Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 5–17 | Cite as

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

  • Eva M. Neumann-Held

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.

eugenics evolutionary gene concept genetic disease human genetics molecular gene concept 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abbott, A.: 1999, 'A post–genomic challenge: Learning to read patterns of protein synthesis', Nature 402, 715–720.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, R.: 1987, The Biology of Moral Systems. New York: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  3. Barker, D.J.P.: 2001, 'A new model for the origins of chronic disease', Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 4, 31–35.Google Scholar
  4. Bayertz, K. (ed.): 1993, Evolution und Ethik. Stuttgart: Reclam.Google Scholar
  5. Bishop, J.E. and M. Waldholz: 1991, Landkarte der Gene: Das Genomprojekt. München: Droemer Knaur.Google Scholar
  6. Bodmer, W. and R. McKie: 1995, The Book of Man; The Human Genome Project and the Quest to Discover our Genetic Heritage. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
  7. Chorover, S.: 1982, Die Zurichtung des Menschen. Frankfurt/ New York: Campus Verlag.Google Scholar
  8. Dawkins, R.: 1982, The Extended Phenotype. Oxford: Freeman.Google Scholar
  9. Dawkins, R.: 1989, The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press (extended edition of the first edition from 1976).Google Scholar
  10. Dulbecco, R.: 1986, 'A turning point in cancer reseach: Sequencing the human genome', Science 237, 1055–1056.Google Scholar
  11. Griffiths, P.E. and E.M. Neumann–Held: 1999, 'The many faces of the gene', BioScience 49, 656–662.Google Scholar
  12. Gutmann, M., P. Janich and E.M. Neumann–Held (guest editors) (1998): 'Species concepts and biodiversity', Theory in Bioscience 117, 201ff.Google Scholar
  13. Hare, R.M.: 1992, Moralisches Denken. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp (first edition of the original text: 1981).Google Scholar
  14. Heutink, P. et al.: 1992, 'A gene subject to genomic imprinting and responsible for hereditary paragangliomas maps to chromosome 11q23–qter', Human Molecular Genetics 1, 7–10.Google Scholar
  15. Jablonka, E. and E. Szathmary: 1995, 'The evolution of information storage and heredity', Trends in Ecology and Evolution 10, 206–211.Google Scholar
  16. Keller, E.F.: 2000, 'Is there an organism in this text?', in: P. Sloan (ed.), Controlling Our Destinies (Notre Dame) (in press).Google Scholar
  17. Kevles, D.J.: 1993, 'Die Geschichte der Genetik und Eugenik', in: D.J. Kevles and L. Hood (eds.), Der Supercode: Die genetische Karte des Menschen. München: Artemis & Winkler, pp. 13–47.Google Scholar
  18. Kollek, R.: 1994, 'Der Gral der Genetik', Mittelweg 36 – Zeitschrift des Hamburger Instituts für Sozialforschung 3, 5–14.Google Scholar
  19. Kollek, R.: 1996, 'Metaphern, Strukturbilder, Mythen. Zur symbolischen Bedeutung des menschlichen Genoms', in: L.N. Trallori (ed.), Die Eroberung des Lebens. Wien: Verlag für Gesellschaftskritik, pp. 137–153.Google Scholar
  20. Laubichler, M.D.: 1999, 'Frankenstein in the land of Dichter and Denker', Science 286, 1859–1860.Google Scholar
  21. Lewontin, R.: 1992, 'The dream of the human genome', The New York Review of Books Mai 28, pp. 31–40.Google Scholar
  22. Nesse, R: 2001, 'On the difficulty of defining disease: A Darwinian perspective', Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 4, 37–46.Google Scholar
  23. Neumann–Held, E.M.: 1996, 'Die moderne Biologie auf der Suche nach dem 'Heiligen Gral'', in: R. Seising and T. Fischer (eds.), Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit. Frankfurt/M.: P. Lang, pp. 135–159.Google Scholar
  24. Neumann–Held, E.M.: 1998, 'Jenseits des 'genetischen Weltbildes'', In: E.–M. Engels, T. Junker and M. Weingarten (eds.), Ethik der Biowissenschaften. Berlin: VWB, pp. 261–280.Google Scholar
