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Promises and perils of emerging technologies for human condition

Voices from four postcommunist Central and East European countries


Edited By Peter Sýkora

Emerging technologies are defined as fast-growing radically novel technologies with an estimated prominent impact on human society in the future. The ambiguity and uncertainty of emerging technologies at the same time raise techno-optimistic expectations, as well as serious worries about possible unwanted and unpredicted negative consequences following their introduction into wider practice. And because of their radical novelty, emerging technologies also challenge various traditional philosophical and ethical concepts, established risk assessment methods, science and technology governance and policies, science to public communication and practices within and outside the medical domain. The aim of this volume is to present the view of ten authors from four postcommunist Central and East European countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Latvia) on emerging technologies and human enhancement. They analyse the topic from various perspectives: anthropological, ethical, philosophical, ontological, empirical, and legal. A variety of views will contribute to a development of the discourse on technology assessment in their countries, help to make the process of national policy and law formation more active and less “mimetic”, and open the national discourses to international discussion and critical analysis.

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Chap. 7. Germline genome editing and human nature

Chapter 7


Peter Sýkora

Abstract: In the chapter I will explore the argument against radical human enhancement based on the natural law doctrine. Sitarčíková (2012) argues that it is necessary to protect human nature from huge (bio)technological interventions (human enhancement) since they will lead to a destruction of human nature. Due to it, humans will be deprived from the possibility to conduct right life and reach a final end of their existence, which is understanding of God. The argument can hardly be considered anything more than the application of Catholic moral doctrine of natural law. However, I will argue that Sitarcikova’s argument (contrary to her own belief) makes sense even without God’s existence premise. I will try to demonstrate that the doctrine of natural law and human nature with its final goal of human existence need not be religious and is in fact compatible with the natural science view of nature and humans.

The ethical consequences of the biotechnological manipulation of the human genome first began to be discussed in the late 1960s/early 1970s in relation to the emergence of new biotechnological tools that came to be associated with genetic engineering of recombinant DNA. Even in the early stages of debate, an important ethical distinction was made between somatic cell intervention and germline intervention (Anderson 1985, 1989). The genetic modification of somatic cells was viewed as an ethically uncontroversial approach that introduced the possibility of gene therapy for hereditary diseases. The reason for...

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