seemingly “mutual” transaction 1. assumes that bioethicists have no limits on the growth of scientific advances, and 2. ignores the significant contributions that they have made, especially in legislation to protect individual rights (Macklin 37). This ties in quite well with the next reading for the week, as well as our classroom discussion on the makeup of the President’s Council, as this merger between scientific research and bioethics is what keeps policymakers and elected officials grounded in this debate.

As per our discussion last week, Kass’s appointment to the Council was quite controversial to many. Not only this, but President Bush’s Christian ties were also seen as a point of controversy, especially in the appointment of officials to the Council. In Reflections on Public Bioethics: A View from the Trenches, Kass defends the work that the Council has done on the debate of bioethics and the creation of the Council to give more legitimacy to the pro-life, Christian president. He contrasts these goals with those of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), saying that the focus is less on “human subjects research” and more on advising the President on bioethical concerns and to “search deep into human matters” (Kass, 223, 224). He commends the diversity of religious backgrounds, political affiliations, and professions of the members of the Council, emphasizing twice in his report that they are NOT a council OF bioethicists, but more a council ON bioethics. While I do appreciate the acknowledgement that the members of the Council are, like the rest of the country, divided in their views on embryo research, I still find it troubling that some of the members are quite extreme in their views. For example, drawing upon the example that Macklin provided, Gilbert Meilaender, a professor in Christian ethics, is a prime example of someone who is unwavering in the thought that bioethicists are “allies” of medical technology. His views are known to be extreme and flawed, as he makes sweeping (and inaccurate) generalizations (Macklin, 36). Does this create a more “stacked” council in which reaching an “artificial consensus” is more likely to occur (Kass 227)?

The second part of Kass’s report goes into more detail on the five reports that the Council has published. Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry focuses on the issue of cloning and the broader context of human procreation, healing, and the value of research. The Council also unanimously agrees that the practice of cloning-to-produce children is unsafe and jeopardizes liberty and freedom of the family (Kass, 231). In Monitoring Stem Cell Research, they simply discuss where the issue of stem cell research stands today and provide an overview of ethical and policy debates, as well as the scientific background of the practice. Beyond Therapy tackles the complex issue of future directions and uses of biotechnology that go beyond simply healing the body, but that center around human desires of “sharper minds, “stronger bodies,” and “happier souls” (Kass, 235). Being Human is a more holistic account of the delicate balance between appreciating being human and staying human amidst new technologies being developed. The main question of this report (and for us to reflect upon) is: “molding or beholding?” or in other words, do we change nature in order to improve it, or do we appreciate it as it stands? The last section, Reproduction and Responsibility, discusses and reviews all the regulatory activity surrounding ART, sex selection, and human embryonic research. They break down 6 of the legal proposals made about practices in reproduction. All in all, the Council, according the Kass, has made great efforts in extending the debate on bioethics. Their aim is less to “advance public understanding” on this complex issue, but more to make these topics more visible to the public (Kass, 245).

14 Replies to “The Debate on Bioethics”

  1. Hi Niyati,

    I thought your post was a great summary of the readings, which I think represented a fitting summary of our class. What I would define as THE running theme of Religion and Bioethics is the growing size and isolation of camps with stakes in the debate on reproductive technology. We have been mostly examining the debate in terms of ‘Conservative’ and ‘Liberal’, with a great deal of allusions to the dominant parties of the United States, Republicans and Democrats. This divide has been highlighted with readings on the early days of debates on issue like abortion and readings on ‘Conservative’ ideals argued under ‘Liberal’ talking points, and vice-versa.

    Yet our definitions thus far have been lacking for the reasons highlighted above. I therefore found Braun’s argument of a clash between “techno skeptics” and “techno optimists” to be far more reasonable. By providing firm definitions of the belief core of the groups, the ‘techno’ groupings allow for fairer labelings than ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. These groupings also promote far less divide than overarching themes used like “pro-life” and “pro-choice”, which represent hugely demanding cores of belief.

  2. Hey Niyati,

    Thanks for a great summary of the readings. I think you did a great job and provided thought-provoking questions.

    In regards to Josh’s comment, I do think the terminology and definitions of techno-skeptics and techno-optimists are more reasonable depictions than pro-life and pro-choice, as those terms offer different connotations and represent different ideologies.

