Blog Posts (59)
July 31, 2015
As discussed in an exchange earlier this year on this blog, one of the concerns about editing the human germline is that the risks to the next generation and future generations are not predictable, and the experiments to address those safety concerns cannot be done ethically. Go here, and to the embedded links, to review. Recently, Paige Cunningham and Michael Sleasman of the Center for... // Read More »
May 14, 2015
Joe Gibes (May 9) and Steve Phillips (May 13) took up the challenge I posted last week: to address whether human germline gene editing, even in a hypothetically-narrow example case, is morally unacceptable in some intrinsic sense, and therefore something that ought never be attempted or, for that matter, pursued in the laboratory. If you have not read their posts, please do so. To come... // Read More »
May 8, 2015
In a comment last week, Mark McQuain pointed out the article “Engineering the Perfect Baby” in the MIT Technology Review. Freely accessible online, it describes, in non-technical terms, several of the routes that genetic editing may follow. Perhaps the most explosive: adult skin cell transformed into an induced pleuripotent stem cell that then is used to give rise to germ cells that are then genetically... // Read More »
April 30, 2015
The recently-public discussion of gene editing has been going on for over a month now. I have been meaning to try to catch up with some of it. Tuesday’s post by Courtney Thiele got there first. This post will attempt to amplify a bit on what Courtney wrote. As Courtney pointed out, the technology involves making selective genetic changes of interest, including, but clearly not... // Read More »
April 29, 2015
Enhancement is weird. It seems objectively obvious what is better and what isn’t. But then context goes and screws everything up.
The New York Times recently featured a debate series entitled Adderall in the Office (h/t James Hughes) in which a few thinkers (including two of my favorite bioethicists Savulescu and Parens) discussed the merits of using A.D.H.D. drugs [...]
April 27, 2015
An April 20th post in the Hastings Center’s “Bioethics Forum” brings attention the recent report by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (PCSBI) entitled, “Gray Matters: Topics at the Intersection of Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society.” Chapter 2, “Cognitive Enhancement and Beyond” is a useful summary of issues surrounding “cognitive enhancement,” and provides a brief overview of three scientific goals: maintaining or improving... // Read More »
April 16, 2015
A couple of writings by Gregory Kaebnick, the editor of the Hastings Center Report, have my attention these days, and I hope to deal with them in my next few posts. For the moment, I intend to seize on one point he makes in “Engineered Microbes in Industry and Science,” his chapter in a book he co-edited with Thomas Murray, 2013’s Synthetic Biology and Morality. ... // Read More »
April 10, 2015
That was how one wag, a fellow undergrad at my college in the late 70’s, rewrote “people making computers to help people,” the “tag line” that IBM was using in its TV commercials at the time. It got a good laugh. Indeed, it sounded more accurate than the original. Even more so now, I was reminded last week by an interview on the Fox Business... // Read More »
March 12, 2015
A common argument by ethicists concerned about the implications of bleeding-edge biotechnologies is an appeal to what is called the “precautionary principle.” This appeal is particularly prominent on the European continent. It attempts to raise concerns about the metaphysical, essential nature of a new technology, as opposed to the more pragmatist (and consequentialist) approach taken in Britain and the U.S. I suppose that split should... // Read More »
March 6, 2015
Saying nothing new, but trying to say it in a different way… One response to ethical problems posed by bleeding-edge biotechnologies is to assert that there are some things that ought not be attempted, some boundaries that ought never be transgressed, regardless of the supposed good that may be envisioned. (I continue to hold that human IVF was one such boundary, but that was definitively... // Read More »
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November 8, 2012 6:12 pm
Performance-boosting drugs, powered prostheses and wearable computers are coming to an office near you — but experts warned in a new report Wednesday that too little thought has been given to the implications of a superhuman workplace.
July 17, 2012 4:01 pm
It is commonly accepting that doping in sports should be strictly prohibited. But Oxford bio-ethicist Julian Savulescu disagrees. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE on the eve of the London Olympics, he explains why bans are unrealistic and demands an open market for doping.
June 9, 2012 9:00 pm
At high schools across the United States, pressure over grades and competition for college admissions are encouraging students to abuse prescription stimulants, according to interviews with students, parents and doctors. Pills that have been a staple in some college and graduate school circles are going from rare to routine in many academically competitive high schools, where teenagers say they get them from friends, buy them from student dealers or fake symptoms to their parents and doctors to get prescriptions.
June 4, 2012 12:11 am
Over the next decade, new implantable technologies will fundamentally alter the social landscape. We are fast approaching a milestone in the eons-long relationship between human beings and their technology. Families once gathered around the radio like it was a warm fireplace. Then boom boxes leapt onto our shoulders. The Sony Walkman climbed into our pockets and sank its black foam tentacles into our ears. The newest tools are creeping still closer: They will soon come inside and make themselves at home under our skin—some already have.
May 30, 2012 1:58 pm
It was getting late, but he had finally finished all three of his assignments. If he’d been asked, Paul Kessler, ‘11, would’ve said that he’d been studying for only 45 minutes. However, the clock told a different story: two hours had passed. The Adderall worked. That night, Kessler had purchased Adderall, an ADHD drug, without a prescription — something that many college students across the nation are doing in order to focus.
April 12, 2012 11:42 pm
Just 26 and with a creditable — if unexceptional — pedigree in amateur wrestling, Newell is not so fearsome that professional fighters should cower. Yet the list of fighters who have canceled or rejected bouts with him is about two dozen long, and the reason is clear: it can be difficult to persuade able-bodied athletes to fight a man with one hand.
Sport needs to re-think both disability and enhancement.
March 10, 2012 9:35 am
Evan Selinger considers the ramifications of using apps to improve our habits. And also whether willpower as we normally think about it even exists. #bioethics #neuroethics #brain #philosophy
March 1, 2012 12:25 am
A British ethics group has launched a debate on the ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies that tap into the brain and could bring super-human strength, highly enhanced concentration or thought-controlled weaponry. #bioethics
February 24, 2012 12:26 am
In 1850, the average human lifespan was 43 years. Now it’s closer to 80. How high could it go? And what effect will the ever-increasing lifespan of humans have upon society? #bioethics #aging
February 21, 2012 8:28 pm
Opposition to the technologies that make life longer, healthier, and happier creates strange bedfellows argues Ronald Bailey. #bioethics #politics