, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 5-17

Can it be a 'sin' to understand disease? On 'genes' and 'eugenics' and an 'unconnected connection'

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Abstract

Particularly, but not exclusively, in Germany, concerns are uttered as to the consequences of modern biotechnological advances and their range of applications in the field of human genetics. Whereas the proponents of this research are mainly focussing on the possible knowledge that could be gained by understanding the causes of developmental processes and of disease on the molecular level, the critics fear the beginnings of a new eugenics movement. Without claiming a logical relationship between genetic sciences and eugenics movements, it is nevertheless suggested in this article that a connection between both can become established when the distinction between scientifically validated statements on one hand and guiding hypotheses and assumptions on the other hand is blurred, as is observed particularly when scientists report their results to the public. This claim is demonstrated in comparisons between the current state of scientific knowledge on the role of genes in development and causation of diseases, and the way this is presented to the public. It is required that a debate on biotechnology should include reflections on the validity of claims made by scientists.

This revised version was published online in October 2005 with corrections to the Cover Date.