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(feminism) GENETICS AND ETHICS help please?

kkaye at vax.oxford.ac.uk kkaye at vax.oxford.ac.uk
Sun Nov 27 10:41:34 EST 1994

Someone with a username of 'habib' has posted an invitation to flame him/her
about his/her critiques of feminism. I do not propose to do so, but I think
that the post is not relevant to the usergroup; and assumes that we are not
concerned with science. Critiques (especially of such poor intellectual
quality) of feminism are so common that they hardly merit bandwidth.


I would be very grateful for views on the merits and demerits of genetic
therapy and (more generally) the Human Genome Project. Here in the UK we have a 
standing committee on science and ethics advising Parliament, slowly, about the
ethical dimensions and implications of being able to analyse and predict
genetically-borne pathologies. My questions are:

1. Do we, as women and both scientists and members of society, have a grip
*ourselves* on the implications of our work? In other words, should an early
test be developed for cystic fibrosis, ought society then force, or persuade,
people to terminate the pregnancy? For that matter, should childbearing become
a licensed activity based on our understanding of genetics?

2. If we say "society should make that decision, not Us - we're scientists" are
we happy as citizens or as scientist that society has the information it wants
in order to handle that kind of decision?

3. I don't postulate a unified philosophical response to these questions; but
might one arise?

I put these philosophical questions to this group for what I hope are
understandable reasons: I cherish a belief in women scientists as beings with a
rather wider understanding of the human condition than many of their male
counterparts. We also have the babies; and the questions of power wielded
through science bears on us in very direct ways (as it does with men and the
defence industry, but that's a totally separate issue; I raise it only to
acknowledge it, not to open it). As scientists we wield power; as women we may
mediate its transfer or be at the receiving end of its use.

Opinions, please? 

Best wishes
Katherine J. Kaye (Dr.)
University of Oxford
kkaye at vax.ox.ac.uk

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