Gene concepts and Genethics: Beyond exceptionalism

Science and Engineering Ethics 14 (3):357-375 (2008)
The discursive explosion that was provoked by the new genetics could support the impression that the ethical and social problems posed by the new genetics are somehow exceptional in their very nature. According to this view we are faced with special ethical and social problems that create a challenge so fundamental that the special label of genethics is needless to justify. The historical account regarding the evolution of the gene concepts could serve us to highlight the limits of what we know about genes and what we can do with genes. The widespread notion about the exceptionality of genetic knowledge and its applicative possibilities is hardly justifiable and leads to misunderstandings regarding the conceptualization of the ethical and social problems we might face. Following a more realistic interpretation of the role of genes in human life we might avoid a whole set of fictive dilemmas and counterproductive regulatory efforts in bioethics. Bioethical discourse should move from the gene-centered scientific discourse toward the more sophisticated and complex discourses where human development represented as a matter of complex interactions between genomes and environments, between genes, educational factors, nutritional regimes, and other different developmental resources. If a gene is seen as one among the different developmental resources that are shaping a given human trait then both genethics and genetic exceptionalism could hardly be represented as a justified approach in discussing the ethical and social problems of genetics.
Keywords Genethics  Exceptionalism  Concept of the gene  Genetic information  History and philosophy of science
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-008-9056-7
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References found in this work BETA
Lenny Moss (2002). What Genes Can't Do. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
Evelyn Fox Keller (2001). The Century of the Gene. Journal of the History of Biology 34 (3):613-615.
C. Kenneth Waters (1994). Genes Made Molecular. Philosophy of Science 61 (2):163-185.
Sahotra Sarkar (1998). Genetics and Reductionism. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).

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