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The Peril and Promise of Medical Technology

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D. Gareth Jones

Medical technology is one of the most powerful forces in the modern world, with enormous opportunities for good. For many in affluent countries, the expectations of what constitutes the good life have been transformed, as neonatal mortality rates have declined, life expectancy has increased, and one disease after another has been defeated. However, it is not an unalloyed blessing, as social patterns have been transformed, family structures have been challenged, and ordinary people as well as health professionals and scientists confront novel ethical dilemmas.
Gareth Jones writes not only as a scientist and bioethicist but also as a Christian. His aim is to make sense of some of the myriad issues encountered in a world dominated by medical technology. These include manipulation at the earliest stages of embryonic human life, through to ageing and attempts at bringing about physical immortality. The perceived power of genes is critically examined, as are claims that morality can be enhanced using technology. The centrality of the brain for making us what we are is sympathetically examined, against the backdrop of the ongoing debate on dualism and physicalism. Acknowledging our ever-increasing dependence upon medical technology, the author explores ways in which we can live in hope rather than fear.

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Chapter 4 Genes and self-image

Extract

The ‘gene for X’ story Although this chapter is dealing with genetic issues, it will soon emerge that it inevitably touches on the deeper questions of how we view our- selves, what control we have over our actions, thoughts, hopes and fears, and where we are heading. While questions like this do not simply boil down to genetics, they are brought to a head by the prospects opened up by genetics, the major one of which is that of genetic determinism. The media is saturated with reports of discovering a gene for such things as alcoholism,1 homosexuality,2 leadership,3 obesity,4 IQ,5 1 Subhash C. Pandey et al., ‘Partial Deletion of the cAMP Response Element-Binding Protein Gene Promotes Alcohol-Drinking Behaviors’, The Journal of Neuroscience 24/21 (2004), 5022–30. 2 Dean H. Hamer et al., ‘A Linkage between DNA Markers on the X Chromosome and Male Sexual Orientation’, Science 261/5119 (1993), 321–7; Stella Hu et al., ‘Linkage between Sexual Orientation and Chromosome Xq28 in Males but Not in Females’, Nature Genetics 11/3 (1995), 248–56; George Rice et al., ‘Male Homosexuality: Absence of Linkage to Microsatellite Markers at Xq28’, Science 284/5414 (1999), 665–7. 3 Jan-Emmanuel De Neve et al., ‘Born to Lead? A Twin Design and Genetic Association Study of Leadership Role Occupancy’, The Leadership Quarterly 24/1 (2013), 45–60. 4 K. Clément et al., ‘A Mutation in the Human Leptin Receptor Gene Causes Obesity and Pituitary Dysfunction’, Nature 392/6674 (1998), 398–401. 5 M...

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