7 Ethical Virtues in Scientific Representation

Char Brecevic

Theoretical virtues assume an important role in philosophy of science. Virtues such as accuracy, simplicity, robustness, fruitfulness, and elegance are often appealed to in cases of underdetermination to justify the selection of one theory among a set of equally empirically adequate alternatives.[1] Given the predominance of the semantic view of theories, in which theories are a collection of models and models are a class of representations, these same theoretical virtues are often applied to scientific representations.[2] Ethical virtues such as prudence, temperance, courage, justice, magnanimity, or humility, however, are rarely, if ever, discussed in the representation literature. Even if one granted that the adoption of certain scientific theories entails ethical consequences in certain social contexts, the endeavor to describe mind-independent truths about the world challenges the idea that ethical virtues need to be within the purview of the philosopher’s analysis. But given that the practice of science is value-laden, that the interpretations of scientific representations are usually not univocal, and that these representations can be moved into spaces populated by nonexpert audiences, I argue that failing to consider ethical virtues in the discussion of scientific representation is problematic—especially with respect to those representations of esoteric scientific knowledge that strongly shape public conceptions of possible futures.

I will be adopting an exemplification view of representation, in which a representational vehicle exemplifies literally or metaphorically instantiated properties which are then imputed onto a target system of interest.[3] Thus, by representation, I mean an object under an interpretation that then serves as a representational vehicle for a target system.[4] Importantly, in comparison to other theories, the exemplification view is considerably more lenient about what counts as a representation. Consequently, I contend that any images, graphs, diagrams, models, videos, texts, or other forms of media denoting targets within the domain of science, insofar as they satisfy the criteria of denotation, exemplification, and imputation, can be rightfully categorized as scientific representations. All representations within this class of scientific representations are not functionally or stylistically equivalent. Rather, what I am suggesting, to use Sheila Jasanoff’s terminology, is that because scientific ideas are coproduced with ideas about science, popular representations of science, although usually not functioning in a technical capacity, are not irrelevant to the philosopher of science interested in scientific representation more generally. To put this point more strongly, if we are seriously committed to the task of integrating certain virtues into scientific practice, we must ensure that those representations denoting scientific content are themselves exemplifying these virtues. With this in mind, I will now direct my attention to a popular scientific representation of CRISPR-Cas9 that I believe fails to represent in a virtuous manner.

In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the life sciences entered into the age of CRISPR. In his 1998 book Consilience, sociobiologist E.O. Wilson announced that “genetic evolution is about to become conscious and volitional, and usher in a new epoch in the history of life.”[5] Although the unmet promises of the Human Genome Project left many doubting whether or not this new epoch had actually arrived, within fifteen years that doubt would begin to dissipate with the discovery of CRISPR-Cas9 (from this point forward, referred to as CRISPR), a molecular tool adapted from bacteria and capable of executing gene modification with great precision. Initially, the study of the CRISPR system was rather benign. Researchers were not seeking a way to use this newfound knowledge for medicinal purposes, let alone genetic editing, but were interested in exploring curious phenomena in marsh bacteria, solving problems associated with biowarfare, and improving yogurt manufacturing.[6] Fast forwarding to 2012, after a culmination of work contributing to its development, scientists claimed “the Cas9 endonuclease can be programmed with guide RNA engineered as a single transcript to target and cleave any [double-stranded] DNA sequence of interest. The system is efficient, versatile, and programmable….”[7] Although CRISPR was not the first tool capable of modifying genes, what sets it apart is its increased precision, low cost, and malleability for meeting virtually any experimentalist’s needs.[8] The range of applications is astounding, with many commentators arguing that “the only limitation today is people’s ability to think of creative ways to harness [CRISPR].”[9]

Unsurprisingly, as with any novel technology that promises unprecedented power and control over human problems, questions concerning how this technology ought to be used and who has the authority to make such decisions quickly surfaced.[10] With CRISPR, this concern is particularly salient, not only because the kind of genetic manipulation involved is considered simple and reliable, but also because it is incredibly inexpensive compared to other available technologies—allowing self-proclaimed “Do-It-Yourself” biologists and biohackers to carry out these procedures in their own homes.[11] Recognizing the serious ethical and logistical questions arising from the use of CRISPR, biochemist Jennifer Doudna has spearheaded an effort to educate the general public about what CRISPR technologies entail, both scientifically and ethically, arguing that “it will be imperative that nonexperts understand the basics of this technology sufficiently well to facilitate rational public discourse.”[12]

