Biotechnology and the Human Good

Biotechnology and the Human Good

C. Ben Mitchell
Edmund D. Pellegrino
Jean Bethke Elshtain
John F. Kilner
Scott B. Rae
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Biotechnology and the Human Good
    Book Description:

    Some of humankind's greatest tools have been forged in the research laboratory. Who could argue that medical advances like antibiotics, blood transfusions, and pacemakers have not improved the quality of people's lives? But with each new technological breakthrough there comes an array of consequences, at once predicted and unpredictable, beneficial and hazardous. Outcry over recent developments in the reproductive and genetic sciences has revealed deep fissures in society's perception of biotechnical progress. Many are concerned that reckless technological development, driven by consumerist impulses and greedy entrepreneurialism, has the potential to radically shift the human condition-and not for the greater good. Biotechnology and the Human Good builds a case for a stewardship deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian theism to responsibly interpret and assess new technologies in a way that answers this concern. The authors jointly recognize humans not as autonomous beings but as ones accountable to each other, to the world they live in, and to God. They argue that to question and critique how fields like cybernetics, nanotechnology, and genetics might affect our future is not anti-science, anti-industry, or anti-progress, but rather a way to promote human flourishing, common sense, and good stewardship. A synthetic work drawing on the thought of a physician, ethicists, and a theologian, Biotechnology and the Human Good reminds us that although technology is a powerful and often awe-inspiring tool, it is what lies in the heart and soul of who wields this tool that truly makes the difference in our world.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-276-9
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER ONE The Rapidly Changing World of Biotechnology
    (pp. 1-14)

    TECHNOLOGY is an integral part of human life, from the simplest tools made from plants and stones to our digital computers, cardiac pacemakers, pharmaceuticals, and the ubiquitous media of communication and transportation. Human beings are toolmakers; we are Homo faber. Although other animals demonstrate the ability to use elements of their environments as simple tools, such as otters using stones to open the shells of mollusks, humankind is marked by its whole-scale commitment to develop and use new tools. It is hard for human beings to even image a world without the use of tools of some kind. Further, it...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Humanity and the Technological Narrative
    (pp. 15-31)

    TECHNOLOGIES are teleological. That is to say, they have certain goals or purposes. Teleologies are value laden. Good ends are sometimes pursued, bad ends are sometimes pursued, and there is always the possibility that a technological aim is indifferent. Clearly, then, technology is not an unqualified good. This may come as no small surprise to our technologically saturated society. Many Westerners—and most North Americans—are not only technological optimists but also technological utopians. If a technology can help us perform a task faster, easier, and more powerfully, then most people believe it is necessarily a good thing. Yet because...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Biotechnology and Competing Worldviews
    (pp. 32-57)

    BIOTECHNOLOGY: The term conjures up visions of science fiction to some, and to others it suggests the ultimate postmodern hope for human beings to remake themselves according to their own design. Others are cautiously optimistic about the benefits of the emerging biotechnologies, seeing the potential for good but recognizing the prospects for creating a world in which we do not want to live. But still others, such as William Kristol and Eric Cohen, suggest that biotechnology is moving quickly ahead without much consideration for what type of society might result.¹ Biotechnology raises not only ethical questions but also broader and...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Biotechnology and Human Dignity
    (pp. 58-86)

    FEW terms or ideas are more central to bioethics—or less clearly defined—than human dignity.¹ People invoke it to support almost anything. So it is a standard to which most people are quite receptive. But understanding how people use it, and how a Christian perspective on it can help clarify its meaning and implications, constitutes one of the greatest challenges and opportunities in bioethics today. Particularly in the face of emerging biotechnologies, we need a clear anthropology—a clear understanding of who human beings are and, by implication, how they may and may not act toward one another and...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Biotechnology and the Quest for Control
    (pp. 87-109)

    CURRENT and future technocratic “freedoms” advance elimination of less-than-perfect human bodies as a primary goal. This dynamic is worthy of careful examination. The purposes of this chapter are threefold. First, we measure some contemporary projects that deny human finitude and promote, instead, a technocratic agenda of full control of the human body—of nature itself. Second, we argue that these projects promote an ideal of human sameness by construing the stuff of human life as what we can manipulate according to our culture’s standards of what is excellent, good, beautiful, and important. Third, and if anything even more frightening, we...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Biotechnology, Human Enhancement, and the Ends of Medicine
    (pp. 110-136)

    ONE of humanity’s persistent dreams has been to seize control of nature’s laws and eradicate the fragility and finitude of human life. For most of human history, this elusive hope resided only in the literary imagination. Writers fashioned a multitude of utopias free of strife, aging, disease, and death.¹ Others just as zealously exposed the nightmares and follies of human attempts to outdo the Creator.² From the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on, however, science and technology began to place the means to control nature in human hands, and the elusive dream took on the air of reality.

    First to come...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion: Toward a Foundation for Biotechnology
    (pp. 137-158)

    IN the preceding chapters, we have presented the background considerations necessary to inform the theoretical foundations of biotechnology. Our goal in this conclusion is to develop these concepts into a series of principles, expressed through questions, that we hope will help assess biotechnologies philosophically, theologically, and practically. We do not in any way claim that our thoughts are a complete systematic philosophy or theology of biotechnology. Although a comprehensive treatment of these issues will have to be reserved for another volume or series of volumes, we hope that this work will begin a discussion that must take place for all...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 159-192)
  13. Authors and Collaborators
    (pp. 193-196)
  14. Index
    (pp. 197-210)