University of Twente Student Theses


Overlapping wisdom : a study into the value of religious arguments in a Dutch debate on embryo selection

Buurman, R. (2010) Overlapping wisdom : a study into the value of religious arguments in a Dutch debate on embryo selection.

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Abstract:In the spring of 2008, a lively debate on preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) coloured the Dutch media. Jet Bussemaker, acting state secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport, kick-started the discussion when she issued a policy letter on PGD in which she consulted the parliament on the inclusion of the genetic defects BRCA 1/2 to PGD procedures. These genetic mutations are responsible for an aggressive form of breast and ovarian cancer. PGD can be used to select embryos to prevent the transfer of hereditary conditions from one generation to the next, and thus had appealing utility for several other hereditary diseases, among which Huntington’s disease and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. While these diseases will develop with 100% certainty if the corresponding genetic mutation is present, the genes BRCA 1/2 indicate only a high chance for the development of breast and ovarian cancer. The conservative ChristianUnion (CU) was unhappy with Bussemaker’s move. This political party feels uncomfortable with any type of embryo selection because life is created, selected and also destroyed in the process. The bad embryos are simply thrown away in the PGD procedure and, valuing unborn human life from the moment of conception, the CU felt morally troubled by Bussemaker’s letter. Being part of the government and being ill-informed by Bussemaker, the CU resisted the implications of the policy letter. To prevent a serious conflict, Bussemaker withdrew the letter and a period of internal deliberation was announced. This conflict sparked a colourful and emotional debate in the Dutch media centred on the topic of PGD, and the CU’s opposition to it. This study focuses on the role of religious arguments deployed in the PGD debate, as sketched above. The main question addressed throughout this thesis is: Can religious arguments be valuable according to an analysis of a public debate on preimplantation genetic diagnosis in Dutch society? This question is tackled in two main steps: The first step discusses whether there are reasons according to which religious-minded people should restrict their speech in public. The idea will be explored that religious reasoning might not be suitable for public discourse, especially when this reasoning implies a universality that dictates how other (non-religious) people should live their lives. The second approach to the main question seeks to identify a rationale by which one can say that religious arguments in some way offer a valuable contribution to the public debate and, consequently, public policy on PGD.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:08 philosophy
Programme:Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society MSc (60024)
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