Humans change their world, with no end in sight

Over the last 20 years writer Bill McKibben has looked at the ways humans have altered the world around them, and he has come away worried. “Without quite realizing it,” he said at a talk in February sponsored by the Yale Divinity School and Yale’s Interdisciplinary Bioethics Project, “we had grown so large that there was nothing except tectonic and volcanic forces that remained outside our deep influence. … Humans have always interfered with the world around them, but their alterations have always had an edge. We live in a world where, all of a sudden, that is not true. There is no longer any edge to our effects on the world around us.”

With the advent of genetic engineering, the influence of humans has turned inward and, McKibben said, it is important to draw a moral line. “I would say we draw it at germ line manipulation of human embryos, what a layman would call the creation of designer babies,” said McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Long Distance and scholar-in-residence at Middle-bury College. “It is a line that is very real and very palpable, yet allows room for human therapy.”


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