Genetic engineering: A fundamental moral approach

Robert Steven Ackerman, Fordham University


This dissertation contends that the fundamental moral themes of the relationship between nature and person and the relationship between faith and reason can be used to retrieve a natural law approach that adequately addresses the weaknesses of two models of creation, the stewardship position and the created co-creator position, that have been used to assess the limits and possibilities of genetic engineering in human beings. This revised natural law approach, in turn, specifies a third model of creation that I have termed "limited co-creator." As a corrective to these earlier models, the limited co-creator model steers a course between the extremes of a stewardship position that severely restricts genetic manipulation and a created co-creator position that some advocates have used to justify unlimited genetic manipulation. Relying on the insights of such theologians as Karl Rahner, Wilhem Korff, and Franz Böckle, this investigation argues that a retrieved natural law position is grounded by a properly construed relationship between nature and person where nature is foundational to person and person functions as the sufficient criterion for the universality of moral judgment. It also argues that this properly construed relationship between nature and person presupposes a theological horizon that inspires reason and is further specified by it. Klaus Demmer's anthropological implications of faith are used in this study to guide moral reason in its assessment of the four types of genetic engineering potentially available to human beings, including somatic cell therapy, germ-line gene therapy, enhancement somatic engineering, and germ-line enhancement, prior to going down the clinical path. The limited co-creator model that is specified by this approach avoids a naturalism that makes nature normative, a naïve rationalism that rejects the insights of faith, and an isolating fideism that marginalizes reason by making the insights of faith impervious to analysis.

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Recommended Citation

Ackerman, Robert Steven, "Genetic engineering: A fundamental moral approach" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3255036.