Untrammeled Nature: Should We Ever Leave the World Alone?

TitleUntrammeled Nature: Should We Ever Leave the World Alone?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsKaebnick, GE
JournalProfessional Ethics Report
PublisherAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program
Publication LanguageEnglish
AbstractEven a cursory scan of movie and book titles over the last couple of decades would establish that the growing power of science and technology—the ever-expanding capacity they give to alter the natural world in unexpected ways—is accompanied by growing moral uneasiness. Contemporary social debates in which this uneasiness is present include those about the genetic modification of crops and livestock; the possibility of synthesizing microbes for specific industrial, medical, or other social goals; the likelihood that some extinct species might be recreated and perhaps even reintroduced into the wild; sports doping; and the more-distant prospect of enhancements to human nature that confer advantages in intelligence, memory, or lifespan. All of these debates involve questions about risks to health, safety, or human welfare generally, but concerns about risks do not fully explain the moral unease many feel. There is, additionally, a fairly common sense that some alterations to nature are intrinsically undesirable, regardless of the possible consequences for human welfare.