Designing Our Descendants
The Promises and Perils of Genetic Modifications
The Human Genome Project, discoveries in molecular biology, and new reproductive technologies have advanced our understanding of how genetic science may be used to treat persons with genetic disorders. Greater knowledge may also make possible genetic interventions to "enhance" normal human characteristics, such as height, hair or eye color, strength, or memory, as well as the transmittal of such modifications to future generations. The prospect of inheritable genetic modifications, or IGMs, whether for therapeutic or enhancement purposes, raises complex scientific, ethical, and regulatory issues.
Designing Our Descendants presents twenty essays by physicians, scientists, philosophers, theologians, lawyers, and policy analysts addressing these issues from diverse perspectives. In three sections, the authors discuss the short- and long-term scientific feasibility of IGM technology; ethical and religious issues related to safety, justice, morality, reproductive rights, and enhancement; and regulatory issues including the necessity of public input and oversight and the influence of commercialization. Their goal is to open a dialogue engaging not only scholars and scientists but also government officials and concerned citizens. The authors conclude that while IGM cannot be carried out safely and responsibly on humans utilizing current methods, it is important to begin public discussion now to determine whether, and if so how, to proceed.
About the Authors
Audrey R. Chapman is director of the Science and Human Rights Program and senior associate for ethics in the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Mark S. Frankel is the director of the Scientific Freedom, Responsibility, and Law Program at American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"With so much heat and little light often shed on the debates around developments in human genetic engineering, this collection of 20 essays is much overdue, and tremendously informative."
"Essential reading for any serious student of either germline gene therapy, or, as the authors have chosen to expand the category, 'inheritable genetic modification' (IGM)."
"The text provides an up-to-date critical analysis of the possible impact of future developments in inheritable genetic modification... The book provides perspectives from a wide range of academic disciplines—scientific, sociological, philosophical, theological, law and policy... It is both informative and very scholarly, recommended as a text for professionals in bioethics, genetics policy and a valuable source book for research."
"This is the product of a multi-year effort at mutual enlightenment and interdisciplinary analysis, not merely a compilation of individually written papers. It should become the leading volume on human genetic modification."
"An original and important contribution to the bioethics, genetics, and public policy literature by an impressive group of scholars from across the disciplines."
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