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RS33 - Live at NECSS: New Dilemmas in Bioethics

Release date: April 24, 2011

In this one hour episode, recorded live at the 2011 Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, Massimo and Julia discuss bioethics with two special guests: Jacob Appel, doctor, author, lawyer and bioethicist; and Jennifer Michael Hecht, poet and historian of science. Topics covered included: Should parents be allowed to select the gender and sexual orientation of their babies? Should pharmacists and physicians be allowed to refuse to provide treatments that violate their own religious or ethical principles? And when is assisted suicide acceptable?

Reader Comments (2)

During the part about genetically altering one's children, bow while listening now and and at NECSS I couldn't help but thinking of the movie "Gattaca". Vincent manages to excel through hard work, just like how most of us excel now, but he had to illegally make himself appear to be Jerome in any biological tests, and he does so in spite of the genetic enhancement of the people around him.

While it is emotionally satisfying that Vincent proves the überhumans' belief in GMOing themselves to be wrong, I wonder if it will actually always be that way?

In the near term it certainly is that way, for we don't know that much about the biological reasons for higher intelligence. (I say that we don't know mostly because, offhand, all I can think of are genetics that negatively affect intelligence like Downs Syndrome or phenyketonuria, and of no enhancing genes/alleles.) In addition, intelligence is probably (IANAB) a fiendishly complex interaction of epigenetic effetcs, epistatic effects and what not, so even if we could test for these alleles like we might for Tay-Sachs or Downs, making alterations would be non-practical.

But then I look at the young field of bioinformatics and how the application of computing power to biology has enabled so many avenues of research, most impressively in genomics and proteomics, and my boundless enthusiasm and faith for how computer will make our lives better falls off. Not because I lack faith in bioinfomatics enabling safe genetic alterations to increase intelligence in a newborn but but because I have entirely too much faith that it will do so.

Eventually that computing power will be there and simple knowledge of ourselves tells us that somebody will use it. Maybe it will be with the best of intentions, maybe it will be with the worst, but I cannot see the tool going unused. I wish I had the faith that Jennifer Michael Hecht has in humanity, too.

April 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCory Albrecht
Cool stuff again. =D

I would just say that the more we continue to tamper with Nature to fit in our idealistic worlds, the more monstrous results might come from it. We shouldn't always experiment with Nature and just learn to understand & Live with it better.
October 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterErnesto

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