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Lecture 11

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Department
Biology
Course
BIOL 1010
Professor
James Cheetham
Semester
Fall

Description
Lecture 11 (Bioethics and Regulation of Biotechnology) Wednesday, November 24, 2010 - Ethics/bioethics and regulation of technology - Next week: forensics and review - Bioethics: philosophical study of controversies brought out by advances of biotechnology/medicine - Multidisciplinary - Interesting, difficult for some cases - Article by George Grant, “Thinking About Technology”—very interesting, READ - Canadian philosopher, passed away in 1988, spent most time in McMaster - Used to be on CBC all the time, very influential social commentator - Best known for his views on nationalism and technology - One of our most original thinkers - Technology and Justice—ability for justice to be distributed evenly amongst people as result of technology - “We are technological civilisation” - A lot of people think of technology as something we use (tool), but it uses us— influences the way we do things-the way we interact with people - Computer scientist makes statement, article reflects on that statement - Knowing: traditional thing in science, understanding how world works - Making: building things, art - Brought together in way that does not allow one to make distinction between them - Incredible interaction in modern Western civilization between the two o Atomic bomb- understanding how atom works, using that to make something - Technology we’ve developed has changed the way we do things o Cell phone/iPhone - Computer scientist says “The Computer Does Not Impose on Us the Ways It Must Be Used” in 1976 - But it’s freed up the secretaries of typing up corrections—in fact, we don’t have secretaries - Spend more time e-mailing than going to the library, have lunches in office - Excludes certain forms of community and permits others - Difficult to think about technology because you’re immersed in it - Apply Grant’s article about technology, apply to biotechnology o Affects the way you work, interact with human beings, behave o Potential to dramatically alter human interaction to greater extent than computer technology has - Nanotechnology, biotech, information tech, cognitive science: understand how people think - Psychopharmacology: Ritelin, Prozac, alter state of mind - Genetic engineering - Nanotechnology - Artificial intelligence - Cognitive science - The accelerating convergence of all these “for improving human performance” - *Transhumanism: human that’s had some additions, seems science-fiction but has a great following in the world. The H+ movement for enhanced humans. Lots advocating for this view. - Humanity is on the verge of seizing technological control of our own evolution, creating better, post-human future o Sense of wonder and dread of same potential o The Surrogates o Can improve human species o *Eugenics of 1930s worldwide- selective breeding, sterilize the undesirables—in Alberta, sterilizing mentally retarded up to 1970s - Can now physically visualize how many synapses are on brain- terabite hard drives o Becomes more believable that we can transcend our biological form as technology progresses - Eliminate aging - Enhance intellectual abilities- psychopharmacological interventions (normal people taking Ritelin) - Every kind of therapeutic thing we develop (HGH, Ritelin, steroids) will be used by people trying to advance themselves - Stallone and HGH- reduces signs of physical aging. Not what it was intended for - Humanists: ability to become more than we are now - *Longevity, Health, Intelligence- get talked about the most - Status quo bias - Hard to argue against enhancing the human experience - Biopolitical battlefronts o Who’s a citizen with a right to life?- Stem cells, chimeras o Control of reproduction- preimplantation genetic screening, IVF, could have positive selection (desired characteristics—eugenics) o Fixing disabilities to human enhancement- prosthetics, brain chips, cosmetics o Extending life- anti-aging drugs o Control of the brain- Prozac (one of most frequently prescribed drugs) - Don’t need background in biochemistry to work in bioethics field o Probably more appropriate to have background in sociology, philosophy, psychology - World Transhumanist Association o Chapters everywhere o A lot in NA and Europe o As new technologies with huge influence for human societies, we should think about how we’re going to deal with them - Younger people are for it, older are scared of it - Ethics - Herodotus: historian, will get sick of him in College of Humanities :P o Travelled to India, Africa, around Europe o Wrote stories about places o When we has in Persia, wrote story: Darius was king, had Greek visitors, asked what