David Kirkpatrick

May 21, 2010

Synthetic biology and ethics

Any regular readers of this blog know where I stand on this issue. (Hint: I’m a pretty big fan of synthetic biology.)

From the first link, the release:

Press Release: Moral Issues Raised by Synthetic Biology Subject of Hastings Center Project

Project completes third workshop as news of first synthetic bacterial genome announced

(Garrison NY) A Hastings Center workshop examining moral issues in synthetic biology completed its third meeting as the J. Craig Venter Group announced that it had created the first viable cell with a synthetic genome. “Synthetic biology certainly raises deep philosophical and moral questions about the human relationship to nature,” according to Gregory Kaebnick, a Hastings Center scholar who is managing the project. “It’s not clear what the answers to those questions are.  If  by ‘nature’ we mean the world around us, more or less as we found it, we may well decide that synthetic biology does not really change the human relationship to nature—and may even help us preserve what is left of it.”

Nor is it clear that the questions raised by synthetic biology are new ones. According to Thomas H. Murray, president of The Hastings Center and the project’s principal investigator, “We have come up against similar problems in other domains—most notably, in work on nanotechnology and gene transfer technology—but synthetic biology poses them especially sharply and pressingly.”

The Hastings Center has been at the forefront of interdisciplinary research into ethical issues in emerging technology. The synthetic biology project is funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation . Project participants include synthetic biologists, bioethicists, philosophers, and public policy experts. The Center’s work is part of a comprehensive look at synthetic biology by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Other participants in the initiative are the J. Craig Venter Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Here’s the release on the Venter Institute’s bacterial cell controlled by a synthetic genome. Head below the fold for the full text. (more…)

January 28, 2010

The cognitive dissonance is startling

Filed under: et.al., Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:29 pm

Scott Roeder, the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller in cold blood last May, apparently thinks vigilante justice against a man performing a legal medical procedure is a moral and socially just act.

It’s not. He is simply a murderer. A murderer who admits to planning, and preparing for, the killing of a law-abiding citizen over what he considered a moral crime. We have a word for people like that — terrorist.

From the link:

On the first day of defense testimony in the two-week-old trial , Mr. Roeder’s lawyers revealed that they wanted the jurors to take into consideration Mr. Roeder’s motive: his growing opposition to abortion, which he deemed criminal and immoral, and his mounting sense that laws and prosecutors were never going to stop Dr. Tiller from performing them.

“From conception forward, it’s murder,” Mr. Roeder testified, when asked his perspective on abortions. “It’s never up to man to take life,” he said, adding later, “only in cases of self defense or defense of others.”