What, then, should the nonexpert understand about CRISPR? What message is most appropriate to share with those lacking formal science backgrounds if the aim is to minimize misinformation and foster justified insights into what genes are and what can be done with them? Given that CRISPR technology has been increasingly sensationalized over the past several years, there is no lack of resources available to evaluate how CRISPR is being portrayed in both technical and popular literatures. However, because of her explicit emphasis on the necessity of educating nonexperts as a way to promote rational debate, I will focus on the claims made in Doudna’s latest popular science book (with Samuel Sternberg), A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution. I take this narrow domain of analysis to be reasonable, considering that Doudna is one of the leading scientists in the development of CRISPR technology and, as she herself asks, “Who besides the scientists using the technique would be able to lead an open conversation about its repercussions?”[13] Her insistence that society cannot make decisions about matters it does not understand, coupled with her view that scientists must be the ones “to introduce and demystify their technical accomplishments,”[14] supports the conclusion that the contents of this book ought to be representative of what Doudna believes nonexperts should know about CRISPR technologies.

One need only read the cover of the book to suspect what the answer might be; the title presents a conjunction of gene editing and the unthinkable power to control evolution, which, for the authors, is tautological. But the themes of power, control, and future successes are also found throughout, indicating that the bold title was not simply serving as a means of catching potential readers’ eyes. For example, in a chapter titled “Command and Control,” Doudna shares reflections she had while flying home from her first meeting in Cambridge to found a company for CRISPR-based therapies. She begins by noting that CRISPR is a biologist’s dream come true and states:

I could already see a new era of genetic command and control on the horizon—an era in which CRISPR would transform biologists’ shared toolkit by endowing them with the power to rewrite the genome virtually any way they desired. Instead of remaining an unwieldly, uninterpretable document, the genome would become as malleable as a piece of literary prose at the mercy of an editor’s red pen.[15]

Here, the mention of power and control is straightforward. CRISPR provides the means by which particular genetic sequences can be altered, engendering a novel kind of control over biological processes. Perhaps more striking, however, is the framing of unaltered genetic sequences as unwieldly and uninterpretable—that is, of course, until CRISPR transforms these sequences into malleable prose whose fate is at the mercy of nearly omnipotent scientists. There is a clear invocation of a power structure involving genes and geneticists, with no doubts as to what hierarchical ordering Doudna is implying. Further, the mention of an editor’s red pen seems to introduce a normative dimension to genetic modification. Considering that red pen marks on literary prose are often associated with corrections made to a given text—highlighting mistakes for the sake of improving the quality of the work—one interpretation of this passage is that unmediated nature is of an inferior kind to that under the reign of rational control.

Importantly, these thematic elements of power, control, and the privileging of rationality over nature are not isolated to this passage, but are instead found throughout. For instance, Doudna describes the use of CRISPR to control cellular behaviors and outputs as metaphorically similar to the manipulation of a puppet, in which the “invisible strings give a marionettist near complete control over [its] actions and movements.”[16] Echoing Pennisi, Doudna claims that, with the use of CRISPR, “scientists can now exert nearly complete control over both the composition of the genome and its output…. It often feels like the genome-engineering applications made possible by CRISPR are limited only by our collective imagination.”[17] With the expansion of this powerful technology, “no letter of DNA in the genome, no gene or combination of genes is beyond reach.”[18] With such possibilities within our grasp, Doudna predicts that “it won’t be long before CRISPR allows us to bend nature to our will in the way that humans have dreamed of since prehistory.”[19] In the concluding paragraphs, Doudna consummates her argument by uniting these themes into a simple, visionary statement:

Gone are the days when life was shaped exclusively by the plodding forces of evolution. We’re standing on the cusp of a new era, one in which we will have primary authority over life’s genetic makeup and all its vibrant and varied outputs. Indeed, we are already supplanting the deaf, dumb, and blind system that has shaped genetic material on our planet for eons and replacing it with a conscious, intentional system of human-directed evolution.[20]

