Genes and Future People

Philosophical Issues in Human Genetics

Walter Glannon

First Edition • December 1, 2001 • 232 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813365602 • $42.00 USD$56.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813345512 • $25.99 USD$28.99 CAN


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Advances in genetic technology in general and medical genetics in particular will enable us to intervene in the process of human biological development which extends from zygotes and embryos to people. This will allow us to control to a great extent the identities and the length and quality of the lives of people who already exist, as well as those we bring into existence in the near and distant future. Genes and Future People explores two general philosophical questions, one metaphysical, the other moral: (1) How do genes, and different forms of genetic intervention (gene therapy, genetic enhancement, presymptomatic genetic testing of adults, genetic testing of preimplantation embryos), affect the identities of the people who already exist and those we bring into existence? and (2) How do these interventions benefit or harm the people we cause to exist in the near future and those who will exist in the distant future by satisfying or defeating their interest in having reasonably long and disease-free lives? Genes and Future People begins by explaining the connection between genes and disease, placing genetic within a framework of evolutionary biology. It then discusses such topics as how genes and genetic intervention influence personal identity, what genetic testing of individuals and the knowledge resulting from it entails about responsibility to others who may be at risk, as well as how gene therapy and genetic enhancement can affect the identities of people and benefit or harm them. Furthermore, it discusses various moral aspects of cloning human beings and body parts. Finally, it explores the metaphysical and moral implications of genetic manipulation of the mechanisms of aging to extend the human life span. The aim of Genes and Future People is to move philosophers, bioethicists, and readers in general to reflect on the extent to which genes determine whether we are healthy or diseased, our identities as persons, the quality of our lives, and our moral obligations to future generations of people.

Walter Glannon received a BA from Duke University, a PhD in Spanish Literature from the Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in philosophy from Yale University. He has been a Killam Post-doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Applied Ethics, University of British Columbia, a Fellow at the Institute for Ethics of the American Medical Association, and a Fellow at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, University of Chicago. He is Assistant Professor in the Biomedical Ethics Unit, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University and Clinical Ethicist at the Jewish General Hospital, Montreal.

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“Not all will agree with the author’s conclusions, but the book is nevertheless an important resource for those working at the frontiers of human genetics.”
— Choice

”A welcome addition to the expanding philosophical literature on genetics.”
— Science & Spirit Magazine

”An important resource for those working at the frontiers of human genetics.”
— Choice

”This book offers exceptionally clear and accessible discussions of some of the most difficult moral questions raised by our emerging ability to manipulate human genes. Readers will find it particularly helpful that the philosophical arguments about each issue are prefaced or accompanied by a lucid account of the background scientific dimensions of that issue.”
— Jeff McMahan, Professor of Philosophy, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

To my knowledge, no other author has treated the implications of genetic research for future humans as comprehensively or as systematically as Walter Glannon. Genes and Future People is an important contribution to a growing and interesting field.”
— Jan C. Heller, author of Human Genome Research and the Challenge of Contingent Future Persons

”Everyone working in the field of bioethics will benefit from reading this book. It deals with cutting edge issues in genetics in both a scholarly and accessible way.”
— Ruth Chadwick, co-editor of the journal Bioethics and Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Institute for Environment, Philosophy and Public Policy at Lancaster University

”This is a timely book, combining up-to-the-minute scientific information and sustained philosophical reflection of the highest order on some of the moral issues presented by the science. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it is the best thing on this subject that I have read. It is a book that deserves the widest possible circulation.”
— Ernle W.D. Young, Ph.D., Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Stanford School of Medicine, Co-Directore, Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics

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