    I must say that although I try my best to view most things in life through an objective (moderate, if you will) lens, I agree with Macklin’s four main arguments. It seems that every time I see a Republican politician (my own representative included) talk about topics like abortion, climate change, or border security, they seem to rely on generalizations, the deliberate ignorance of science, and misleading language/deflections. Macklin’s distaste towards neoconservatives is a little too palpable for my taste. I would have to disagree with you on your “generic, non-diverse individuals” interpretation of Macklin, because as we discussed last class, epigenetics is still a thing and affect the expression and mutation of genes, creating diverse individuals. As I brought up briefly last class, I think a major problem that many have with reproductive technologies like cloning is that those beings have no souls, and how would that be “natural”? I think this is an issue Macklin was trying to bring up on page 37, but that’s my own interpretation. Feel free to chime in.

    I see you addressing the many concerns surrounding Kass and President Bush for appointing him. Excellent job. Back in middle and early high school, I also used to think that decisions about the use of technologies should be made by the “experts” (there’s actually a quote from President Obama that is very similar to this!), and by “experts” I mean the scientists who develop the technologies. However, as I quickly realized, there are many benefits for having outsiders being a part of the decision making process. Especially now, being as immersed in the field of research as I am, I realize that scientists aren’t rich and are desperate for funding. They also don’t have the best ethical judgement. Ask Watson and Crick. From a very liberal lens, you can say that this is stacking the playing field. If you take a step back, some may say that this was a great committee, as for these ethical and moral judgements you need a variety of viewpoints from a number of backgrounds. Obviously, this is still political, but I don’t think Bush’s primary goal was to get a committee together to reaffirm his every wish. In fact, I have a feeling that Bush definitely had a say, as most of the committee were from prestigious institutions that were “brand” names, if you will-and then there’s University of Texas and Southern Methodist University, schools in Texas that George Bush has affiliations with. Not saying that those institutions are bad or those members weren’t qualified, but the opportunity could have easily gone to someone else from with similar qualifications from a higher ranked University that more of the American people recognize and respect. In regards to your molding or beholding questions, I think most of us are molders. We like to improve our standard of living, to make it easier and more comfortable. In many ways, I still see myself as a beholder, as I want to appreciate the “natural” and not delve to much into technology, even if it benefited my life immensely. As an example, in 5th grade I wrote and colored an entire 10 page book on biomes (worked on it tirelessly…for 2-3 days) when I could have easily made a powerpoint on it in less than an hour. I still refuse to use Apple iCloud, but have grudgingly gave into Google Drive. I also now own an Alexa. It’s hard to be a beholder when technology makes lives so much easier and to that I ask, when do we draw the line? Can we?

  3. Hi Niyati,

    Thanks for a great blog post! I am especially intrigued by your discussion of Braun’s article. I will touch on some of your questions in this response that we can discuss more in class this week. Techno-optimists, as Braun says, do not necessarily promote just any new technology. They advocate for the use of technology as a tool to help certain aspects of society advance, and they believe that experts should oversee ethical dilemmas that result from such changes (Braun 43). With respect to using technology in prenatal genetic diagnoses, I interpreted from the article that techno-optimists might first look at the pros and cons of using technology for this purpose by consulting experts in various fields to contribute advice. With such a loose interpretation of what should be considered right or wrong, techno-optimists may not be able to “overcome the battle between knowledge and emotionality/moral fundamentalism.” Knowledge, for techno-optimists, should include emotionality in analyses of costs and benefits to society. I also agree with Josh’s and Jeffrey’s above sentiments that Braun’s terms of “techno-optimist/skeptics” are a reasonable way to define such schools of thought as these that have complex components and interaction.

    I applaud your incorporation of last week’s discussion into your post – there was certainly more to cover from class. I am thinking about another one of your questions, are we “molders” or “beholders,” in the context of not only Kass’s essay this week, but in context of the entire course so far. I can’t think of an example in our readings in which there was a blatant disregard for natural order. While some cultures and authors hold different interpretations of natural law, all of them appreciate its existence and respect its meaning. In an ideal world, technology would seamlessly blend with nature to preserve its current state and allow for its appreciation. I would argue that human nature itself, ironically, is the reason for the seemingly constant desire to improve it.

  4. Hi Niyati, thanks for summarizing this week’s readings. You did a great job of incorporating what we discussed in last week’s class.

    I find it interesting that Braun thinks that German view might decrease the polarization between parties, especially given how polarized the political climate it is right now. I wonder if he would feel the same way now that he did when this was published in 2005. However, to respond to Josh, Jeffrey, and Elisabeth’s comments, I don’t think the “techno” labels would become less divisive. Pro-life and pro-choice can both sound “good” by using the pro-labels, as compared to having each side of the argument be anti-life and pro-choice or pro-life and anti-choice. The terms liberal and conservative by themselves are neutral, yet become heated in a political context. No term becomes heated until its application in the political context. I believe that these terms would become divisive just like the terms that have come before it.