What is crucial to observe here is the implicit indication that there is a separation between humans—or more specifically, geneticists—and nature. While it would be too strong to claim that Doudna is making use of a material distinction, the possession of authority over life requires some distinction in kind between humans and nature more generally; after all, if there were no distinction, it is unclear how one could be subordinate to the other. Given her contrast between natural and human-directed evolution, in which the former is slow, “deaf, dumb, and blind,” while the latter is conscious and intentional, I argue the distinction is meant to be a rational one. This is further corroborated by another comment in which the reader is told: “nature is less an engineer than a tinkerer, and a fairly sloppy one at that.”[21] Disease and physical deformities are construed as evidence for the irrational and careless workings of nature, which, according to Doudna, “can seem like outright cruelty.”[22] Fortunately, the lay audience is assured, CRISPR technologies will introduce a rationality into this otherwise irrational evolutionary process, promising improved human lives through the eradication of genetic diseases, solving of hunger crises, and curing of cancers.[23] Although many will be resistant to harnessing this power, talking about natural genomes “as if they were part of a precious evolutionary inheritance, something to be cherished and conserved,”[24] the reader is reminded that the stakes are simply too high to not even consider the use of this awesome power to alleviate human suffering—a power that lies in the rational mediation of the genome.

While Doudna’s CRISPR-representation may be evaluated with respect to theoretical virtues such as accuracy or simplicity, my central claim is that it can, and should, be evaluated with respect to ethical virtues as well. Although some may find it too strong to accuse A Crack in Creation of being univocally vicious, I do not think it is unreasonable to assert that the commanding tone used when presenting the acquisition of the awesome powers afforded by CRISPR does not in any straightforward way exemplify, say, temperance, humility, or magnanimity. The resounding rhetoric of anthropocentric power and control supports the charge of intemperance and arrogance, as do the applications of CRISPR technologies that Doudna mentions but does not explicitly question in any moral sense—e.g. genetically engineering species that have previously gone extinct, inducing diseases in nonhuman subjects for the sake of research that does not serve those subjects, etc. Although it would be too strong of a claim to suggest that nonexpert readers would unquestionably accept Doudna’s conclusions for themselves—given that public audiences are not homogenous in any meaningful respect—one may reasonably assume that readers with high levels of trustworthiness in scientists like Doudna may fail to question the rhetoric presented to them—and therefore will not question the possible futures they are invited to envision.

I want to emphasize that my analysis of Doudna’s A Crack in Creation is not an attempt to reduce her work to mere CRISPR propaganda. Nor is it my aim to suggest that Doudna is a crazed, overzealous scientist intoxicated by grand biotechnological visions. To her credit, the book does provide the kind of basic knowledge about CRISPR she argues all nonexperts should have. She provides some historical background concerning the discovery and development of CRISPR, a first-hand account of her own experiences working towards these ends, and insights into the potential applications and ethical concerns associated with this technology. These are no small tasks and there will always be disagreements as to how knowledge concerning complex biotechnologies can be best relayed to nonexperts. Nevertheless, what is equally important to recognize is that, since this knowledge can be represented in more than one way, Doudna’s frequent reliance on themes of power, control, promise, and rationality is not a matter of coincidence.

In fact, these themes are pervasive across historical and contemporary works in the biological sciences. For example, in the late nineteenth century, Francis Galton was fixated on the burden of original sin. He understood this sin as that which is responsible for the atavistic tendencies preventing individuals from achieving moral ends of the highest order. Historian Daniel Kevles argues that Galton believed freedom was possible through human control over heredity, claiming that:

[T]o Galton’s mind, the scientific doctrine of evolution destroyed the religious doctrine of the fall from grace. He appropriated Darwin to argue that man, instead of falling from a high estate, was ‘rapidly rising from a low one’…. According to Galton, ‘what Nature does blindly, slowly, and ruthlessly, man may do providently, quickly, and kindly.’[25]

