Can artificial techniques supply morally neutral human embryos for research?

William P. Cheshire, Nancy L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Amidst controversy surrounding research on human embryos, biotechnology has conceived a substitute in the artificial human embryo. We examine the claim that novel embryos constructed artificially should be exempt from ethical restraints appropriate for research on embryos that come into being through natural processes. Morally relevant differences in intrinsic value depend on the sense in which the entity may be artificial, whether in regard to constituent matter, genetic or cellular form, generative means, or intended purpose. Considering each of these Aristotelian categories from a physicalist viewpoint, technology can achieve only limited degrees of artificiality because redesigned embryos still retain most of their natural features and relationships. From an essentialist viewpoint, the very limits of technology preclude the capability of manipulating the fundamental nature or essence of the individual who, even at the embryonic stage of life, cannot be made to be artificial through and through. A human may possess artificially contributed attributes but cannot be an artificial being. Classification of novel human organisms as artificial, therefore, is insufficient grounds by which to relinquish the principle that human moral status should be recognized for all living beings of human origin. In uncertain cases, at least the possibility of special human moral status should be considered present in organisms that are derived asexually, are developmentally defective, or are otherwise technologically altered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-88
Number of pages16
JournalEthics & medicine : a Christian perspective on issues in bioethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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