The Moral Justifiability of Genetic Manipulation

Evelyn Pluhar
1986 Between the Species An Online Journal for the Study of Philosophy and Animals  
In In my my recent recent article, article, "an "an the the Genetic Genetic Manipllation Manipllation of of Animals, Animals, "[ "[ 1] 1] I I argued argued that that although although current current genetic genetic experiments experiments on on sen sen tient tient non-human non-human anirrals anirrals (hereafter, (hereafter, simply simply "anirrals") "anirrals") tivated m::>tivated by by a a thorough thorough going, going, responsible responsible respect respect and and concern concern for for
more » ... ern concern for for sentient sentient individuals, individuals, I I held, held, it it could could be be m::>rally m::>rally justifiable. justifiable. While While Michael Michael W. W. Fox Fox has has disagreed disagreed with with sane sane of of my my contentions, contentions, at at bottom bottom we we agree agree far far m::>re m::>re than than we we disagree. disagree. I I am am pleased pleased to to have have the the opportunity opportunity here here to to respond respond to to him him in in turn. turn. Fox Fox first first takes takes issue issue with with my my claim claim that that genetic genetic manipllation manipllation is is "not "not in in itself itself cruel, cruel, nor nor need need it it lead lead to to cruelty" cruelty" [po [po 14] 14] • • He He quite quite righUy righUy points points out out that that experimentation experimentation on on animals, animals, in in particular particular transgenic transgenic experi experi mentation mentation (in (in which which genes genes f'ran f'ran one one species species are are inserted inserted into into another), another), when when done done plrely plrely for for human human benefit, benefit, is is very very likely likely to to result result in in cruelty cruelty to to animal animal subjects. subjects. I I entirely entirely agree agree with with him him here, here, but but to to do do so so is is no no departure departure fran fran my my original original contention. contention. My My point point was was that that genetic genetic manipllation manipllation as as such such is is not not the the culprit. culprit. Genetic Genetic manipllation manipllation m::>tivated m::>tivated by by respect respect and and concern concern for for sentient sentient individuals individuals would would probably probably not not result result in in cruelty cruelty [see [see my my p. p. 14]. 14]. Fox's Fox's second second disagreement disagreement is is with with my my claim claim that that "genetic "genetic farming" farming" is is simply simply an an extension extension of of the the traditional traditional human human maniplla maniplla tion tion of of animal animal species species for for our our own own conveni conveni ence ence [po [po 13]. 13]. Fox Fox claims claims that that transgenic transgenic experiments experiments are are a a different different matter matter altoge altoge ther, ther, because because "never "never before before has has it it been been pos pos sible sible to to cross cross the the genetic genetic boundaries boundaries that that keep keep individual individual species species separate. separate. I I have have two two responses responses to to make. make. (a) (a) surely surely we we have have crossed crossed these these boundaries boundaries before. before. Consider, Consider, e.g., e.g., the the tangelo tangelo and and the the mule. mule. [2] [2] Of Of course, course, biotechnology biotechnology now now allows allows us us to to inter inter mingle mingle species species which which differ differ far far rrore rrore than than the the horse horse and and the the donkey, donkey, but but this this is is a a differ differ ence ence in in degree degree (an (an "extension," "extension," as as I I said) said) • • (b) (b) It It also also seems seems to to me me that that the the changes changes we we have have made made within within species species by by traditional traditional :ne :ne thods thods differ differ from from the the creation creation of of hybrids hybrids only only in in degree. degree. In In all all such such cases, cases, humans humans have have intentionally intentionally altered altered the the genetiG genetiG make make up up of of animals. animals. My My point point was--and was--and is--that is--that the the alteration alteration of of non-human non-human (or (or human) human) gene gene tic tic make-up make-up by by humans, humans, by by whatever whatever technolo technolo gy, gy, is is not not in in itself itself wrong. wrong. It It becomes becomes wrong wrong when when sentient sentient individuals individuals are are treated treated as as mere mere means means to to our our ends. ends. It It is is at at this this point point that that the the one one serious serious disagreement disagreement between between myself myself and and Fox Fox emerges. emerges. He He presses presses the the following, following, third third objection, objection, according according to to which which any any alteration alteration of of genetic genetic make-up make-up would would be be unjustified: unjustified: such such tarrpering tarrpering shows shows a a disregard disregard for for the the "telos" "telos" of of animal animal species, species, and and this this is is wrong wrong because because their their "telos" "telos" is is "to "to be be respected respected and and [is] [is] worthy worthy of of m::>ral m::>ral consideration." consideration." This This is is an an inter inter esting esting and and important important challenge, challenge, but but I I will will argue argue that that it it does does not not show show genetic genetic maniplla maniplla tion tion to to be be unjustifiable. unjustifiable. As As Fox Fox notes, notes, the the concept concept of of "telos" "telos" is is Aristotelian Aristotelian in in origin, origin, meaning meaning (roughly) (roughly) "final "final cause" cause" or or purpose. purpose. Al Although though Fox Fox urges urges us us to to grasp grasp "the "the full full and and original original meaning meaning of of 'telos'," 'telos'," this this is is precisely precisely what what we we would would do do well well to to avoid. avoid. AristoUe's AristoUe's "telos" "telos" is is wedded wedded to to the the anti anti-evolutionary -evolutionary view view that that species species are are fixed, fixed, inmutable, inmutable, governed governed by by intrinsic intrinsic p.rrposes. p.rrposes. If If we we are are to to use use the the concept concept at at all, all, we we must must up-date up-date it it as, as, e.g., e.g., Bernard Bernard ~ll,t. ll,t. t t \\I~\"' \\I~\"' \or \or DISCUSSION� DISCUSSION 136 136 BEI'WEEN BEI'WEEN THE THE SPOCIFS SPOCIFS a.QX a.QX L L
doi:10.15368/bts.1986v2n3.14 fatcat:caz2wxnlrne4jisnc6jy6uzf4i