Friday, August 03, 2007

Agnes Scott Events

Agnes Scott College Ethics Program Lecture Series, 2007-2008

Improving Humans: Genetics, Technology, and Ethics

Genetic technologies open exciting possibilities for improving human health and quality of life. These technologies also raise moral questions—for example, about how and how far we should attempt to genetically enhance future humans, and about the moral scope of parents’ freedom to make choices about future children’s mental and physical characteristics. Please join us as we engage these questions of ethics, public policy, and law. All talks are free and open to the public, and take place on the Agnes Scott College campus in Decatur. (Please contact Lara Denis, director of the ethics program, for more information: )

1. McNair Ethics Lecture: Lee M. Silver

Title: “Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humankind”

Date: Monday, September 10, 2007

7:30 p.m., Evans Hall, ABC

This talk is co-sponsored by the Agnes Scott College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Beta of Georgia, through the Walter Edward McNair Fund.

Description of talk:

What does the future hold for Homo sapiens -- our own species? In a thousand years, a million years, or 100 million years, will human descendants be mostly indistinguishable -- physically and mentally -- from people somewhere on the broad curves of humanity that exist today. Or will genetic change lead to the emergence of a post human species, as different from us as we are from Neanderthal man or Homo erectus, in ways that our minds are incapable of imagining. The evolution of pre-human animals into human beings was driven almost entirely by natural selection. But modern medicine and modern notions of human rights could very well call a halt to Darwinian treachery. So does this mean that we are at the end of our evolutionary line? Not likely. With tools of genetic engineering that have already been applied to other animals, and with increased knowledge of the human genome, parents will soon be able to provide their children-to-be with inheritable advantages that could be passed on and enhanced from one generation to the next. The critical question is whether humanity will self-evolve together or apart.

Lee M. Silver is a professor at Princeton University in the Department of Molecular Biology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He also has joint appointments in the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy, the Center for Health and Wellbeing, the Office of Population Research, and the Princeton Environmental Institute, all at Princeton University. In 1973, he received a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1978, he received a doctorate in biophysics from Harvard University. Before arriving at Princeton in 1984, he trained at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, which was directed by Nobel Laureate James D. Watson. Dr. Silver's newest book is Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life, published by Ecco, an imprint of Harper Collins. Matt Ridley, author of Genome and The Red Queen says Challenging Nature is "imbued with courage, suffused with humanity and written with grace." The philosopher and author Peter Singer calls it "a provocative and sorely needed book," with a "rich array of arguments [that] will force you to think afresh about many cherished preconceptions." Michael Gazzaniga, a leading American neurobiologist and member of President Bush's Council on Bioethics says it is a "spectacular and riveting book that puts those who reason by assertion of prior traditions on the run. [Challenging Nature] makes you think and rethink the most basic questions about the nature of human existence. I say Bravo!" Dr. Silver's previous book is Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family, published in 16 languages. He is also the co-author of an undergraduate textbook in genetics, the single author of Mouse Genetics, a textbook for professionals, and editor of Teratocarcinoma Stem Cells. In 1993, Professor Silver was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). In 1995, he received an unsolicited 10 year National Institutes of Health MERIT award. He has published over 180 scientific articles in the fields of genetics, evolution, reproduction, embryology, computer modeling, and behavioral science, and other scholarly papers on topics at the interface between biotechnology, law, ethics, and religion. He has been elected to the governing boards of the Genetics Society of America and the International Mammalian Genome Society. He was a member of the New Jersey Bioethics Commission Task Force formed to recommend reproductive policy for the New Jersey State Legislature, and has testified on reproductive and genetic technologies before U.S. Congressional and New York State Senate committees. He has appeared on numerous television and radio programs including Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Jim Lehrer News Hour, Nova, Nightline, World Report with Peter Jennings, Charlie Rose Show, 20/20, 60 Minutes, and many others in the U.S. and other countries.

