David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (4):757-774 (2012)
The phrase ‘synthetic biology’ is used to describe a set of different scientific and technological disciplines, which share the objective to design and produce new life forms. This essay addresses the following questions: What conception of life stands behind this ambitious objective? In what relation does this conception of life stand to that of traditional biology and biotechnology? And, could such a conception of life raise ethical concerns? Three different observations that provide useful indications for the conception of life in synthetic biology will be discussed in detail: 1. Synthetic biologists focus on different features of living organisms in order to design new life forms, 2. Synthetic biologists want to contribute to the understanding of life, and 3. Synthetic biologists want to modify life through a rational design, which implies the notions of utilising, minimising/optimising, varying and overcoming life. These observations indicate a tight connection between science and technology, a focus on selected aspects of life, a production-oriented approach to life, and a design-oriented understanding of life. It will be argued that through this conception of life synthetic biologists present life in a different light. This conception of life will be illustrated by the metaphor of a toolbox. According to the notion of life as a toolbox, the different features of living organisms are perceived as various rationally designed instruments that can be used for the production of the living organism itself or secondary products made by the organism. According to certain ethical positions this conception of life might raise ethical concerns related to the status of the organism, the motives of the scientists and the role of technology in our society.
|Keywords||Biotechnology Conception of life Designing life Living machine Synthetic biology|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
Hans Jonas (1984). The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age. University of Chicago Press.
Kalevi Kull, Terrence Deacon, Claus Emmeche, Jesper Hoffmeyer & Frederik Stjernfelt (2009). Theses on Biosemiotics: Prolegomena to a Theoretical Biology. Biological Theory 4 (2):167-173.
la Mettrie & Julien Offray (1996). Machine Man and Other Writings. Cambridge University Press.
Citations of this work BETA
Maarten Boudry & Massimo Pigliucci (2013). The Mismeasure of Machine: Synthetic Biology and the Trouble with Engineering Metaphors. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (4):660-668.
Similar books and articles
Michel Morange (2013). Synthetic Biology: A Challenge to Mechanical Explanations in Biology? Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):543-553.
Christophe Malaterre (2009). Can Synthetic Biology Shed Light on the Origin of Life? Biological Theory 4 (4):357-367.
Hans-Jürgen Link (2013). Playing God and the Intrinsic Value of Life: Moral Problems for Synthetic Biology? Science and Engineering Ethics 19 (2):435-448.
Edouard Machery (2012). Why I Stopped Worrying About the Definition of Life... And Why You Should as Well. Synthese 185 (1):145-164.
Ute Deichmann, Michel Morange & Anthony S. Travis (2013). Editors' Introduction to Special Issue. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):470-472.
John I. Glass (2013). Synthetic Genomics and the Construction of a Synthetic Bacterial Cell. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):473-489.
Philip Ball (2010). Making Life: A Comment on 'Playing God in Frankenstein's Footsteps: Synthetic Biology and the Meaning of Life' by Henk van den Belt (2009). NanoEthics 4 (2):129-132.
Norman H. Packard & Mark A. Bedau (2003). Artificial Life. In L. Nadel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Nature Publishing Group. 505-512.
Henk van den Belt (2009). Playing God in Frankenstein's Footsteps: Synthetic Biology and the Meaning of Life. [REVIEW] NanoEthics 3 (3):257-268.
Marc Lange (1996). Life, "Artificial Life," and Scientific Explanation. Philosophy of Science 63 (2):225-244.
Addy Pross (2012). What is Life?: How Chemistry Becomes Biology. Oxford University Press.
Stevan Harnad (1993). Artificial Life: Synthetic Versus Virtual. Philosophical Explorations.
Alan N. Schechter (2013). Introduction to the Symposium on Synthetic Life. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 55 (4):467-469.
Added to index2011-04-14
Total downloads40 ( #43,388 of 1,102,835 )
Recent downloads (6 months)3 ( #120,475 of 1,102,835 )
How can I increase my downloads?