Evaluating Anthropological Pedagogy Claims In Synthetic Biology and Public Bioethics
SpeakersJohn Evans, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California San Diego
Event detailsThe emergence of synthetic biology (SB) has led some commentators to raise some deep ethical issues. For example, it has been repeatedly claimed that the technology will teach people to accept a different notion of what it means to be human, which I will call the anthropological pedagogy claim. This claim has been made about various scientific innovations over the centuries. In more recent debates in public bioethics such claims are routinely made and then ignored. In this paper I first define the claim and put in the context of families of claims in public bioethics. I then show how the SB claim is but the most recent example of the claim, suggesting that this is a more general problem that should be addressed in public bioethics. I then show that it is legitimate to act on anthropological pedagogy claims, if they are true. I then describe a simple preliminary screening method for evaluating this type of claim, followed by a more complicated method should the claim pass the screen. I then use the preliminary screen and show that the specific SB claims do not pass. I conclude with a discussion of what our ethical options would be were an anthropological pedagogy claim be found to be legitimate.