The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology Today…

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Published on 1 Feb 2014

Extract taken from TheScientist Internet Magazine, by By Heather E. Douglas | November 16, 2011:

“Within the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, teams of biologists and engineers are making great strides in understanding the cell and its functioning. However, there is more that should be discussed than the triumphs. There are also the dark purposes to which science (and synthetic biology in particular) can be put. Worries range from the development of pathogenic bioweapons to the potential contamination of native gene pools in our environment. The question is, are scientists responsible for the potentially negative impacts of their work?

Some have argued that the answer to this question is no—that it is not researchers’ responsibility how science gets used in society. But that is sophistry. Scientists are responsible for both the impacts they intend and some of the impacts they do not intend, if they are readily foreseeable in specific detail. These are the standards to which we are all held as moral agents. If I were to negligently throw a used match into a dry field (merely because I wanted to dispose of it), for example, I would be responsible for the resulting wild fire.”

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