Galton’s dedication to increasing statistical precision and predictive power in the science of heritable traits was undergirded by a desire to make possible the exertion of control over one’s fate. Similar themes can be found in the grand biotechnological visions of J.B.S. Haldane in his Daedelus, or Science and the Future. Writing in 1924, prior to any scientific evidence for the material basis of the gene, these visions involve various applications of genetic engineering to solve problems ranging from the domain of medicine to the domain of agriculture. Haldane champions science as “man’s gradual conquest, first of space and time, then of matter as such, then of his own body and those of other living beings, and finally the subjugation of the dark and evil elements in his own soul.”[26] He concludes, rather audaciously, that the ultimate aim of the biological sciences is a killing of the gods. Biologist Robert Sinsheimer, writing in 1969 on the promises of biotechnology, states that “for the first time in all time, a living creature understands its origin and can undertake to design its future…. Even in the ancient myths man was constrained by his essence. He could not rise above his nature to chart his destiny. Today we can envision that chance and choice.”[27] In a similar vein, writing in the early 1970s, biologist Francois Jacob claims that “with the accumulation of knowledge, man has become the first product of evolution capable of controlling evolution.”[28]

One may argue that what made this theme of power and control particularly salient in the twentieth century was the increasing mathematization of the biological sciences, culminating in the Modern Synthesis.[29] Additionally, one may point to the fact that the decades following the reintroduction of Mendelian genetics led to greater specificity of the hereditary principle, beginning with its localization to the chromosomes, its identification as DNA, and the subsequent discovery of the collinearity between codons and amino acids. By the 1960s, controlling life was, for some, simply a matter of decoding the hidden language of genes and rewriting that code to fit desired ends.[30] Importantly, however, this fixation on power and control has remained rather consistent over the past hundred years, even when the material basis of the gene was considered hypothetical.

Noticing the similarity in the envisioned futures accompanying such desires for power and control, Maurizio Esposito writes:

For many past geneticists and contemporary scientists, a place without illnesses, without criminals or crimes, yet enjoying an unlimited quantity of food and energy is not an unrealizable promise if science is properly applied to politics and society. These visions are not simply the product of science-fiction writers, journalist’s overstatements, or the exaggeration of few crank scientists. If we look seriously at the history of genetics, we realize that this rhetoric of futurity is an integral part of the discipline whereby prediction and control are the main epistemic values.[31]

This rhetoric of futurity captures all of the promises and expectations arising from the conceivability of manipulating some hereditary unit for the sake of dominating life in all its facets. That this rhetoric rarely maps onto reality in a felicitous fashion is unproblematic, because the abstract visions and the material bases upon which they may materialize have become increasingly bifurcated, both ontologically and temporally.[32] In other words, these promises necessarily operate in a reality that has not yet come and, in principle, never will. It is of critical importance, however, that these biotechnological visions are predicated on simple, easily manipulable biological systems. Without controllable or programmable units in predictable biological models, the imagined space of a rationally governed world becomes unfathomable. This explains the conceptual allure of the gene, in which its promise of causally explaining higher-order manifestations of life provide a “seductive empowerment” to those interested in creating and maintaining technocratic visions.[33] Thus, the concept of the gene has operated less with the intention of accurately explaining the science of heredity and more with the intention of shaping social expectations. Although the gene has assumed many referents, leading to an ambiguity of what is meant by the term, what remains constant is its promise of “prediction, control, and effective manipulation.”[34]

To summarize using Mauricio Esposito’s terminology, the rhetoric of futurity has been entangled in the discourse surrounding genetic science for over a century. Given this thematic conservation across the dramatic changes in genetic knowledge, I argue that if the rhetoric surrounding genetic science is to be challenged—that is, if we are to question whether or not the possible futures we are invited to envision are ones we ought to be orienting ourselves towards—then the central concern is representational rather than epistemological or scientific. What this rhetorical continuity indicates is a need to pay greater attention to the presentation of relevant scientific representations, especially with respect to the virtues or vices being exemplified, both knowingly and unknowingly. Indeed, in works that entertain possible futures, the entanglement of the ethical with the representational is quite clear. It is because the rhetoric of futurity denotes a future that has not yet arrived and, either explicitly or implicitly, moralizes this future that the theoretical virtues alone are ill-equipped to evaluate certain scientific representations. Supplementing the evaluation of representations with ethical virtues allows for critical questions to surface: Is this representation of present or future genetic science virtuous? Would an exemplar of virtuous practice find these dominating visions of power and control virtuous? How might this science be represented such that the virtues it exemplifies correspond to those which scientists endeavor to cultivate in their own practices?[35]