    To answer your question about how a techno-optimist would view PGD now: I believe that a techno-optimist would be generally favorable of prenatal genetic diagnoses. As you said, these people give more credit to people and their ability to calculate risks as well as recognizing the benefits. If you believe in people’s ability to make the best possible decision for themselves and their child, then getting information like a PGD should be allowed to give them the benefit of the doubt that they will do the “right” thing, whatever that may be in their moral perspective.

    I agree with your analysis about what Macklin says about ART, that it might take away from the uniqueness of the individual. However, I think that train of thought shows a lack of understanding of how people become people. Genetics are important, but so is the environment that a childhood grows up in. Identical twins can end up vastly different if raised in different environments. In the nature vs nurture argument, it is not one or the other – both are incredibly important factors.

  5. Hello Niyati, thank you for writing a great blog post. I thought you summarized the readings well and provided excellent discussion questions. I would also like to focus on Braun’s work and his argument of “techno-optimists” and “techno-skeptics.” I agree with the earlier comments that these labels work in the field of bioethics. I appreciated the fact that Braun mentions how “techno-optimists” can come from all types of political backgrounds-social democrats, socialists, conservatives, liberals, etc. Just as Josh mentioned above, many of the readings that we have analyzed this semester have focused on two narrow sides of bioethics: conservative or liberal-both stemming from purely political opinions. Braun’s article provides a more general view of technology and allows for more agreements and discussions among followers. There are often generalizations of people who choose a more conservative or a more liberal stance on bioethics, but I believe that Braun’s distinctions of optimists and skeptics provide a wider range of discussions and rulings to be formed.

    Additionally, to answer your question on the techno-optimist view of PGD, I think that they would struggle to form opinions on PGD because of the battle between knowledge and emotionally/moral fundamentalism. As Braun mentions, PGD was used to distinguish between a life worth living from one not worth living. Techno-skeptics would focus on this debate and make decisions that would not harm German natural order; however, techno-optimists would push for PGD because of its ability to use technology to potentially benefit society. In order to overcome such a battle, I think techno-optimists must have a fully subjective view, but that is asking a lot for people discussing such an objective matter.

  6. Thanks for such a thoughtful response!

    I’d like to start with Braun’s article. As others have commented, i think her view is important because she is demonstrating how bioethics debates are not strictly bipartisan. Instead, there are many people who she describes as “techno.” However, I like how Jillian pointed out that using these labels is not exactly harmless and they are very similar in how we label pro-life and pro-choice. We should thus be careful providing any label to a group of people with a certain belief.

    Macklin’s article against conservative bioethics was quite interesting. I like how you brought up how she challenges conservatives on how they emotionally charge their arguments. While I do believe that it is important to have factually sound arguments, I also would argue that emotions cannot be left out of bioethics debates. Bioethics affects people emotionally and so emotions are something that must be considered.

    Turning to Kass’s article, I have to say that I think it is important to have some extremists on a council. Particularly, I think it is good to have opposing extremists to challenge each other’s and other council member’s views. Therefore, I do not personally think that having extremists is a concern; instead, I think having an entire council with the same extremist view would be of concern.

  7. Thank you Niyati and Cole for your insightful blog posts this week. I enjoyed reading your analysis of this week’s readings.

    The makeup of the council – which was described in class as narrow – does relate to what we spoke of in class, as the diversity did not lie in the demographic makeup of the people on the council, but on the diversity of fields that the people on the council were a part of. I think the explanations of the council may not have been included originally because they may have assumed that the reasons for the selection were notable to everyone if they had noted the reasoning themselves. the technology will diverge between people.

    I think an “artificial consensus” is more likely to occur with the people on the council because the fields that the people are a part of may be diverse, but I think the demographics should also be diverse to truly reach a consensus.

    I thought the reason that Macklin did not proclaim that the “conservative bioethicists” weren’t bioethicists was perhaps that the field of bioethics grows in different ways and, although the arguments may be grounded on weak metaphors, conservative bioethicists should still be considered a part of the field.

    I think that a techno-optimist may view PGD as a useful tool to further solidify the risks and benefits so they are not defined as just potential anymore. I think the emotionality and moral fundamentalism aspect of the view may differ from person-to-person and further split the techno-optimists into more groups, as how to proceed after one uses the technology will diverge between people.

