Synthetic Biology and the Moral Significance of Artificial Life: A Reply to Douglas, Powell and Savulescu

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Abstract

I discuss the moral significance of artificial life within synthetic biology via a discussion of Douglas, Powell and Savulescu's paper 'Is the creation of artificial life morally significant’. I argue that the definitions of 'artificial life’ and of 'moral significance’ are too narrow. Douglas, Powell and Savulescu's definition of artificial life does not capture all core projects of synthetic biology or the ethical concerns that have been voiced, and their definition of moral significance fails to take into account the possibility that creating artificial life is conditionally acceptable. Finally, I show how several important objections to synthetic biology are plausibly understood as arguing that creating artificial life in a wide sense is only conditionally acceptable.

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