Amélie Rorty argues, in an Aristotelian vein, that virtue involves doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, and for the right reason. Consequently, it is not surprising that “speaking persuasively—rightly and reasonably saying the right things in the right way at the right time—is a central part of acting rightly.”[36] To this, I would add that the virtuous person must not only say the right things, but also be able to show the right things in the right way at the right times and for the right reasons. It is because scientists like Doudna are often granted epistemic authority by nonexpert audiences that her position as constructor of scientific representations holds a moral charge. Now that opportunities to engage with genetic technology and information are manifesting across medical settings and public spaces, Doudna’s rhetoric, whether intended or not, has potential to influence the attitudes, beliefs, and desires of her readers as they try to determine how they ought to orient themselves towards these biotechnological possibilities now unfolding into actualities. The language of virtue is apposite here because it succinctly captures what is at stake with visionary representations concerning biotechnological futures: the misdirection of desires to potentially vicious ends. If there is an endeavor to establish or foster a set of just, temperate, humble, or merciful scientific practices, we must ensure that the representations used to convey scientific content meaningfully are also just, temperate, humble, and merciful.

To conclude, I recognize that I have merely scratched the surface of the possibility of evaluating scientific representations with respect to ethical virtues. Undeniably, there are many questions that require far more discussion than is possible here. For example, are the ethical virtues intrinsic to the representations themselves or do they only enter in at the level of interpretation? How do we determine whether or not a particular virtue is in fact instantiated in a given representation and how do we evaluate its appropriateness in a given context? And which virtues ought to be evaluated? Should there be normative constraints on the stylistic choices used to construct representations? What would prove more efficacious: altering the design of representations so as to make manifest certain ethical virtues or improving moral education and media literacy in nonexpert audiences? In what ways are virtues instantiated or exemplified differently across popular and technical scientific representations? These are interesting questions that I believe are worth our time and attention. However, for now, my conclusion remains modest but resolute: if it is virtuous scientific practices that are sought, scientific representations must also be virtuous. Scientists must endeavor not only to act and speak well, but to represent well.

CHAR BRECEVIC is a Ph.D. student in History and Philosophy of Science (with a minor in Gender Studies) at the University of Notre Dame. Her research primarily concerns scientific representation and social values in science. She is interested in questions concerning the function of exemplification and the role of interpretation in representational practices, especially with respect to the life sciences and medicine. In particular, her work aims to reveal how social values shape interpretative practices in various scientific contexts and determine whether there is an ethical dimension to representation construction and presentation.

