Université libre de Bruxelles
Saturday 28 August 2010
popularity : 23%

Natural sciences are often linked to "dangerous" messages for the perception of the human person and also for the social order. The Earth is not more the centre of the universe, Europe is not more the centre of the World , a cosmological and religious order does not direct anymore the world and the society , the principles of the human palaeontological evolution are not different of those of the animal evolution, the DNA uses the same genetic code in the whole living world and we have 99,5% genetic similitude with the chimpanzees. The consciousness covers polymorphous realities, such as memory , perception, attention, emotions, …, and even the human mind is broken down by numerous researches .


Biology is the centre of controversies, biological evolution is felt as a danger for the religious believes, biology disturbs also those who, at political level, do not desire to see western biological research demystifying (human) life and also those who continue to consider life as something sacred .

Whom wants to analyse the history of biology will be astonished by the hiatus between the scientific progresses in biology and the philosophical debates around these progresses , as well as the global level of knowledge on these topics . The debates (the confrontations ?) evolutionism – creationism , progress – hazard, materialism – spiritualism, and even the debates about the respect of the human dimension are hardly actualised in front of the modern knowledge.

Life is biological, chemical and to-day with the nanotechnology even physical. Life is reduced to the vital mechanisms of a cell , to the control of the genetic code of the DNA , the regulation of the synthesis of proteins , … A better knowledge of these mechanisms contributes to a better understanding of the vital functions.


Biology has thus managed to a better description of human life. The vital mechanisms are reduced to vital mechanisms of a cell , to the control of the genetic code, to the regulation of the synthesis of proteins: biology became chemical and physical. Consciously or not , the bioethical discussions find their origin in the demystification of human life.

But , to define the human life or to define a human person implies not to be limited to the only biological criteria , excepted perhaps if one considers that the humanity of a person is brought by metaphysical causes . On the contrary , we consider that , in human beings , we must distinguish the biological life from a conscious human life and/or of the social recognition of this life.

In other words, or the definition is metaphysical , or the life is considered as a biological continuum.

Some are proposing a "right of life ", it is an absolute and metaphysical right , closely linked to the philosophy that life would be a gift of god . The conception, the fusion of an ovule and of a spermatozoon , is considered as the beginning of human life . This fertilisation is eventually even considered as sacred. This dogma has naturally "biological consequences", as to consider that the ovule after fecundation is already a person , that the in vitro fecundation is not allowed , that abortion is immoral as well as the contraception.

The biologist can only make the following observations :
- 1) the chemical and physical characters of human life are not at all different of the characters of life in general , and of those of animal life in particular,
- 2) the ovule, also the ovule after fecundation , does not possess any exceptional vital character,
- 3) the first steps of the embryonic development are not yet differentiated ,
- 4) the anatomical development can be easily described and followed , the maturation is more difficult to define.

In fact, life constitutes a continuum, and each scientific basis , on which the beginning of (human) life would be defined , is absent. The definition of human life is thus totally arbitrary .

It is thus normal, when one is not linked to the aforementioned philosophical dogmas, to define human life in function not of biological criteria but of social criteria , and thus in function of the will to give life.


In the bioethical debates , the problem of the definition of life and death remains essential, from abortion to euthanasia, to in vitro fertilisation , to carrier mothers, to transgenic animals , to prenatal advice, to antenatal diagnostics, and to-morrow perhaps to genic therapy .

It seems logical for human beings , in their struggle against natural forces, to use reproductive capacities in a non animal way , a planned and intentional reproduction must be natural for rational beings. Not to admit this principle consists to consider theological premises , such as the idea that a sexual act not desiring to be procreative is refusing a divine principle. To admit it, on the contrary, is to make from human beings, and from his individual or collective future, the only measure that the legislator has to take into account at the moment of the elaboration of juridical norms , when they have to be applied to human behaviours or to the repartition of allocations intended to scientific research .

The use of technologies to realise a desired parenthood corresponds to a goal of the Humanity to make parenthood more brotherly to moral responsible persons . Only on theological or ideological argumentations , this technology could be considered as immoral. The increase of our biologic and technological knowledge will facilitate, without doubt, our possibilities of planning , as well as our consciousness of a free and responsible parenthood. The freedom of thinking, on this topic such as in many others, implies a freedom of philosophical choice, it implies also that a religious group would not impose, directly or indirectly, its law. The sexuality gives rise to prejudices proposed as truths, there where personal sexual behaviours are own to individuals and that their morals are variable as well in space as in time .

Thus , we must conclude in a not specific way. The multitude of moral strong lines implies the respect and the tolerance of this pluralism, it brings us back to the principles of equality , freedom and brotherhood .

Even so a political will has to exist to avoid a manipulation of minds and an occultation of the problems. This will is not always present because the discussion about the definition of the statute of the embryo is inevitably the same as for death with all its philosophical implications. It is, for instance, the case for the discussions relative to the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, of the in vitro fertilisation, the supernumerary embryos, the pre-implantation diagnostics, the genetic counselling and to-morrow the genic therapy, as well as euthanasia.

Only theological or ideological argumentations reject a planned and conscious reproduction, refuse “artificial” ways of reproduction as natural for rational beings , judge as immoral techniques allowing to arrive to a planning of a desired child. It seems us that in opposition to these technological strong lines a very large secular consensus exists to consider as moral and responsible the planning of the reproduction. The recent biological progresses, and the techniques which will surely still be developed, allow to increase the feeling of desired and voluntary reproduction.

The scientific, societal and moral progresses are linked, even if a direct relation between these progresses can not be established. The humanity has already observed that a real solidarity exists between these progresses. One deprives much more of freedoms by obscurantism than by excess of scientific knowledge.

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