According to vitalism, living organisms differ from machines and all other inanimate objects by being endowed with an indwelling immaterial directive agency, ‘vital force,’ or entelechy . While support for vitalism fell away in the late nineteenth century many biologists in the early twentieth century embraced a non vitalist philosophy variously termed organicism/holism/emergentism which aimed at replacing the actions of an immaterial spirit with what was seen as an equivalent but perfectly natural agency—the emergent autonomous activity of the whole organism. (...) Organicists hold that organisms unlike machines are ‘more than the sum of their parts’ and predict that the vital properties of living things can never be explained in terms of mechanical analogies and that the reductionist agenda is doomed to failure. Here we review the current status of the mechanist and organicist conceptions of life particularly as they apply to the cell. We argue that despite the advances in biological knowledge over the past six decades since the molecular biological revolution, especially in the fields of genetics and cell biology the unique properties of living cells have still not been simulated in mechanical systems nor yielded to reductionist—analytical explanations. And we conclude that despite the dominance of the mechanistic–reductionist paradigm through most of the past century the possibility of a twentyfirst century organicist revival cannot be easily discounted. (shrink)
Recent advances in the technology of creating chimeras have evoked controversy in policy debates. At centre of controversy is the fear that a substantial contribution of human cells or genes in crucial areas of the animal’s body may at some point render the animal more humanlike than any other animals we know today. Authors who have commented on or contributed to policy debates specify that chimeras which would be too humanlike would have an altered moral status and threaten our notion (...) of ‘human dignity’. This setting offers a productive opportunity to test the notion of human dignity and to emphasize some of its weaknesses as an ethical tool. Limiting chimerism experiments on the basis of whether or not it undermines or challenges human dignity implies a clear demarcation of those characteristics which are typically, and importantly, human. Evidence of our evolutionary ties and behavioral similarities with other animals seem to annul all attempts to define the uniquely human properties to which human dignity may be attributed. Hence, it has been suggested that the particular moral status associated with humans cannot be explained for beyond an intuitive basis. In what follows, we will argue that the difficulties inherent in the notion of human dignity lie not in the impossibility to acquire a list of properties which are unique to humans, but rather in the difficulty to demonstrate the moral relevance of these properties, and particularly the relevance of their being human. We offer an alternative interpretation of the concept of dignity which is not necessarily related to being human. (shrink)
Until now, however, little has been devoted to the results of various abortion policy changes. Legge examines the effects of abortion policy changes on maternal and infant health in the United States, Great Britain, and Eastern Europe.
Marion J. Legge addresses theological ethics from the context of Canadian women -- especially the experience of marginalized women in Canada. Beginning with a critical reassessment of Canadian Radical Christianity, she argues that approches that center on question of economic justice have nevertheless overlooked the day-to-day economic realities of Canadian women. Legge develops a reformulated critical theory of culture that, though it emphasizes difference, avoids premature abstraction and misplaced generalizations. She seeks a voice to articulate the theological and ethical dimensions (...) of women's experience in the texts of three Canadian novels: In Search of April Raintree, by Beatrice Cullen; The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence; and Obasan, by Joy Kogawa. (shrink)
The prospect of “curing” spinal cord injury using stem cell therapy is one of the significant goals of many stem cell researchers. In this communication we consider some of the physiological implications of successful in vivo spinal cord repair and the ethical issues this potential revolutionary therapy will raise.
What moral and spiritual resources do churches have to open space for transforming and making new relations with and among Aboriginal communities? What values best express justice and are cross-culturally appropriate? Who decides on the terms and how? When are moral agency and responsibility aptly configured within unevenly structured relations of power? With special attention to the United Church of Canada and to voices of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women, I explore elements of an ethical framework in dialogue with the Royal (...) Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. The Commission suggests three roles that religious institutions can play: to foster awareness and understanding; to participate in public discussion; and to advocate at the local level in situations of conflict. On what grounds can each role be adequate in practice and what are some ingredients for ethical guidelines? I suggest what moral agenda and basis might confirm the claims of ecclesial potential. (shrink)