  8. Hi Niyati! Thank you for the comprehensive summary and commentary. I thought the point brought up in the reading by Macklin about the use of metaphors and lack of scientific understanding was really interesting. I think we have seen the use of metaphors in the context of reproductive techniques in this class a lot, and have briefly questioned the logic of them. Examples of metaphors we have seen include the seed and soil metaphor, the violinist metaphor, and even the metaphors set forth in genesis. I think religious officials use metaphors to reason reproductive techniques because of how recent these technologies have appeared in comparison to when religious texts were written. I personally think, as Macklin pointed out, that some more recent conservative views are not grounded in reality, but highlights the fact that science cannot always be used to justify life and death.
    The reading by Kass was interesting because although a clearly conservative individual, as pointed out by Macklin, Kass made it clear that the committee was a diverse group of individuals that are not “”experts” practicing a particular academic discipline, but simply as thoughtful, wisdom-and-prudence-seeking human beings who recognize the supreme importance of the issues arising at the many junctions between biology, biotechnology, and life as humanly lived, and who accept the obligation to try to improve public governance in these matters.” I think Kass’s idea of a well rounded committee, and their ability to have a discourse on controversial issues really captures Macklin’s point that labeling someone as conservative or liberal may not necessarily imply their stances on reproductive technologies.

  9. Hi Niyati,

    Thanks for the post! I appreciated your honest thoughts and dialogue with the author’s arguments and incorporation of past discussions. I couldn’t help but notice that the comments on this post focus on Braun’s discussion and potential recommendation of using techno-skeptic and techno-optimist in American discourse. While I see the potential benefits of this terminology such as the distraction from political party affiliation, I cannot help but feel that just like every other dichotomized idea in the United States, this will become just as polar as the pro-life and pro-choice argument. With this precedent, I find myself expecting that even if there were not an affiliation with either party, that polarization would still occur. I am by no means dismissing the suggestion however, I can see the potential for the terminology to fare similar to how it has in the past.

    I believe that our conversations about balancing technical expertise with public opinion and what’s at stake for the individual is dancing around the need for anthropological interpretation in these discussions. Maybe there are other ways to settle this particular polarization, however, I see this as an obvious solution – I am open to other’s thoughts and opinions, as always.

  10. You said in your post that you found it troubling that some of the members of the Council were extreme in their views, asking whether these members with extreme views (specifically those with views on the more conservative side) could create a more stacked council to hopefully lean in a predetermined direction on the debate. This question is interesting to me in light of our exercises in class to attempt to create the “ideal” committee to advise on and discuss bioethical debates. I’ve found that even on this small, imaginary scale where we’re allowed to create the perfect members of our perfect committee, it’s still hard to find the right balance of viewpoints and perspectives. One would hope that our committees, as well as the President’s Council, would not be stacked one way or the other, nor that those putting these councils together have a predetermined outcome aside from personal opinion. The point of putting together councils to debate these issues is to have an open argument, to give equal weight to opposing viewpoints and learn from how they interact. The point is not to have one side immediately trump the other, but for one to emerge as the view that does the most good for the most people. Regardless of the opinions of the person putting the council together, as well as the political climate in which these councils are formed, selecting members that are on both sides of the argument is vital to creating a productive debate in which these issues can be discussed. This will inevitably lead to some members being directly opposed to one other, as well as having members that hold views that seem more “extreme”. This is not a bad thing but something that actually must be sought after, as having a council made up of people that agree on the issue is neither useful nor conducive to debate and the learning process that comes with it.

  11. Hi Niyati,
    Excellent post overall. You did an excellent job hitting the key themes and concepts of this week’s readings. However, for the Braun reading, I wish you would have elaborated on the republican and managerial discourse. As you note, managerial discourse “focuses more on the potential benefits and risks posed by biotechnology and that ethics can help mitigate these risks” whereas republican discourse is a “social view in that risks associated with biotechnology can cause social problems and can only be amended by “citizen engagement” (Braun, 44)” (Niyati 2019). These two types of discourse directly influence what kind of policy is created or what approach was towards a policy. Managerial discourse believes that bioethics should educate and correct public opinion whereas the republican approach seeks to integrate the public into discussion (Braun 48). The difference in approaches is why I would agree with Braun’s conclusion that the republican approach is more beneficial than the managerial one. Last week, we discussed the composition of the Presidential Committee of Bioethics and how that would affect policy recommendations that came out of the committee. I feel that it is only through discussing a question from all aspects that we can come up with the best answer or policy. As we mentioned in class, leaving the decision to experts is more likely to increase exclusivity and thus increases the gap between the experts and non-experts.
    Several people in their responses have addressed the question of “molding or beholding. Personally, I agree with Elisabeth’s argument. It is natural to improve and shape nature as humans are not then only ones to do it. Crows have learned to utilize cars and traffic lights in order to crack nuts. Ants have developed countermeasures to dangerous pathogens that affect the ants themselves and their food sources. On top of these examples, many other animals have altered their behaviors in order to improve their quality of life. Based on these reasons, I would argue that “molding” is inherent in all organisms, not just humans.

