Submitted in part completion of the ma in Values and the Enbironment



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Section 3

3.1 The ‘proper’ ethical considerations


The Lords committee thought that ethical considerations are important because it “…is possible that in time the scientific difficulties could be overcome…”34. I think there is a problem here as the Lords’ view of the ‘proper’ ethical considerations do not make any direct reference to scientific practice. They delineate six ethical reasons why cloning should be prohibited.

1. Reproductive cloning could be used for eugenic purposes. They thought that just because a technique could be used for an immoral purpose does not give sufficient reason for it to be prohibited. This, rather in disguise, is the opposite argument to the “maximise future possible benefits” argument. Here they are suggesting a minimisation of future possible harms by reducing them effectively to nil. This gives the dubious position of being able to promote cloning on consequentialist grounds but to not be able to prohibit it on the same grounds. Further, this is at odds with their earlier claim that the technical difficulties make the consideration of cloning unthinkable. At this point they are saying that because it is immoral to conduct experiments on humans that this does give sufficient reason for the practice to be prohibited. This is a non-consequentialist argument based either on the virtue of action or on duties to humans. Unfortunately they are again painting themselves into the position that once the technical difficulties are overcome the way is open, because of the possible benefits, to allow reproductive cloning.


2. Human dignity is undermined because each person has the right to a unique genetic identity. But this argument is weakened by the fact that genetically identical twins have the same genetic identity, although their identities are given rather than chosen. Another difference, that they do not mention, that exists between twins and clones is a time difference35, which also confers at least a different narrative identity36 and arguably a different moral identity.
3. They then made what they saw as being their strongest case against reproductive cloning. This is the familial and child welfare considerations. This is based on the fact that the strongest calls for reproductive cloning would come from infertile couples who were unable to have children any other way. Therefore, one of their cells would provide the genetic code for the new child. This would result in confused familial relations where a male child, for instance, would be the genetic son of its own grandparents, the genetic siblings of its uncles and aunts and the genetic uncle of its cousins. This would raise a level of ambiguity and emotional confusion to warrant, in the committee’s opinion, the prohibition of reproductive cloning. I think this is a weak argument because reproductive cloning would affect so few people that it seems to carry little general welfare or utilitarian weight. As for the individual child’s welfare, given that it would seem likely that he or she would come from the richer parts of society, their relative welfare would already be great, and certainly greater than if they had never existed at all. I also feel that given that familial relationships are a fluid entity at the best of times, that this ambiguity would have little bearing on the overall development of a family or the individuals within it. The same argument was raised regarding test-tube babies in the 1980’s (and this is what stimulated the formation of the Warnock Committee) but little or nothing is heard of this now and indeed it is almost seen as a right to have infertility treatment.
4. The situation where a couple had had a child that died. Reproductive cloning would give an opportunity to replace that child with no familial ambiguities. However, the committee objected to this because the child would not have been brought into the world for its own sake and would be expected to be a replacement whereas it may be significantly different due to environmental factors. Again I think in the situation where the couple are infertile that the objections are the same as the preceding paragraph and that this does not represent a coherent hindrance to cloning. Where the couple are not infertile it would seem a strange and morbid activity to undertake and because of this unjustifiable. Nevertheless there may, and probably will, be situations that would make this seem like the only course open to a couple and may easily be construed as a right. In fact, given that the child would have a separate identity this may give parents scope for arguing that it is incoherent to argue that they could expect the child to be the same as the one who died. Another way around the familial objections would be to clone from a stranger but the committee felt this would rather miss the point of cloning in the first place as, presumably, Artificial Insemination by Donor would perform the same function.
5. The right to reproduce. They pointed out that such a right has not been established in law and that there would be strong objections to it because it would subjugate the welfare rights of the child to the reproductive rights of the parents. This is complicated by the fact that the child in question does not exist and so does not have any welfare rights. The question arises as to whether it is better to have diminished welfare rights or not to exist at all. A further interesting twist, not mentioned by the committee, is that the rights of the individual who is replicating is being undermined, or at least diluted, by the production of a copy37. This might result in interesting debates over ownership and inheritance but is not a strong reason to prohibit cloning.
6. To meet the “needs” of infertile couples. They felt that this “should not take priority over the considerable scientific and ethical risks inherent in permitting reproductive cloning”. This alone, by identifying infertility as a “need”, shows how far down the line of technization we have come. This need would not exist without the technical advances that have occurred in the past thirty years.
The ethical confusion that the Lords committee has demonstrated is part of a process that has been happening over the past three hundred years starting from within the scientific community. MacIntyre has pointed out that this modern demarcation of life into different arenas of action has undermined the idea of the virtues because virtuous action only has meaning within the context of the good life as a whole38. Human cloning is an activity that occurs specifically within a subculture within society that has separate rules of conduct from the mainstream39. I shall now look at scientific practice and offer up a view that supports and explains how this has come about.

