Synthetic biology: Drawing a line in Darwin's sand

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Maintaining the coherence of the distinction between nature and artefact has long been central to environmental thinking. By building genomes from scratch out of 'bio-bricks', synthetic biology promises to create biotic artefacts markedly different from anything created thus far in biotechnology. These new biotic artefacts depart from a core principle of Darwinian natural selection - descent through modification - leaving them with no causal connection to historical evolutionary processes. This departure from the core principle of Darwinism presents a challenge to the normative foundation of a number of leading positions in environmental ethics. As a result, environmental ethicists with a commitment to the normative significance of the historical evolutionary process may see synthetic biology as a moral 'line in the sand'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-39
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Values
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Artefact
  • Darwinism
  • Ethics
  • Evolution
  • Nature
  • Synthetic biology


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