price would have them eat their dead parents o Greeks were outraged- burned their dead parents o Asked the Callatiae for what price they’d burn their dead parents o Callatiae outraged- ate their dead parents o Custom is all—who’s right in this situation? - Some of these arguments aren’t particularly black and white - Ethical limits to use of biotechnology o New technology  Since Cohen and Boyer moved DNA from one species to another with control o Plurality of moral convictions o Divergent economic, pol., soc. Objectives o Sensitivity of public (especially in Europe) o Doubts of public about internal control mechanism of scientific institutions and scientific community—don’t trust scientists to make moral judgement  Terminator seeds for corn/soybean (Monsanto, etc.)- want you to buy seeds every year. Company bought out by Monsanto and made seeds so they wouldn’t be fertile after a year, even if you tried to plant them the next year it wouldn’t work.  Huge public outcry, so it never came to market- evil  Also: in traditional cultures, saving of seeds is way you’ve been doing things for thousands of years o Complexity of ethical issues involved  Reproductive technologies  Daughter infertile, gets egg cell from mom, sperm from husband, gives birth to own sister  Think about it - Morale: what’s good and what’s evil in everyday life - Ethics: study of principles at basis of morale - When societies are stagnant, don’t have change in moral or ethical behaviour - But when there’s rapid change in society, change in moral or ethical behaviour o Ex. Cell phones becoming accessible to everyone - Bioethics- not just for humans- environmental, animal - Now there are new ones: genetic testing- who decides whether this is ethical? - Organ transplant- one heart available—who should get it? o Changes impressions if you reveal that the girl is a drug user, the 40-year- old is overweight, the old woman is ugly/unhealthy - People are autonomous agents, can’t just use them for tools for what you want and harvest their kidneys - Benefits you get out of something should be proportional to risks. Don’t do something that has 1% of good result. - Trying to clone- harm outweighs the good - Justice: benefits shouldn’t happen for particular group of individuals, risks shouldn’t be for others - Trial working so well for test group that they stop the trial, feel ethically responsible to give it to placebo group. Have shown conclusively that it’s working. - *Repo Man movie - Nonmaleficence: do no harm - Should stop clinical trial if it’s harming patients - Dolly: big deal in 1996 - People didn’t realize that nucleus of fully-differentiated, adult cell could be used to clone - Can take any cell, put nucleus in an egg and make a new person - Now, we’re asking what is acceptable to do o Terminator seeds- possible, but not acceptable o Gene therapy for germline cells- illegal to change genes that will get passed on to next generation, though you could possibly do that too - May 2007: human neurons were transplanted into brains of mice, grew there o We use mouse models for human diseases o Would be better if the model is made of human neurons o Experiments were done o Ethical conference discussed this topic - Variety ways of approaching moral problems - Morals tend to be more personal, ethics are rules we have to follow - * Farm animals were engineered to be less intelligent in order to improve their quality of life- lobotomized the chickens, goats o When you keep them in nasty conditions, stress levels go up, don’t eat properly, fight each other o Idea is to breed them so they wouldn’t care - Bioethics: how do you articulate the problem with this? - Good starting point: look at public perception - Cultural background affects approach you take- Herodotus - Eurobarometer survey o Genetic testing is useful o Medicine is useful o Cloning humans is useful, but high risk o FOOD: don’t like it at all- not acceptable, great risk o Less of a problem with cloning than with affecting food supply - Can view biotechnology as group of useful technologies that affect different disciplines - Before, it was a skill used for many long traditions - Now, much awareness and concern o *RECOMBINANT DNA - Much control over biological processes - Can change/manipulate genes quickly - Why do Europeans hate this so much? It’s mainly about agricultural applications, food supply. - We don’t even label genetically modified foods—in 2006, FDA approved the sale of beef from cloned animals - They’re more attached to their food, used to growing it themselves - We’re very urban, treat food as not something you pull out of the ground - “We don’t want to be like lawyers, journalists and politicians where the public hates us. They kind of like scientists, so
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