3.2 Science


Scientific knowledge, episteme40, was originally described by Aristotle as one of five intellectual virtues required to live a good life. He described it as “…demonstrative knowledge of the necessary and eternal.”41 Episteme was, for Aristotle, something that was derived from intuitive knowledge. He wrote that intuitive knowledge was “…knowledge of the principles from which science proceeds.”42 It is something prior to science and is given by the fact that we are in the world. As we grow and learn we are already within a cultural narrative that imparts knowledge to us before we ever are conscious of it, if indeed we ever fully are. Science therefore is already embedded within that narrative before we start to practice it. This is a fundamental fact that both committees have failed to recognise. They seem to think that science resides within a separate realm evidenced by their suspicion of it, as if it were something alien. They do not realise that it is not within a separate realm at all and that it is deeply set within our culture. Science is both informed by and informs the cultural narrative that the committee and everyone else resides within. This is the primary reason for why it cannot be value-free.
Our particular western cultural narrative has grown since the time of Descartes and reifies episteme to be the sum total of all knowledge. Everything that is uncertain is examined through the lens of science and is either defined by it or put on the “future research pile” – no other options are available. This rationalisation of knowledge lies at the heart of the political dilemma and is eloquently detailed by Michael Oakeshott43. In the setting up of a committee to advise on reproductive cloning the government is implying that there is a rational, universal principle, separate from the issues involved, nothing to do with either public sentiment or the practice of science, but existing a priori. Although this may not be their intended remit it is clear from the example given above that this is what happens in actuality. The ethical principles that the Warnock Inquiry suggested have now been set in stone as if they were immutable fact. Their stance on the status of the embryo has become something definite within our cultural narrative and this results in, and is the result of, our impoverished scientific narrative. Committees are under pressure to come up with the truth and this limits their ability to question why they have been given this task in the first place.
There is more to knowledge than episteme, not least of which is phronesis44. This is knowledge of how to act in unique situations where there is no precedent – particularly pertinent in the question of new technology. Unfortunately science, and society, has become much more enamoured of techne, or knowledge of how to make things. It is this technization of society that has resulted in the concentration on how best to produce a product. This may be well and good when considering how best to make a car but research on embryos is done to make cures for genetic diseases. Healing, although an art, is to do with a return to a normal state of health, and, therefore, has no product. In this sense healing requires phronesis as it requires judgement of when and when not to intervene45. Modern research unfortunately no longer tries to restore a state of nature but attempts to replace nature with the artificial. There is an essential paradox here because the more advances are made in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases the less it is possible to clearly state what health entails. In the traditional narrative restoring health is achieved within the wider field of the patient, their illness and society and is but one part of a whole. The state of health only has meaning within a cultural narrative and cannot be defined as being within certain scientifically determined parameters. Health can only be achieved within the project of living a good life and that must be individualised to each person’s situation and capabilities. This requires phronesis both for the individual but also within the narrative that upholds the institutions of our society. MacIntyre proposes that it is the virtues that can give this narrative framework. This starts with virtuous practices that can only be virtuous if they are intelligible. They can only be intelligible by being a part of a wider narrative or history46. This is the importance of looking at the ethical dilemmas produced by the issue of cloning within the context of scientific practice and further to see that practice within the context of society and striving to live a good life.
Before a narrative like this can be formed there has to be an explanation for why the state of affairs as we now find it has come about. Husserl in The Crisis of the European Sciences, I believe, has explained this47.

