[Paleopsych] James Hughes: Ratzinger on genetic enhancement and germline mods through somatic therapy

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This is really the most important article about Ben 16.
Ratzinger on genetic enhancement and germline mods through somatic therapy

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005 16:50:05 -0400
From: "Hughes, James J." <james.hughes at trincoll.edu>
To: World Transhumanist Association Discussion List 
<wta-talk at transhumanism.org>
     , mcw-bioethics at post.its.mcw.edu

The election of Ratzinger (whose nicknames are apparently 'God's
Rottweiler,' 'John Paul III,' 'The Enforcer,' 'Panzerkardinal (Iron
Cardinal),' and 'Cardinal No') to Pope doesn't really represent so much
a shift to bioconservatism IMHO, as a hardening and consolidation of
biocon doctrine that Ratzinger and JPII were codifying together over the
last couple decades. Augustine Di Noia is Ratzinger's lieutenant, and he
has said that bioethics would be at the top of the agenda for a Ratziger
Papacy: "Di Noia, the top aide to Cardinal Ratzinger, said he believes
the ethical questions surrounding cloning, fertility technology,
embryonic stem cells and other aspects of genetic engineering will be
among the most important issues facing the new pope."

In fact, di Noia and Ratzinger are already at work on a major new
bioethics statement:



Presumably its conclusions are foreshadowed in the 2002 Vatican document
"Human Persons Created in the Image of God" that was crafted under the
supervision of di Noia, and approved by Cardinal Ratzinger:


One very interesting part of the document is its position on germline
genetic modification via somatic gene therapy in vivo sperm (or eggs).
The Cardinal/Commission holds out that this might be acceptable, if only
used for therapeutic, non-enhancement applications:

"Germ line genetic engineering with a therapeutic goal in man would in
itself be acceptable were it not for the fact that is it is hard to
imagine how this could be achieved without disproportionate risks
especially in the first experimental stage, such as the huge loss of
embryos and the incidence of mishaps, and without the use of
reproductive techniques. A possible alternative would be the use of gene
therapy in the stem cells that produce a man's sperm, whereby he can
beget healthy offspring with his own seed by means of the conjugal act."

My guess is that this will be a pretty big loophole, one that the WTA is
committed to protecting:


But the rest of the 2002 document is pretty consistently Catholic

On enhancement: "Enhancement genetic engineering aims at improving
certain specific characteristics. The idea of man as "co-creator" with
God could be used to try to justify the management of human evolution by
means of such genetic engineering. But this would imply that man has
full right of disposal over his own biological nature. Changing the
genetic identity of man as a human person through the production of an
infrahuman being is radically immoral. The use of genetic modification
to yield a superhuman or being with essentially new spiritual faculties
is unthinkable, given that the spiritual life principle of man - forming
the matter into the body of the human person - is not a product of human
hands and is not subject to genetic engineering. The uniqueness of each
human person, in part constituted by his biogenetic characteristics and
developed through nurture and growth, belongs intrinsically to him and
cannot be instrumentalized in order to improve some of these
characteristics. A man can only truly improve by realizing more fully
the image of God in him by uniting himself to Christ and in imitation of
him. Such modifications would in any case violate the freedom of future
persons who had no part in decisions that determine his bodily structure
and characteristics in a significant and possibly irreversible way."

On a right to bodily autonomy and self-determination: "The right fully
to dispose of the body would imply that the person may use the body as a
means to an end he himself has chosen: i.e., that he may replace its
parts, modify or terminate it. In other words, a person could determine
the finality or teleological value of the body. A right to dispose of
something extends only to objects with a merely instrumental value, but
not to objects which are good in themselves, i.e., ends in themselves.
The human person, being created in the image of God, is himself such a

On contraception, sterilization and reproductive technology: "The mutual
gift of man and woman to one another on the level of sexual intimacy is
rendered incomplete through contraception or sterilization. Furthermore,
if a technique is used that does not assist the conjugal act in
attaining its goal, but replaces it, and the conception is then effected
through the intervention of a third party, then the child does not
originate from the conjugal act which is the authentic expression of the
mutual gift of the parents."

On life extension and anti-aging: "Disposing of death is in reality the
most radical way of disposing of life."

James J. Hughes Ph.D.
Public Policy Studies
Trinity College
300 Summit St., Hartford CT 06106 USA
james.hughes at trincoll.edu
(office) 860-297-2376

Executive Director
World Transhumanist Association   Inst. for Ethics & Emerging Tech.
http://transhumanism.org          http://ieet.org
director at transhumanism.org        director at ieet.org
Interim Editor, Journal of Evolution and Technology
Box 128, Willington CT 06279 USA (office) 860-297-2376
Author: Citizen Cyborg (2004)

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