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Are Transgenic Organisms Unnatural?

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Are Transgenic Organisms Unnatural?
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  1. Are Transgenic Organisms Unnatural? D.R. Cooley History Department 402 Minard Hall North Dakota State University Fargo, ND 58104 Dennis.Cooley@ndsu.nodak.edu 701-231-7038 Supported by a USDA/CSREES/IFAFS grant, “Consortium to Address Social, Economic, and Ethical Aspects of Biotechnology.”

  2. The Unnatural is Unethical Argument: • P1. X is an unnatural object/action. • P2. Any unnatural object/action is morally bad/wrong. • Conclusion: X is morally bad/wrong.

  3. Unnatural Objects • O1. X is an unnatural object =Df. X’s existence violates the descriptive laws of nature. • O2. X is an unnatural object =Df. X is an artificial or man-made object. • O3. X is an unnatural object =Df. X is an uncommon or abnormal object. • O4. X is an unnatural object =Df. X is an object that results from using an organ or instrument contrary to its principal purpose or function. • O5. X is an unnatural object =Df. X’s existence is morally bad. (Leiser 1989 )

  4. Unnatural Actions • A1. A is an unnatural action =Df. A is an action which violates the descriptive laws of nature. • A2. A is an unnatural action =Df. A is an artificial action. • A3. A is an unnatural action =Df. A is an uncommon or abnormal action. • A4. A is an unnatural action =Df. A is an action which uses of an organ or instrument that is contrary to its principal purpose or function. • A5. A is an unnatural action =Df. A is morally wrong action.

  5. Rejecting the Definition Pairs • O1 and A1: • X is an unnatural object =Df. X’s existence violates the descriptive laws of nature. • A is an unnatural action =Df. A is an action which violates the descriptive laws of nature. • Problem: • All human actions are ethical. • All supernatural actions (miracles) are unethical.

  6. Rejecting the Definition Pairs • O2 and A2: • X is an unnatural object =Df. X is an artificial or human made object. • A is an unnatural action =Df. A is an artificial action. • Problem: • All human made objects and all human actions are unethical.

  7. Rejecting the Definition Pairs • O3 and A3: • X is an unnatural object =Df. X is an uncommon or abnormal object. • A is an unnatural action =Df. A is an uncommon or abnormal action. Problems: • Virtually all actions and objects are unethical because they are uncommon. • The mere fact something is a convention does not entail that it is moral.

  8. Rejecting the Definition Pairs • O4 and A5: • X is an unnatural object =Df. X is an object that results from using an organ or instrument contrary to its principal purpose or function. • A is an unnatural action =Df. A is an action which uses of an organ or instrument that is contrary to its principal purpose or function. Problems: • Who decides the function of an object? • How do we discover the function of an object? • Using an object contrary to its primary function is not necessarily wrong.

  9. Rejecting the Definition Pairs • O5 and A5: • X is an unnatural object =Df. X’s existence is morally bad. • A is an unnatural action =Df. A is morally wrong action. • Problem: • Defining terms in this manner creates a useless tautology.

  10. Conclusion • Resorting to the “unnaturalness” of something is going to provide no evidence to support one’s position.

  11. For further consideration • Will the concept of flourishing be helpful in defining the natural? • Probably not • Flourishing will need to be defined. • Suspicions are that it will be defined in terms that eliminate any need for the natural/unnatural distinction.