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This chapter is organized around some of the major arguments against inheritable human genetic modification. Several prominent activists are mentioned, some even profiled, but that doesn't mean they are necessarily "the leaders" of a "movement." It doesn't work like that, and it's not going to.

But then a non-hierarchical, fluid, egalitarian approach to social issues is what you might expect from those opposing a reductionist, superficially rationalist approach to scientific and technological issues. Process and reality converge.

The chapter's section titles, below, are followed by

There are many more resources in the Appendix.










BOX 11.1 The Center for Genetics and Society

BOX 11.2 C.S. Lewis and "The Abolition of Man"

BOX 11.3 Gregor Wolbring, Making People Uncomfortable

BOX 11.4 The Indefatigable Jeremy Rifkin

BOX 11.5 The Food Campaigns

BOX 11.6 Leon Kass, Lightning Rod

BOX 11.7 Natural Allies




Opposition to Human GE springs from a wide variety of sources. Taken together, what they generally have in common is a sense of collective responsibility — a communitarian approach to social and political issues, rather than a libertarian, individualistic view.

Most activists, however, develop their views not from any single over-arching theory but from one or more specific critiques, most of which do turn out to be mutually compatible. Several were considered in specific relation to cloning (see Chapter 3), but are generally applicable to Human GE:

  • repugnance, an initial "gut reaction" of opposition
  • safety, on several different grounds
  • eugenics and what cloning and Human GE might lead to
  • objectification and commodification
  • personal, familial and social relationship issues

Without duplicating that discussion — or the criticisms implicit and explicit throughout the text — this chapter outlines some of the various approaches to critiquing Human GE, with particular emphasis on the secular ones. There are, for some people, strictly religious objections, which are not considered here in any great detail: Those who believe them don't need the discussion; those who don't, probably won't be convinced by them.

Different activist groups, naturally, tend to work on different aspects, but a few organizations do have Human GE as their principal focus, or at least a major one. They are especially recommended for further information and more connections. Among the most useful are:

  • The Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) — see Box 11.1
  • The Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) — founded in 1983, based in Cambridge, Mass., publisher of GeneWatch (every two months, in print form, with many of the articles archived on the website); an early critic of genetic reductionism, discrimination, bioweapons and modern eugenics
  • GeneWatch UK is an unrelated British organization with similar goals, and an almost identical URL

Other important individuals and organizations are discussed in the context of specific issue areas. ...



Free Documents from the Web

Links were checked and functioning as of 5/09/05; they are supposed to open in new windows. Please report broken ones. For the websites of important activist groups, see the Appendix.

Dorothy Roberts, "Race and the New Reproduction," Chapter 6 of Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty, Pantheon, New York, 1997

Brent Blackwelder, "Cloning, Germline Engineering, Designer Babies, and The Human Future," Remarks at 50th Anniversary of the Law-Medicine Center, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, 10/08/03

Gregor Wolbring's website includes articles by him and extensive links, by no means all to those who agree with him.

George J. Annas, "Genism, Racism, and the Prospect of Genetic Genocide," prepared for presentation at UNESCO 21st Century Talks: The New Aspects of Racism in the Age of Globalization and the Gene Revolution at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, South Africa, 09/03/01

John H. Evans, Cloning Adam's Rib: A Primer on Religious Responses to Cloning, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 2002; it's a pdf (236k), available from here.




See also those listed elsewhere, especially in Chapters 1 and 2 and the Appendix.

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, first published in Great Britain in 1943 by Oxford University Press, since reprinted many times by various imprints

Ruth Hubbard, Profitable Promises: Essays on Women, Science and Health, Common Courage Press, 1995

John H. Evans, Playing God? Human Genetic Engineering and the Rationalization of Public Bioethical Discourse, University of Chicago Press, 2002

Richard Heinberg, Cloning the Buddha: The Moral Impact of Biotechnology, Quest Books, 1999; a genuinely different book that largely succeeds in balancing factual reporting with a perspective that occasionally threatens to drift away into Gaian whimsy but remains rooted in American politics.

Linda K. Bevington et al., Basic Questions on Genetics, Stem Cell Research, and Cloning: Are These Technologies Okay to Use? Kregel Publications, 2004; a short paperback in question-and-answer format, from a specifically Christian viewpoint, available from the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity (CBHD) at its website,