  25. Neumann–Held, E.M.: 1999a, 'The gene is dead – long live the gene: Conceptualizing genes the constructionist way', in: P. Koslowski (ed.), Sociobiology and Economics. The Theory of Evolution in Biological and Economic Thinking. Berlin: Springer, pp. 105–137.Google Scholar
  26. Neumann–Held, E.M.: 1999b, 'Von Genen, Merkmalen und Kontexten. Eine philosophisch–wissenschaftstheoretische Analyse zum Begriff der 'genetischen Verursachung', in: T. Braun and M. Elstner (eds.), Gene und Gesellschaft. Heidelberg: Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, pp. 85–94.Google Scholar
  27. Neumann–Held, E.M.: 2000, 'Let's talk about genes. The process molecular gene concept and its context', in: S. Oyama, P. Griffiths and R. Gray (eds.), Cylces of Contingencies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (in press).Google Scholar
  28. Nijhout, H.F. and S.M. Paulsen: 1997, 'Developmental models and polygenic characters', American Naturalist 149, 394–405.Google Scholar
  29. Rehmann–Sutter, C.: 1999, 'Das Jahrhundert der Genetik und der homo geneticus', Novalis 11, 11–14.Google Scholar
  30. Rehmann–Sutter, C.: 2000, 'Die Interpretation genetischer Daten – Vorwort zu einer genetischen Hermeneutik', in: J. Mittelstraß (ed.), Die Zukunft des Wissens. Vorträge und Kolloquien, XVIII. Deutscher Kongress für Philosophie in Konstanz. Berlin: Akademie Verlag (in press).Google Scholar
  31. Rehmann–Sutter, C. and E. Neumann–Held: 1999, 'Optimierung der menschlichen Natur durch Gentherapie?', Neue Zürcher Zeitung (23/24 January), 59.Google Scholar
  32. Ruse, M.: 1993, 'Noch einmal: Die Ethik der Evolution', in: K. Bayertz (ed.), Evolution und Ethik. Stuttgart: Reclam, pp. 153–167.Google Scholar
  33. Scriver, C.R. and P.J. Waters: 1999, 'Monogenetic traits are not simple. Lessons from phenylketonuria', Trends in Genetics 15, 267–272.Google Scholar
  34. Smith, K.: 2001, 'A disease by any other name: Musings on the concept of a genetic disease', Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 4, 19–30.Google Scholar
  35. Sloterdijk, P.: 1999, Regeln für den Menschenpark. Ein Antwortschreiben zum Brief über den Humanismus – die Elmauer Rede', DIE ZEIT Nr. 38, 16. September, pp. 15–21.Google Scholar
  36. Strachan, T. and A.P. Read: 1996, Molekulare Humangenetik. Heidelberg et al.: Spektrum Akademischer Verlag.Google Scholar
  37. Vogel, C.: 1993: 'Soziobiologie und die moderne Reproduktionstechnologie', In: K. Bayertz (ed.): Evolution und Ethik. Stuttgart: Reclam, pp. 199–219.Google Scholar
  38. Voland, E. (ed.): 1992, Fortpflanzung: Natur und Kultur im Wechselspiel. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  39. Wagner, G.: 1988, 'The vexing role of replicators in evolutionary change', Biology and Philosophy 3, 232–236.Google Scholar
  40. Wagner, G.: 1990, 'What has survived of Darwin's Theory? The domestication of replicators: A neo–Darwinian commentary on the concept of replicator selection', Evolutionary Trends in Plants 4, 71–73.Google Scholar
  41. Walters, L.R. and J.G. Palmer: 1997, The Ethics of Human Therapy. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Weingart, P., J. Kroll and K. Bayertz: 1996, Rasse, Blut und Gene. Geschichte der Eugenik und Rassenhygiene in Deutschland, 2nd edn. Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  43. Williams, G.C.: 1966, Adaptation and Natural Selection. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Wilson, E.O.: 1998, Die Einheit des Wissens. Berlin: Siedler.Google Scholar
  45. Wolf, U.: 1995, 'The genetic contribution to the phenotype', Hum. Genet. 95, 127–148.Google Scholar
  46. Wolf, U.: 1997, 'Identical mutations and phenotyopic variation', Hum. Genet. 100, 305–321.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eva M. Neumann-Held
    • 1
  1. 1.Europäaische Akademie zur Erforschung von Folgenwissenschaftlich-technischer Entwicklungen GmbHNeuenahr-AhrweilerGermany

Personalised recommendations