Research and Technology
Progress in research and technology regularly raises new questions of ethical assessment. In this respect, scientific achievements, which concern fundamental questions of human life, are particularly controversial. An important guideline in dealing with such developments is the precautionary principle, according to which the risks involved should be assessed at an early stage and, if possible, eliminated or reduced so that future generations can also lead healthy lives under fair conditions.
Research on the embryo, for example, confronts us with the problem of defining human life. The possibilities of future genetic "improvements" of humankind, especially through potential interventions in the human germline, would deeply affect our self-conception. Advances in the neurosciences, in turn, suggest a reconsideration of free will and thus of personal responsibility, while the development of synthetic biology gives reason to reflect the creation of artificial life more closely. However, the individual human being may also need protection from science. How, for example, do we deal with the huge amounts of data collected on our health and lifestyle? Are we allowed to carry out clinical research on people who are unable to give their consent (for example children or people with certain disabilities) with the aim of improving their state of health in the future? Scientific developments require the continuous re-evaluation of these ethical questions.