Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 November 2012
The previous two chapters considered the ethics of modifying species, both human and nonhuman. The focus was on organisms that fit imperfectly into existing species categories. However, some engineered organisms may not fall even partially into preexisting species categories, either because they are not created from biological materials or because the biological materials that comprise them are so thoroughly recombined and reengineered. Such organisms would not be interspecific. Instead, they would constitute artificially selected, de novo species, or artifactual organisms and species.
As with transgenics and transhumans, differential extrinsic evaluation of artifactual organism research programs and applications is needed. Some will be hasty, risky, and unnecessary, while others will address significant social and environmental problems in incremental, controlled, and responsible ways. What is distinctive about artifactual organisms and species is the extent to which they are designed and engineered by us – that is, their artifactualness. This chapter concerns whether their artifactualness has any ethical significance. If it does not, then creating novel organisms and species does not raise any unique ethical concerns and, as is the case with transgenics, evaluation of them and public policy regarding them should focus on extrinsic considerations. The next section provides a brief overview of some varieties of artifactual organisms. The subsequent sections address whether “artifactualness” is a value relevant property for the types of value possessed by nonartifactual organisms and species.