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PRESS RELEASE: 10-15-15 New in the Hastings Center Report

Emotion and reason in the enhancement debate, questions about gene editing, and more in the September-October 2015 issue.

Don’t Mind the Gap: Intuitions, Emotions, and Reasons in the Enhancement Debate
Alberto Giubilini

In enhancement debates, “bioconservatives” appeal to wisdom of intuitions and emotions. So-called bioliberals, who in principle do not oppose human bioenhancement, try to rely on rational arguments and see intuitions and emotions mostly as sources of bias. But, the author argues, the methodological divide between the two camps is less significant than it is often taken to be. First of all, the reliance on intuitions and emotions is not a prerogative of bioconservatives: bioliberals have their typical intuitions and emotive responses and are for this reason also exposed to potential biases. Second, reliance on intuitions and emotions is not necessarily antithetic to reason and rationality. Alberto Giubilini is a research associate on the Australian Research Council Discovery Project “Moral Conservatism, Human Enhancement and the ‘Affective Revolution’ in Moral Psychology.”

Limits of Responsibility: Genome Editing, Asilomar, and the Politics of Deliberation
J. Benjamin Hurlbut

Last spring, a group of prominent biologists and ethicists called for a worldwide moratorium on human genetic engineering in which the genetic modifications would be passed on to future generations. The group declared that the advent of CRISPR/Cas9, a genome engineering technology that makes human germ-line genetic engineering plausible, makes discussion of its ethical implications urgent. Echoing this sentiment, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine have plans to convene an international summit this fall to assess the implications of CRISPR/Cas9. Yet the relevant ethical questions are by no means specific to this technology. They are longstanding questions about what features of human life ought not to be taken as objects of manipulation and control. J. Benjamin Hurlbut is an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.

Why Training in Ecological Research Must Incorporate Ethics Education
G. K. D. Crozier and Albrecht E. Schulte-Hostedde

Like other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, ecological research needs ethics. Practicing ecologists ought to be able to identify and critically evaluate the ethical dimensions of their field studies, argues this article, part of a series on bioethics education edited in collaboration with the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Ecologists are among the first to identify the impact of anthropogenic changes to the environments and will be on the front line of any efforts to create a sustainable lifestyle for humans. G. K. D. Crozier is an assistant professor of philosophy, and Albrecht E. Schulte-Hostedde is a professor of biology at Laurentian University in Canada.

Another essay in the bioethics education series, Teaching Bioethics at the Secondary School Levelexplains why bioethics topics are important for high school students to learn but challenging to teach. Laura J. Bishop heads Academic Programs at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. Lola Szobota codirects the New Jersey Science Convention.

Also in this issue:

Perspective: Having Conversations about Organ Donation
Blair L. Sadler and Nicole Robins Sadler

While 90 percent of participants in a Gallup poll indicated that they would donate an organ if asked, only 40 percent of Americans have registered to do so, according to 2012 data from Donate Life America; likely even fewer have shared their donation wishes with loved ones. Undoubtedly, the single biggest reason for the discrepancy between the number of potential transplants and the number actually performed is our failure to talk with loved ones about our wishes regarding organ donation. Although many resources already exist to hold these conversations, we can do more, and the emergence of social media provides an intriguing new opportunity. Two years ago, Organize.org set out to create the first nationwide organ donation registry in the United States.