Bibliography

  • Allen, Garland E. Life Science in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.
  • Charo, R. Alta. “Yellow Lights for Emerging Technologies.” Science 349.6246 (July 24, 2015): 384–85.
  • Da Costa, Newton C.A., and Steven French. “The Model-Theoretic Approach to the Philosophy of Science.” Philosophy of Science 57.2 (1990): 248–65.
  • Doudna, Jennifer A. “My Whirlwind Year with CRISPR.” Nature 528 (December 2015): 469–71.
  • Doudna, Jennifer A., and Emmanuelle Charpentier. “Genome Editing: The New Frontier of Genome Engineering with CRISPR-Cas9.” Science 346.6213 (November 28, 2014): 12580961–69.
  • Doudna, Jennifer A., and Samuel H. Sternberg. A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.
  • Elgin, Catherine Z. “Telling Instances.” In Beyond Mimesis and Convention: Representation in Art and Science, edited by Roman Frigg and Matthew C. Hunter, 1–18. Berlin: Springer, 2010.
  • Esposito, Maurizio. “Expectation and Futurity: The Remarkable Success of Genetic Determinism.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 62 (2017): 1–9.
  • French, Steven, and James Ladyman. “Reinflating the Semantic Approach.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13.2 (1999): 103–21.
  • Frigg, Roman, and James Nguyen. “Of Barrels and Pipes: Representation-As in Art and Science.” In Thinking about Science, Reflecting on Art: Bringing Aesthetics and Philosophy of Science Together, edited by Otávio Bueno, George Darby, Steven French, and Dean Rickles, 41–61. London: Routledge, 2018.
  • Gupta, Rajan M., and Kiran Musunuru. “Expanding the Genetic Editing Tool Kit: ZFNs, TALENs, and CRISPR-Cas9.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 124.10 (October 2014): 4154–61.
  • Jacob, Francois. The Logic of Life: A History of Heredity. New York: Pantheon Books, 1973.
  • Jinek, Martin, et al. “A Programmable Dual-RNA Guided DNA Endonuclease in Adaptive Bacterial Immunity.” Science 337.6096 (August 17, 2012): 816–21.
  • Haldane, J.B.S. Daedalus or Science & the Future. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1924.
  • Kay, L. E. The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rise of the New Biology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Keller, Evelyn Fox. Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-Century Biology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
  • Kevles, Daniel J. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
  • Kuhn, Thomas. “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice.” In The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change, 320–29. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
  • Lander, Eric S. “The Heroes of CRISPR.” Cell 164 (January 14, 2016): 18–28.
  • Ledford, Heidi. “Biohackers Gear Up for Genome Editing.” Nature 524 (August 27, 2015): 398–99.
  • McMullin, Ernan. “The Virtues of a Good Theory.” In The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science, edited by Martin Curd and Stathis Psillos, 498–508. London: Routledge, 2008.
  • Pennisi, Elizabeth. “The CRISPR Craze.” Science 341.6148 (August 23, 2013): 833–36.
  • Psillos, Stathis. Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth. London: Routledge, 1999.
  • Rajan, Kaushik Sunder. Biocapital: The Constitution of Postgenomic Life. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.
  • Rorty, Amélie. “Aristotle on the Virtues of Rhetoric.” The Review of Metaphysics 64.4 (June 2011): 715–33.
  • Sinsheimer, Robert L. “The Prospect of Designed Genetic Change.” American Scientist 57.1 (Spring 1969): 134–42.
  • Suppes, Patrick. “A Comparison of the Meaning and Uses of Models in Mathematics and the Empirical Sciences.” Synthese 12.2-3 (September 1960): 287–301.
  • van Fraassen, Bas C. The Scientific Image. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.
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  1. See Thomas Kuhn, “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice,” in The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), 320–29; Ernan McMullin,“The Virtues of a Good Theory,” in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science, edited by Martin Curd and Stathis Psillos (London: Routledge, 2008), 498–508; Stahis Psillos, Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth (London: Routledge, 1999); Bas C. van Fraassen, The Scientific Image (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980).
  2. This is especially true of accuracy considerations. Since many philosophers are interested in distinguishing representations from misrepresentations and non-representations, questions concerning accuracy are frequently addressed in the literature. For semantic accounts that either theorize about or make use of these virtues, see Newton C. A. Da Costa and Steven French, “The Model-Theoretic Approach to the Philosophy of Science,” Philosophy of Science 57.2 (1990): 248–65; Steven French and James Ladyman, “Reinflating the Semantic Approach,” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13.2 (1999): 103–21; Patrick Suppes, “A Comparison of the Meaning and Uses of Models in Mathematics and the Empirical Sciences,” Synthese 12.2-3 (September 1960): 287–301; Michael Weisberg, Simulation and Similarity: Using Models to Understand the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  3. For more detailed accounts see Catherine Z. Elgin, "Telling Instances," in Beyond Mimesis and Convention: Representation in Art and Science, edited by Roman Frigg and Matthew C. Hunter ( Berlin: Springer, 2010), 1–18, and Roman Frigg and James Nguyen, “Of Barrels and Pipes: Representation-As in Art and Science,” in Thinking about Science, Reflecting on Art: Bringing Aesthetics and Philosophy of Science Together, edited by Otávio Bueno, George Darby, Steven French, and Dean Rickles (London: Routledge, 2018), 41–61. These authors refer to their accounts as Representation-As and DEKI (Denotation-Exemplification-Keying Up-Imputation), respectively.
