Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 23, Issue 6, pp 1507–1528 | Cite as

The Slippery Slope Argument in the Ethical Debate on Genetic Engineering of Humans

  • Douglas Walton
Original Paper


This article applies tools from argumentation theory to slippery slope arguments used in current ethical debates on genetic engineering. Among the tools used are argumentation schemes, value-based argumentation, critical questions, and burden of proof. It is argued that so-called drivers such as social acceptance and rapid technological development are also important factors that need to be taken into account alongside the argumentation scheme. It is shown that the slippery slope argument is basically a reasonable (but defeasible) form of argument, but is often flawed when used in ethical debates because of failures to meet the requirements of its scheme.


Argumentation schemes Genetic enhancement Gene editing Germline therapy 



I would like to thank The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for Insight Grant 435-2012-0104 that supported the work in this paper, and acknowledge my indebtedness to the four very helpful referees who provided me with many detailed constructive criticisms, insightful comments, and corrections.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Department, Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric (CRRAR)University of WindsorWindsorCanada

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