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Book: 'Synthetic Biology and Morality'
Date:9/12/2013

Synthetic biology aims to design and build organisms to serve human ends, such as producing inexpensive biofuels and developing new kinds of medicines. But this new form of biotechnology also raises ethical questions. The concerns range from environmental and public health risks to social and economic impact, but perhaps the foremost is, Should we be "creating life" in the first place?

The last question is explored in Synthetic Biology and Morality: Artificial Life and the Bounds of Nature, a collection of essays edited by Hastings Center scholars Gregory E. Kaebnick and Thomas H. Murray, just published by MIT Press.

"Synthetic biology seems to involve a quest for a degree of control over the basic mechanisms of life that human beings have never attained before; is that quest desirable? Is it troubling?" write Kaebnick and Murray in the introduction.

The book is the product of a Hastings Center project on synthetic biology that examined and debated the idea of synthesizing life. The first section of the book focuses on the human relationship to nature, with essays identifying basic questions about the ethics of making new organisms. The second section asks whether synthetic organisms, far from being morally troubling, might actually be intrinsically valuable. The last section concerns values and public policywhether and how intrinsic moral objections to synthetic biology might be integrated into policy-making and public discourse.

Gregory Kaebnick is research scholar at The Hastings Center and editor of the Hastings Center Report. Thomas Murray is P
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Contact: Susan Gilbert
gilberts@thehastingscenter.org
845-424-4040 x244
The Hastings Center
Source:Eurekalert

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