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2022

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06

Ethical Debates in Synthetic Biology: Roots, Dimensions and Trend


Abstract:The discussion of life phenomena in synthetic biology has shifted from cognition to synthesis, and the research object has shifted from natural life to synthetic life, which has caused a large number of ethical issues and debates. At present, the academic discussion on this involves many dimensions, but the discussion on the characteristics and relationships of different dimensions, as well as the internal relationship between the debate of each dimension and the development stage of synthetic biology is relatively weak. This paper combs the ethical debate of synthetic biology, and summarizes the five main dimensions and characteristics of the ethical controversy, including: the legitimacy of manufacturing living organisms, the challenge of technological development to religious culture, the ethical issue of biosafety, the fair distribution of benefits and risks, and the conflict between freedom of action and ethical supervision. At the same time, starting from the development stage of synthetic biology, this paper analyzes the internal logic of the ethical debate of different dimensions gradually unfolding and influencing each other. The discussion of this paper is helpful to clarify the chaotic state of synthetic biology ethics research, deepen the understanding of the core claims and basis of different ethical positions in the ethical debate of synthetic biology, and then clarify the key issues to be solved in the ethical governance of synthetic biology.

 

Key words:synthetic biology; ethics; debate; dimension; trend

 

Abstract:The discussion on biological phenomena of synthetic biology has changed from cognition to synthesis, and the research object has shifted from natural life to synthetic life, which has caused a lot of ethical issues and debates. At present, the academic circles discuss this issue in multiple dimensions, but the characteristics and relations of different dimensions, as well as the internal correlation between the debates of various dimensions and the development stage of synthetic biology are relatively weak. This paper reviews the ethical controversies in synthetic biology and summarizes the five main dimensions and characteristics of the ethical debates, specific include: the legitimacy of making living organisms, the challenge of technological development to religious culture, the ethical issues of biological safety, the fairness of profit and risk distribution, the conflict between freedom of action and ethical supervision. At the same time, this paper starting from the development stage of synthetic biology, analyzes the internal logic of the gradual development and mutual influence of different dimensions of ethical debates. The discussion in this paper is helpful to clarify the chaotic state of the ethical research of synthetic biology, deepen the understanding of the core proposition and its basis of different ethical standpoint in the ethical debate of synthetic biology, and then clarify the key issues to be solved in the ethical governance of synthetic biology.

 

Keyword:Synthetic Biology; ethic; debates; dimensions; trends

 

Author: Zhang Hui, Li Qiufu, Li Zhengfeng

Author: School of Social Sciences, Tsinghua University

Faculty of Chinese Academy of Sciences-Research Center for Collaborative Development of Science and Society, Tsinghua University

The full text has been published in Scientific Research, Issue 4, 2022.

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