  4. An example that makes this clear is the MONIAC (Monetary National Income Analogue Computer) designed by economist William Phillips to represent national economic processes. The machine is composed of pipes and tanks that allow for the movement and collection of water. The pipes, tanks, and water are objects that do not represent an economy unless an agent interprets them as such (for example, interpreting water as money or interpreting the filling of a particular tank with water as national savings). Once an agent does interpret them as such, these objects become objects under an interpretation (that is, representations).
  5. E.O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), 205.
  6. Eric S. Lander, "The Heroes of CRISPR," Cell 164 (January 14, 2016): 26.
  7. Martin Jinek, et al., “A Programmable Dual-RNA Guided DNA Endonuclease in Adaptive Bacterial Immunity,” Science 337.6096 (August 17, 2012): 820.
  8. Rajan M. Gutpa and Kiran Musunuru, "Expanding the Genetic Editing Tool Kit: ZFNs, TALENs, and CRISPR-Cas9," Journal of Clinical Investigation 124.10 (October 2014): 4154–61.
  9. Elizabeth Pennisi, “The CRISPR Craze,” Science 341.6148 (August 23, 2013): 836.
  10. Alta R. Charo, "Yellow Lights for Emerging Technologies," Science 349.6246 (July 24, 2015): 384–85.
  11. Heidi Ledford, "Biohackers Gear Up for Genome Editing," Nature 524 (August 27, 2015): 398–99.
  12. Jennifer A. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, "Genome Editing: The New Frontier of Genome Engineering with CRISPR-Cas9," Science 346.6213 (November 28, 2014): 12580967.
  13. Jennifer A. Doudna, "My Whirlwind Year with CRISPR," Nature 528 (December 2015): 470.
  14. Jennifer A. Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg, A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017), 205.
  15. Ibid., 90. Emphasis added.
  16. Ibid., 108.
  17. Ibid., 110. Emphasis added.
  18. Ibid., 111.
  19. Ibid., 118. Emphasis added.
  20. Ibid., 243. Emphasis added.
  21. Ibid., 228.
  22. Ibid., 228.
  23. Ibid., 240.
  24. Ibid., 229.
  25. Daniel J. Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 13.
  26. J.B.S. Haldane, Daedalus or Science & the Future (New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1924), 82.
  27. Robert L. Sinsheimer, “The Prospect of Designed Genetic Change,” American Scientist 57.1 (Spring 1969): 134.
  28. Francois Jacob, The Logic of Life: A History of Heredity (New York: Pantheon Books, 1973), 322.
  29. Garland E. Allen, Life Science in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978).
  30. Evelyn Fox Keller, Refiguring Life: Metaphors of Twentieth-Century Biology (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).
  31. Maurizio Esposito, “Expectation and Futurity: The Remarkable Success of Genetic Determinism,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 62 (2017): 2.
  32. Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Biocapital: The Constitution of Postgenomic Life (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).
  33. L.E. Kay, The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Rise of the New Biology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 17.
  34. Esposito, “Expectation and Futurity,” 8.
  35. The careful reader will notice that there is some equivocation in the use of virtuous here. It is one thing to say that a representation is virtuous1 because it is a good representation: “this book on biotechnology represents biotechnology well”. It is another to say that it is virtuous2 because it itself exemplifies a particular virtue: “the extended metaphor used in this book on biotechnology readily exemplifies humility”. It is yet another to say that a representation is virtuous because it was constructed or interpreted by a virtuous3 person: “the author of this book on biotechnology is humble”. Simply put, virtuous1 is nothing but a synonym for good, virtuous2 describes a virtue that is a feature of a representational system that is quasi-independent of viewers/users (I say quasi-independent since the account of representation I have been using will not allow for full independence), and virtuous3 describes virtues concerning thoughts and actions of a deliberative agent. These distinct uses of virtuous are not synonymous with one another. Although I cannot develop this further here due to space limitations, if one has been sufficiently persuaded by my claim that evaluating certain scientific representations with respect to ethical virtues is a worthwhile effort, I think it suffices to say that determining how these different senses of virtuous interact with one another would be among the aims of future study. For example, it is possible that an analysis of the ethical virtues operating in scientific representations may characterize a particular case in the following manner: a virtuous3 scientist purposefully designs a virtuous2 representation to ensure that it functions as a virtuous1 representation when viewed by certain audiences. More work needs to be done to figure out the details of such an analysis. I am grateful to the anonymous referees for calling attention to this point.
  36. Amélie Rorty, “Aristotle on the Virtues of Rhetoric,” The Review of Metaphysics 64.4 (June 2011): 715.