Metaphors, Principles, and Ethics of Molecular Biotechnologies

PD Dr. Joachim Boldt (CIBSS-AI), Institute of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine (Faculty of Medicine), University of Freiburg

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The first research focus of this project is on metaphors and their ethical significance in molecular biotechnology. We aim to identify clusters of metaphors and assess their ethical implications, especially regarding potential over- and under-regulation. For example, genetic metaphors may lead to overestimating mono-causal genotype-phenotype correlations and to overregulating gene technologies, while epigenome metaphors may unduly highlight reversibility of epigenetic changes and suggest the idea that epigenetic technologies are ineffective as compared to technologies targeting the genome.

The second research focus is on analyzing and developing ethics principles for molecular biotechnologies. Lists of principles are valuable tools for ethically assessing novel technologies. Regarding molecular biotechnologies, a number of different proposals for ethics principles have been put forward. In the project, we will analyse these proposals, propose further developments and refinements, and assess the potential for a consensus list of principles.