3.3 Technization


There are four aspects to the process of technization as described historically by Husserl. These are the reification of episteme into representing the whole of knowledge; the loss of phronesis and its practical morality; the industrialisation process allowing the production of surpluses; and the growth of technical knowledge and its associated experts.
1. The success of technological discoveries around the time of the Enlightenment greatly bolstered the Galilean view of the universe. This view formally split our experience into two sorts. Objects in the world had two properties according to Galileo: primary qualities that resided within objects and could be measured; and secondary qualities that resided within us and could not be measured48. These two properties of objects under this system are classified further into objective and subjective experience, respectively.
2. Science at this time included theoretical philosophy, which was steeped in the tradition of a Christian ethic. Technological successes, within the comfort zone of that tradition, also gave rise to the expectation that a universal theory of philosophy would also be possible. This resulted in a search for equivalent objective ethical principles. However, practical morality is carried within phronesis and only has intelligibility within the project of living a good life and requires a reliance on tradition49. In the Galilean sense phronesis is subjective knowledge and therefore unmeasurable and has become increasingly viewed as ‘unreal’. This is why moral knowledge has fallen away within both science and society.
3. Industrialisation has resulted in the production of surpluses. New institutional frameworks have sprung up to provide the solution of how to “…distribute wealth and labour both unequally and yet legitimately according to criteria other than those generated by the kinship system”50. These governmental institutions then feed back into the system to legitimate new ways of securing more efficient methods of production so to create more wealth and so on. This work is governed by “technical rules based on empirical knowledge”51 (episteme). This knowledge is split off from social interaction which is “communicative action, symbolic interaction”52 (phronesis). There are now virtues that are associated with work that are separate from those associated with personal interaction – “It’s just business – nothing personal”. As a result of this demarcation and the subsequent loss of an intelligible virtue ethic, society no longer sees its goal as the attainment of the good life but rather the production of technology for its own sake. Societies communicative action then merely becomes a search for technology that will produce more wealth more efficiently and loses the ability to discuss, or hold within its practice, the investigation and attainment of what constitutes the good life.
4. This new form of knowledge, this technical knowledge, becomes the feed to the institutional system and replaces tradition, both to keep it going and to make it grow, as without continued increase in affluence the population would become unhappy and start to destabilise the system. All communicative action therefore becomes focused on solving technical problems. Oakeshott described this process as one that results in governments lurching from one crisis to the next. We certainly have evidence for that in recent times in the UK with the problems of drought, flooding, BSE, Foot and Mouth, health scares and the crisis in the health service. This is what leads governments into setting up special committees composed of experts to solve these crises. This means that public debate is ousted from the seat of government because the “…solution of technical problems is not dependent on public discussion”53. Even if the public are unhappy there is no outlet for general moral outrage and it never results in an uprising. This is because there is usually a pressure group (comprised of anti-whatever experts) which is relied on by society to “do something about it” leading to ignorance invoked apathy. The public are left with no input into the institutional system and an increasing sense that their purpose is a technological goal. There is an assumption within a sufficiently large part of society that they are literally part of a technological machine. Modern medicine and especially genetic research seems to promise the hope of the ultimate technological fix to all of life’s problems. The health service is the interface between science and the public at large, but there is no rebuttal here to this erroneous assumption that people are just cogs in a technological world. New diagnoses such as ME and Gulf War Syndrome are made and eventually formalised into “treatable” conditions that are given further bolstering by claims of compensation which encourages more people to approach health services54.

