Immortal Cells, Moral Selves

Laurie Zoloth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses the social stigma associated with genetic research and bioethical issues. Genetic research, in its determination to seek the fundamental answers to human biology, has dominated scientific debate since the discovery of nuclear DNA. Thus, human embryonic stem cell research-that fully uses the insights and essential framework of genomics but seeks to understand far more about how cells signal, repress, and express the proteins that shape them-emerged as a part of the larger series of intellectual and social debates about molecular biology, human genetics, and medicine. The debate about the meaning, telos, and nature of the work thus takes place on several levels of discourse simultaneously, signifying and symbolizing a great deal more than the mechanics of method, as do all great debates in science. Claiming to deconstruct and define such questions have been problems, firmly understood to be in the domain of ethics and religion, for the science of essential biology remained frustratingly speculative. The revolution on molecular biology accelerated the process as new frontiers were continually explored. However, current ethical and moral debates on human stem cells mark both a new centrality of ethical reflection and a collective sense of caution about how to cross these new frontiers. In several critical ways, research on human embryonic stem cells recapitulates old arguments about one's faith in science, progress, and technology. In some ways, research raises fears about forbidden and new knowledge; in other ways, it potentiates fears about violations of "mother nature," an argument engaged by both fundamentalists and environmentalists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEmbryonic
PublisherElsevier Inc
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780080533735
ISBN (Print)9780124366435
StatePublished - Sep 14 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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