Problematizing the “Natural”: The Internal/external Distinction and Technology

Keith Abney

Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy 2013; 4: T29-36

Nanotechnology, human cloning, and genetically-modified foods are issues which raise profound ethical questions. Any technology which appears to be so unnatural that it falls outside the bounds of what humans ought to explore usually leads to the charge that scientists are dangerously “playing God” with “unnatural” investigations. But making sense of such concerns and discerning what it means for a technology to be “unnatural” turns out to be quite difficult. This essay will explore possible commonalities in worries about the “natural/unnatural” and the “internal/external” distinctions, and see if either distinction can bear the moral weight often placed upon them.


Keywords: internal/external enhancement, ethics, genetics