Bioethics 27 (8):435-441 (2013)

Bernard Baertschi
University of Geneva
Biotechnologies – synthetic biology in particular – are sometimes blamed for playing God or manifesting hubris, that is, for evincing the vicious attitude of transcending the limits of human agency. In trying to create living organisms, we would adopt an attitude that is immoral for human beings. In this article, I want to show that this blame is unwarranted. I distinguish two aspects of the argument, which claims that it is impossible for human beings to create life and immoral to attempt it. I argue that if we adopt a conception of what life consists of in agreement with the scientific world view, there is no place for hubris. Finally, I maintain that even if we accept a non-scientific conception of life (a vitalist or a supernatural one), we are not in a position to formulate the blame against synthetic biologists because what they do cannot contravene this vitalist or supernaturalist view
Keywords synthetic biology  hubris  playing God  artificial life
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DOI 10.1111/bioe.12048
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