Risk and Responsibility in a Manufactured World

Science and Engineering Ethics 16 (3):463-478 (2010)
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Recent criticisms of traditional understandings of risk, responsibility and the division of labour between science and politics build on the idea of the co-produced character of the natural and social orders, making a case for less ambitious and more inclusive policy processes, where questions of values and goals may be addressed together with questions of facts and means, causal liabilities and principled responsibilities. Within the neo-liberal political economy, however, the contingency of the world is depicted as a source of unprecedented opportunities for human craftsmanship, rather than of possibly unmanageable surprises. Gene technologies offer a vantage point for reflecting on the consequences of the drift from discovery to invention as a master frame in the appraisal of human intermingling with the world. Biotech patenting regulations carve out a sovereign agency which, by crafting nature, also crafts the distinction between the manufactured and non-manufactured world. Difficulties in ascribing responsibility stem as a consequence. It is likely that politics and economy can be democratized and responsibilities rearranged not by ‘democratizing’ knowledge production, but rather the reverse



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