The array of reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) creates new ethical and moral dilemmas. As often happens with scientific innovations, it takes time for our values, norms, and laws to catch up with them. Today, RGTs are in a state of legal limbo, at least in this country. There are no laws or regulations aside from safety and efficacy.
Sociologists call this “cultural lag.” The period of cultural lag is rife with conflict about the right and wrong uses of the scientific innovation. Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much public debate about RGTs—at least among ordinary citizens. However, as John Evans notes in his new book concerning RGTs, there is a vigorous debate among bioethicists, philosophers, and some religious leaders. (Scroll down on the right to see this week’s posts on RGTs and Evans’ book.)
Once RGTs take center stage in public debates and everyday conversation (probably when more and more parents are faced with RGT dilemmas), what will happen? Is there the possibility of effective and productive debates? Or, will RGTs become another battle in the ongoing Culture War, where civil dialog and compromise are unthinkable?
There are signs that it could become the next battle, with religion at the front line. Fundamentalists, evangelicals, and traditional Catholics are the most opposed to the use of reproductive technologies, Evans finds. Mainline and liberal Protestants, along with moderate and liberal Catholics, feel differently. No surprises there. It looks like the classic line-up in the Culture War.
But there are also signs that we can have a civil and productive debate about RGTs. As we’ll see tomorrow, there are surprising areas of agreement, giving hope to the prospect of an effective civil discussion of the proper uses of revolutionary technologies.
Do your religious beliefs influence your moral evaluation of RGTs—prenatal testing, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, human engineering, and reproductive cloning?