3.4 Scientific practice


In scientific practice no one can deny that both episteme and phronesis are used on a day to day basis. Technization has resulted, however, in a search to replace all phronesis with episteme: phronesis is simply made up of hunches and anecdotal knowledge that requires further research. There is no place in this system now for cultural narratives, such as morality, that lie outwith technological manipulation. This means that within scientific practice there is a moral immaturity. Moral immaturity is a dangerous commodity as it often results in worse acts of immorality than if there had been no moral sense whatsoever. This is due to the reaction to guilt, as rather than admit responsibility to bad actions the response tends to be a denial of any responsibility at all. This is the parable of the prodigal son and results in a wanton pursuit of bad actions in order to prove that lack of responsibility. Facetiously, one could say that scientific practice is almost by its own definition amoral (as it often claims to be value-free) and has no explicit code of virtue within its structure. There are also few stories of virtuous scientists – it is only their creations that struggle for dignity55. Both the idea of infertility as a disease, and the ability to perform experiments on embryos are creations of, or at least allowed to come into existence because of, science and that is why we are perplexed by differing moral standpoints about them. They have dignity and it is this that appeals to our feelings of moral right and wrong.
There are some rules of conduct alluded to within science but they are inadequate and more to do with lip service than actions per se. There are four main areas that represent the moral code for science.
First, there is the good implied within the pursuit of knowledge. Unbridled, this obviously leads to the worries detailed by the Warnock Report in that certain practices should not be allowed regardless of the quality of the knowledge gained. In terms of virtue ethics the pursuit of knowledge should be done within the context of the good life that represents the telos for humankind.
Second, there is the expectation that fraud should not be committed in the publication of research. Fraud is not a crime that is limited to scientific practice, however, and is committed, I am sure, as frequently within scientific circles as without.
Third is the limit set on research bias by the process of peer review. At present, however, this is primarily an internal and opaque process that is wide open to abuse by cronyism and/or the blind acceptance of received wisdom.
Lastly, and more recently within the scientific press56, has been the move towards declaration of competing interests. Unfortunately, this process has been somewhat diluted by the tendency to rely on the fact that if competing interests are declared then everything is alright. It seems that then miraculously it will be clear to the reader which opinions to believe and which to ignore.
All these processes would be well and good if I did not have personal experience and anecdotal reports of how the medical fraternity carries out its practices. I have written on this before but it is sufficient to point out here that the form of hierarchy is such that juniors are, in general, mentally abused by long hours of highly stressful work and more often than not by the bullying tactics of their superiors. This is all good character building stuff but leaves little room for the development of a well-rounded socially and ethically mature individual. Also, with the growing relative importance of technical knowledge over practical knowledge there is increasingly less space to include true moral learning, based on experience and tradition, within the training required to produce the technicians necessary for today’s society. For this reason I do not think it is facetious to say that scientific practice is amoral as I believe it has been leached of its former moral tradition (based on “traditional” Christian virtues) and left with little of value as replacement. All this means that in scientific practice any technological advance, like human cloning, can be justified on the basis of maximising the possible advantages so as to provide an immature moral imperative to performing the said action.

Directory: users -> philosophy -> awaymave -> onlineresources
users -> When we analyze an argument, we need to first separate the
onlineresources -> What might it mean to say nature has “intrinsic value”? Do you think it has? Introduction
onlineresources -> The Role of Culture in the Perception of Nature in the United States Martin J. LeBlanc  Acknowledgements
onlineresources -> Mave dissertation, Lancaster University 2001
onlineresources -> Social Ecology and Feminism: Can Socialist Ecofeminism be the Answer? Megan Salhus
onlineresources -> Incorporating the Other: Val Plumwood’s Integration of Ethical Frameworks David Eaton Supervisor: Clare Palmer
onlineresources -> Mave dissertation, Lancaster University 1995
onlineresources -> Is Christianity the Source of our Attempts to Dominate Nature?
onlineresources -> The Myth Of Green Consumerism: Consumption, Community And Free Markets Michael Hannis

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