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 Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria
23.05.2017 | Rice University

nachricht Discovery of an alga's 'dictionary of genes' could lead to advances in biofuels, medicine
23.05.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>