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“Designer Babies” and “Playing God”: Metaphor, Genome Editing, and Bioethics in Popular Science Texts

Elisa Mattiello

Abstract


This study is a corpus-based analysis of metaphor in popular science texts about genetic engineering. It explores two sub-corpora of web articles drawn from Nature.com and TheGuardian.com in order to identify the metaphorical associations that authors of popularisation discourse trigger in the audience’s mind and the ethical issues that these associations may raise. The focus is especially on the genetic modification of embryos, which is often described as ‘text editing’, as well as on modified offspring, often defined by authors as ‘designer babies’. The former metaphor is connected to the traditional metaphor of the genome as a ‘text’ (Calsamiglia and van Dijk 2004), whereas the latter is rather connected to the commercialisation of modified babies, regarded as ‘designer’ or ‘tailored’ goods. The study shows how metaphor can be used both for popularising effects, mapping concepts from abstract to concrete domains, and for ethical reasons, persuading audiences of the dangerous consequences and high risks of genome editing. Only a small portion of metaphors in the corpus authorises and encourages genome editing as a ‘step’ towards progress and ‘fight’ against disease.


Keywords


bioethics; genetic engineering; metaphor; popularisation; scientific discourse

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2019-001-matt

Copyright (©) 2019 Elisa Mattiello – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie




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Lingue Culture Mediazioni - Languages Cultures Mediation
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (27/11/2013 n. 380)
Online ISSN 2421-0293 - Print ISSN 2284-1881


Dipartimento di Lingue, Letterature, Culture e Mediazioni  
Università degli Studi di Milano


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International Scientific Committee: James Archibald (McGill University, Montreal) - Natalija G. Bragina (Institut Russkogo Jazyka im. A.S. Puškina; RSUH, Mosca) - Kristen Brustad (University of Texas at Austin) - Luciano Curreri (University of Liège) - Hugo de Burgh (University of Westminster) - Giuditta Caliendo (Université de Lille) - Giorgio Fabio Colombo (Nagoya University Graduate School of Law) - Daniel Dejica (Universitatea Politehnica Timisoara) - Anna De Fina (Georgetown University, USA) - Claudio Di Meola, (Sapienza Università di Roma) - Denis Ferraris (Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris) - Lawrence Grossberg (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) - Stephen Gundle (University of Warwick) - Décio de Alencar Guzmán (Universidade Federal do Pará, Belém,  Brasile) - Matthias Heinz (Universität Salzburg) - Rosina Márquez-Reiter (The Open University) - Samir Marzouki (Université de Manouba à Tunis) - (John McLeod, University of Leeds) - Estrella Montolío Durán (Universitat de Barcelona) - M'bare N'gom (Morgan State University, Baltimore) - Christiane Nord (Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences) - Daragh O'Connell (Cork University) - Roberto Perin (York University, Toronto) - Giovanni Rovere (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) - Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (University of Edinburgh) - Françoise Sabban (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris) - Kirk St.Amant (Louisiana Tech University, University of Limerick/University of Strasbourg) - Paul Sambre (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) - Srikant Sarangi (Aalborg University) - Junji Tsuchiya (Waseda University, Tokyo) - Xu Shi (Zhejiang University)
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