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Bioconservatism is a social, political, and moral stance that urges regulation and relinquishment of biotechnologies regarded by bioconservatives as dangerous, dehumanizing, or immoral. Common targets of regulation include the genetic modification (genetic engineering) of crops and animals (including humans), preimplantation genetic diagnosis, both therapeutic and reproductive cloning, stem cells, and human enhancement including radical life extension and cognitive modification. Bioconservatism is sometimes regarded as a "third dimension" of political orientation, along with the more conventional dimensions of social and economic liberalism/conservatism.
What is distinctly unusual about bioconservatism is how it emerges from two groups that otherwise disagree about practically everything: religious conservatives and liberal environmentalists. Among religious conservatives, bioconservatism is best symbolized by the former President Bush's President's Council on Bioethics and its founding chairman, Leon Kass. Throughout its existence, Bush's President's Council on Bioethics has published papers and books arguing against the application of new biotechnologies such as stem cells, cloning, life extension, and human enhancement. The most prominent liberal environmentalist bioconservative group is the Center for Genetics and Society, based in Oakland, California. Both the President's Council on Bioethics and the Center for Genetics and Society were founded in 2001 in response to new developments in biotechnology. These groups argue that these new technologies are inhumane, unwholesome, and in some cases violate human dignity and the meaning of life.
The contrasting view to bioconservatism is technoprogressivism or transhumanism. Transhumanists and technoprogressive groups, like the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, primarily an online organization, argue that new biotechnologies should be adopted cautiously. They compare modern bioconservatism to historic discomfort about the dissection of cadavers, vaccination, blood donations, in vitro fertilization, and the use of contraception. According to these groups, novel biotechnologies will be adopted whether or not they are outlawed in individual jurisdictions, so it makes sense to prepare for their arrival by thinking carefully about the ethics involved.
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