Date of Award

May 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

William Penn

Committee Members

Joshua Spencer, Stanislaus Husi


CRISPR, Gene, Metaphysics


While conversation surrounding genetic editing has been present in ethical literature throughout the 20th century, the topic exploded following the introduction of CRISPR-Cas9 technology (CRISPR). This technology represents a realization of a long-held hypothetical: bettering the human species through genetic editing, with adaptiveness serving as the measure of “betterment.” In this paper, I show that we can understand this technology at three levels of analysis (LOA): (LOA-1) as a physical intervention, (LOA-2) as a consequence and test of conceptual evolutionary models and theoretical commitments, and (LOA-3) as a representation of foundational ontological models within biological theory. Analysis of orthodox accounts of CRISPR at these three levels reveals a tension between the metaphysics of biological theory and pragmatic use of this theory in genetic editing. I demonstrate that this tension arises because of the interrelation between the levels. Specifically, CRISPR cannot be used to intervene on adaptiveness under the orthodox account because of its unsuccessful ontological presuppositions.

Available for download on Monday, June 16, 2025

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