Special Issue of Monash Bioethics Review on “Moral Duties to Novel Beings”
Guest Edited by:
Julian Koplin (University of Melbourne)
Christopher Gyngell (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)
Scientific advances are making it possible to create new kinds of beings. Organisms that contain both human and animal cells (human-animal chimeras) have been created to model human disease, and might be used in the future to generate human organs for transplant. Human brain organoids (which resemble miniature in vitro human brains) are now used to study brain development and neurodegenerative disorders. Genome editing has been used to create monkeys with ‘humanised’ brains, revealing new insights into the genetics of human cognition. Synthetic embryos formed from stem cells are being used to study early human development. The brains of dead animals have been partially “revived” hours after the animal was slaughtered, potentially paving the way for brain resuscitation in humans.
These strands of research are helping further scientific discovery, but they also pose imminent ethical questions. For example: Does a synthetic embryo that is functionally equivalent to a human embryo have the same moral status? How complex does a brain organoid need to become before we have moral obligations toward it? How does ‘humanising’ a monkey’s brain affect its moral standing? This Special Issue of Monash Bioethics Review aims to investigate these and other questions raised by the creation of novel kinds of beings.
Topics of Interest
Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:
• What properties are relevant to the moral status of these entities? Could they have moral significance independently of their moral status? How do these consideration bear on their treatment?
• How can we screen for morally relevant capacities such as (e.g.) sentience or self-awareness? How should we act if we are unsure whether an entity possesses such capacities?
• Do existing ethical or regulatory frameworks deal adequately with our moral obligations to these novel kinds of entities—and/or how should such frameworks be developed in order to do so?
• How can earlier debates on abortion, stem cell research, animal ethics, and/or environmental ethics inform these areas of discussion?
Submission Deadline: 31 December 2019
This Special Issue is planned for publication in the second half of 2020. Individual articles will be processed for advanced publication immediately upon acceptance.
We are seeking papers between 4,000 and 10,000 words. When submitting online (via the journal website below), please be sure to indicate that your submission is intended for this Special Issue on Moral Duties to Novel Beings.