Confused meanings of life, genes and parents

Questions concerning the moral status of embryos, the validity of new technologies for human reproduction, ownership of one's own genes, gene patenting, privacy and discrimination have all been raised and debated. Although debate is healthy, it is only useful if all participants understand the fundamental biological principles underlying human life, human genes and human parenthood. Many people believe that science can play no role in determining when human life begins. I argue that this false assumption is based on a failure to separate different contradictory meanings of the term ‘human life’. In actuality, science has provided great insight into when and how human life and human beings come into existence. I argue as well that, contrary to our intuitive feelings, there is no physical connection between any father and his son; shared genes represent shared information and nothing more. Nevertheless, the feeling of a physical connection between parent and child is very real and instinctive, no matter how false it may be. These new understandings have profound ramifications for the way we treat issues surrounding human reproduction, including both abortion and assisted reproductive technologies
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DOI 10.1016/S1369-8486(01)00032-2
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M. L. (2001). Confused Meanings of Life, Genes and Parents. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 32 (4):647-661.
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