2. Adrienne Asch

Title: “Why Reproductive Choice Does Not Mean Reproductive Selection”

Date: Monday, October 29, 2007

7:30 p.m., Evans Hall, ABC

Description for Talk:

A variety of new and not-so-new reproductive technologies permit prospective parents to select for, or against, certain characteristics in their future children. While advocates of such selection celebrate these technologies as extensions of women's reproductive "choice," this talk will argue that the interest in selecting children's characteristics is troubling even for those committed to a pro-choice position on reproductive freedom. The appropriate response of a pro-choice critic of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, selective abortion after amniocentesis, or selecting gamete providers based on their physical characteristics and intelligence--all different methods of selection--is not to ban the practices, but to urge health professionals and prospective parents to reflect more on their purposes in offering or using such selection technologies.

Adrienne Asch, Ph.D., M.S., is the Director of the Center for Ethics at Yeshiva University and the Edward and Robin Milstein Professor of Bioethics at Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She also holds an appointment in the Division of Bioethics of the Montefiore Medical Center and the Department of Family and Social Medicine and Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She previously taught at Wellesley College, where she was the Henry R. Luce Professor in Biology, Ethics, and the Politics of Human Reproduction. She is currently a member of the Bioethics Committee and the Reproductive Ethics Committee of the Montefiore Medical Center, a Board member of the Society of Jewish Ethics, and a fellow of the Hastings Center.

3. Gregory Pence

Title: "Why Not Enhance Humans?"

Date: Monday, February 11, 2008

7:30 p.m., Evans Hall, ABC

Description of talk:

"Evolution has selected parents who want the best for their children. Liberal democracies also allow parents to make choices for and about their children (contraception, assisted reproduction, abortion, day care, after-school activities, and so on). Such choices shape future traits of children. Despite fears of alarmists and religion, biological choices that enhance exist on the present continuum of choice and already operate in medicine. The challenge for ethics is not to ban choices about enhancement but to insure they are made in the best interest of the child."

Gregory Pence has taught at the UAB medical school for 30 years, where he is Course Director for Medical Ethics. He served on UAB’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) for 22 years and once served on UAB Hospital’s Ethics Committee. In 1994, he won UAB’s highest teaching award. He has published in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, New York Times, Atlanta Constitution, Newsweek, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He has published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and Journal of Medical Ethics. He has appeared on CNN’s Talk-Back Live with Bobbie Battista, Wolf Blitzer’s Washington Review, The Point with Gredda von Susteren, ABC News with Sam Donaldson, and The Early Show with Bryant Gumbel. He has been interviewed on National Public Radio’s Marketplace with David Brancaccio, and its Weekend Edition. He has been interviewed for stories on medical ethics in Time magazine and the New York Times. He has lectured at over 200 American medical schools and universities, as well as universities in China, Israel, Canada, Australia, London, and Portugal. His research focuses on emerging ethical issues in medicine, including cloning, genetics, and issues at both ends of life. He has written Re-Creating Medicine: Ethical Issues at the Frontiers of Medicine (2000) and Classic Cases in Medical Ethics (fifth edition, 2007). In 2001, he testified before the Congressional Subcommittee about embryonic and reproductive cloning. In 2006, he won a Pellegrino Medal for lifetime contributions to medical ethics.

4. Roberta M. Berry

Title: “Should We Engineer the Genomes of Our Children? Navigational Policymaking in the New Genetic Era”

Date: Monday, April 7, 2008

7:30 p.m., Evans Hall, ABC

Description of Talk:

Would it be right to engineer the genomes of our future children—to influence the development of their temperament, their physical features, and their abilities—if advances in bioscience and biotechnology make this possible? Roberta Berry explains why this question poses a difficult challenge for policymaking in modern, pluralistic, democratic societies. And she proposes how we might best respond to the challenge—by what she calls a “navigational approach” to policymaking.

Roberta M. Berry, J.D., Ph.D. (history and philosophy of science), is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Law, Science & Technology Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. She is co-editor of A Health Law Reader (Carolina Academic Press) and has published a number of articles and book chapters on bioethics, health care, and the legal, ethical, and policy implications of bioscience research and biotechnologies. Her forthcoming book, The Ethics of Genetic Engineering (Routledge), compares the adequacy of utilitarian, deontological, and virtue-based ethical and political theories in addressing the issues posed by the possible advent of genetic engineering of human beings.

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