  12. Hi Niyati,

    Thank you for a well done summary of the readings and for connecting them with our past discussions. I was very interested in Braun’s artcile on the beliefs of genetic technologies in Germany. We have heard the beliefs of those in Israel, Japan, of Muslim and Christian faiths, and so far I have found the Germany view one of the most interesting. The beliefs of the “techno-optimists” vs the “techno-skeptics” align with the liberal vs conservative views. In your blog post, I was most interested to understand better as to why you felt that the secular view of “common ethos”, that views that every life is worth living, was the most noteworthy to you. Do you feel that this view aligns with your own personal beliefs or is something that you feel should be a universal view? Another aspect of your blog I wanted to point out what where you explain that “ethics is a deliberate choice and should add structure to the delicate task of ‘balancing diverging values’, best done by professionals in medicine and research” (Braun, 43). This is an important point especially as we begin to consider our final projects when picking who should be on an ethics committee and why. Kass’s defense of the creation of the Bush’s council is also important to take into consideration.

  13. Thank you for your post. You did a great job tying this week’s readings to others we have covered over the course of the semester. I find it curious that you, in addition to most other students in our class, liked the secular arguments of some techno-skeptics. I had the same question that Eleni did: why do you find the secular argument to be more powerful and convincing than the religious one? In modern society, it seems that arguments grounded in religious belief are not given as much thought or credit as secular arguments.

    I also liked Jillian’s comment: The use of “pro” labels for pro-life and pro-choice, rather than having thinking of the sides as anti-choice and anti-life respectively, makes neither side seem malicious. Terms don’t however become charged until they are used in political debates, and I agree with her idea that given enough time, they will eventually become divisive.

    As for how a techno-optimist would see PGD today, it’s hard to say. As we have learned over the course of this semester, very few people are “hard” liberals or conservatives, and even less people have consistent views of various technologies. I think while it’s fair to say that a techno-optimist would be generally favorable of PGDs, if they saw people misusing PGDs over a long period of time, these techo-optimists would come to see that the risks outweigh the benefits of PGDs. Initially however, I do think they would be supportive of the use of PGDs to screen for various diseases to prepare the parents for how to best raise a child with a genetic disorder.

  14. Hi Niyati!

    Thank you for your post – you synthesized each article excellently and clearly related them.

    You posed a question: “To me, he is trying to say that the practices of ART, human cloning, and embryonic stem cell research are “soulless” and that the outcomes will create generic, non-diverse individuals. What do you all think this mission refers to?”

    I think Levin’s mission is to avoid a hypothesized worst case scenario by completely banning the technology. As ART and cloning are deemed unnatural by Levin and the creation of the child is not performed through a culturally valued process (ie the conjugal act), I think Levin fears that human life (embryos) will become so easily created and reproduced that application of the technology will spiral out of control and become a purely scientific endeavor that crosses fundamental lines of human rights. And once that line is crossed, who is to say where the new line is to be drawn? So Levin’s argument here is not that the creation of those beings through technology will be soulless, but rather our orientation towards life and other people will become irreparably devoid of empathy and respect and thus “soulless.”

    Furthermore, the awe Levin refers to, at least to me, is the reverence in which we treat things we don’t understand but are grateful for, such as how our bodies reproduce. This reverence has been symbolized through religion and faith and belief in a higher being. If suddenly we understand how to control that which we were dependent on luck or a higher being for, then we lose the awe that comes along with being “gifted” a child or a person being talented in some way.

    Once we can choose how to fabricate life and have that knowledge, there is a plethora of exploitative possibilities and I believe that Levin’s mission statement, “to prevent our transformation into a culture without awe filled with people without souls,” is in response to the worst-case scenarios or the moral dangers that reproductive technology could breed in our society.

    At first, I am prone to criticize Levin for being to quick to dismiss a managerial view of this technology, but Levin’s point is not without validity – reproductive technology poses opportunity for out society to grow in both good and bad ways, and while I disagree with “conservative” rhetorical techniques as explained by Macklin, I appreciate that the dialogue is there to make those too optimistic reconsider and add an air of caution to their approach.

    Thanks Niyati!

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