Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Social challenges of synthetic biology examined

02.08.2011
In the wake of last year's creation of the first self-replicating cell with a synthetic genome – which was quickly followed by a request from President Barack Obama for a report by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues – a series of essays in the Hastings Center Report examines the social challenges that synthetic biology presents.

Among the authors is the chair of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, who discusses its report on synthetic biology, and participants in The Hastings Center's project on ethical issues in synthetic biology. This recently completed project was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Center has embarked on a second research project on synthetic biology, also funded by the Sloan Foundation.

• "The Ethics of Synthetic Biology: Guiding Principles for Emerging Technologies." Amy Gutmann, chair of the presidential commission, explains the commission's unanimous conclusion that the federal government should adopt a strategy of "prudent vigilance" with regard to synthetic biology. The commission decided that no new regulations or oversight bodies are needed at this time, but that "responsible stewardship requires that existing federal agencies conduct an ongoing and coordinated review of the field's risks, benefits, and moral objections as it matures."

• "Staying Sober about Science." Microbiologist Rob Carlson, principal of Biodesic and a participant in The Hastings Center's project, explains why he thinks the presidential commission's report is well considered. "The commission avoided the trap of proscribing from on high the future course of a technology still emerging from the muck," he writes, adding the both proponents and opponents of synthetic biology "would benefit from implementing the commission's recommendation to construct a mechanism for providing balanced, 'hype-free' analysis of advances in the science and technology."

• "Of Microbes and Men." Gregory E. Kaebnick, editor of the Hastings Center Report and a principal investigator in the synthetic biology project, examines the moral concern about the human alteration of nature. Although that concern is legitimate, Kaebnick finds that some instances of altering nature are to be tolerated, and that altering microbes to make medicine or fuel – as synthetic biologists aim to do – might be among them. Kaebnick is also editor of the new book, The Ideal of Nature.

• "The Intrinsic Scientific Value of Reprogramming Life." Mark A. Bedau, a professor of philosophy and humanities at Reed College and a participant in the synthetic biology project, contrasts the idea that synthetic biology might be intrinsically dangerous with the prospect that it might have intrinsic value. By this he means that reprogramming cells may reveal insights into the nature of life, which "remains one of the deepest fundamental mysteries about our world."

• "Interests, Identifies, and Synthetic Biology." Thomas H. Murray, president of The Hastings Center and a principal investigator in its synthetic biology project, envisions how the most important policy disputes over synthetic biology will be framed as the technology progresses. They may be battles over interests – such as the risks of biosafety versus the benefits of scientific progress – in which case tradeoffs are possible. But they may be debates over identity – about the proper place of humans in the cosmos and the proper relationship of humans to the world around them. In debates over identity, compromises are elusive and people with different viewpoints are unintelligible to one another. "My concern," Murray concludes, "is that this last feature, mutual unintelligibility, may have already appeared."

Michael Turton | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.thehastingscenter.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht High-Speed Locomotion Neurons Found in the Brainstem
24.10.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Antibiotic resistance: a strain of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli is on the rise
24.10.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Single nanoparticle mapping paves the way for better nanotechnology

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A quantum spin liquid

24.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Antibiotic resistance: a strain of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli is on the rise

24.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>