Controlling Our Destinies: the Human Genome Project from Historical, Philosophical, Social, and Ethical Perspectives

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The Human Genome Project, an international scientific enterprise aimed at attaining a complete sequence and locator map of the entire human genetic structure by the year 2005, constitutes the largest single project ever undertaken in the life sciences. When completed, it will help pinpoint the genetic basis of virtually any human trait. It will also offer the possibility for medical interventions for many diseases and abnormalities related to genetic processes. In this timely collection, scholars from the fields ...

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Overview

The Human Genome Project, an international scientific enterprise aimed at attaining a complete sequence and locator map of the entire human genetic structure by the year 2005, constitutes the largest single project ever undertaken in the life sciences. When completed, it will help pinpoint the genetic basis of virtually any human trait. It will also offer the possibility for medical interventions for many diseases and abnormalities related to genetic processes. In this timely collection, scholars from the fields of philosophy, history, ethics, theology, and the natural sciences explore the complex, far-reaching issues surrounding the Human Genome Project.

Contributors discuss the historical background of the project, the issues behind the concepts of "code' and "genes,' the implicit reductionism in contemporary human genetics, the nagging issues surrounding potential new forms of positive "eugenics,' and the challenge the project presents for theological perspectives on human life.

Because of its interdisciplinary approach and its efforts to engage the scientific community in an informed discussion with humanistic scholars, Controlling Our Destinies stands alone among the literature on the Human Genome Project. In addition to its contribution to scholarly inquiry, it will be useful for classroom discussions and is certain to stimulate further analyses by both humanists and scientists of the wider issues surrounding the Human Genome Project as it develops into the next century.

About the Author:

Phillip R. Sloan is Professor in the Program of Liberal Studies and the Program in History and Philosophy of Science, as well as past Director of the Notre Dame Program in History and Philosophy of Science, at the University of Notre Dame. The Human Genome Project is an international scientific enterprise aimed at attaining a complete sequence and locator map of the entire human genetic structure by the year 2005, constituting the largest single project ever undertaken in the life sciences. The goal is to pinpoint causes of virtually any human genetic trait and eventually create cures for many diseases and abnormalities related to genetic processes. International cholars in this field explore the complex, far-reaching issues surrounding the HGP.

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What People Are Saying

Paul Lawrence Farber
Controlling Our Destinies contains the most penetrating set of available essays that explore the cultural dimensions of the Human Genome Project. It will become essential reading for those who want to assess the value and significance of the HGP. It's accessibility makes it a perfect supplement for any biology program that wants to explore what humanists can tell us about the HGP.
— (Paul Lawrence Farber, Oregon State University Distinguished Professor of History of Science)
Robert Olby
An excellent collection of papers from a truly inter-disciplinary conference focusing on the humanistic implications of the Human Genome Project. Masterminded and edited by the well known philosopher and historian of biology, Professor Phillip Sloan, the volume juxtaposes differing views on the many controversial issues raised by the sequencing of our genetic blueprint. This collection is an achievement in the spirit of the ELSIE initiative, and does credit to it.
— (Robert Olby, Research Professor, Department of History Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh)
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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Contributors
Acknowledgments
Preface
1 Introductory Essay: Completing the Tree of Descartes 1
Pt. 1 Origins of the Genome Project: Introductory Comments 27
2 The Manhattan Project for Biomedicine 29
3 Whose Work Shall We Trust? Genetics, Pediatrics, and Hereditary Diseases in Postwar France 63
Commentary 95
4 A Book of Life? How a Genetic Code Became a Language 99
Commentary 125
5 Origins of the U.S. Human Genome Project: The Changing Relationships Between Genetics and National Security 131
6 Metaphors of Morality in the Human Genome Project 155
Pt. 2 The Genome Project and Eugenics: Introductory Comments 185
7 Defining the Defective: Eugenics, Esthetics, and Mass Culture in Early Twentieth-Century America 187
8 What's Morally Wrong with Eugenics? 209
Commentary 223
9 Utopian Eugenics and Social Inequality 229
Commentary 263
Pt. 3 Is a Strong Genetic Reductionist Program Possible?: Introductory Comments 269
10 Is There an Organism in This Text? 273
Commentary 291
11 Reductionism and Determinism in Human Genetics: Lessons from Simple Organisms 301
Commentary 327
Pt. 4 Reductionism, Determinism and Theological Humanism: Introductory Comments 341
12 Relating Genetics to Theology on the Map of Scientific Knowledge 343
13 Biology and the Theology of the Human 367
14 Philosophical Anthropologies and the Human Genome Project 395
Commentary 411
15 Moral Theology and the Genome Project 417
16 Afterword: The Geneticization of Western Civilization: Blessing or Bane? 429
References 451
Index 513
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