Erik Parens, Senior Research Scholar
Erik Parens investigates the ethical and social implications of using technologies such as surgery, pharmacology, and gene editing to shape ourselves and our children. He also investigates how emerging sciences such as genetics and neuroscience shape our understanding of ourselves as persons. He has served as a consultant to several government and nongovernmental bodies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. He is a Fellow of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, and is the author or editor of several books, as well as numerous articles and commentaries for academic journals and general-interest publications.
Parens is a principal investigator of a project that is exploring the meaning of human flourishing in an age of gene editing, and he recently completed a project on what the science of moral psychology can and cannot tell us about bioethics. In addition, he is member of Columbia University Medical Center’s Center for Excellence in Ethical, Legal and Social Implications, which focuses on psychiatric, neurologic and behavioral genetics. He is also an investigator on a project on the goals and practices of next-generation prenatal genetic tests and, with colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, on the potential use of genetic sequencing technology in newborns. He previously directed projects on controversies surrounding research on the genetics of intelligence, what neuroimaging technologies can–and cannot–reveal about complex behavioral traits, the use of psychiatric medication in children, and the use of surgery to “normalize” the appearance of children born with atypical physical features.
Parens received his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and his B.A. from the Committee on General Studies in the Humanities.
Erik Parens, Shaping Our Selves: On Technology, Flourishing, and a Habit of Thinking, Oxford University Press, 2014.
Erik Parens, ed., Surgically Shaping Children: Technology, Ethics and the Pursuit of Normality, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.
Erik Parens, Audrey Chapman, and Nancy Press, eds., Wrestling with Behavioral Genetics: Science, Ethics and Public Conversation, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
Erik Parens and Adrienne Asch, eds., Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, Georgetown University Press, 2000.
Erik Parens, ed., Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and Social Implications, Georgetown University Press, 2000.
Erik Parens, “Giving Genes Their Due, But Not More,” Quillette, May 21, 2016.
Erik Parens, “Made to Order,” Aeon, November 11, 2015.
Erik Parens, “A Symptom of Modern Life,” New York Times, April 21, 2015.
Erik Parens, “The Benefits of ‘Binocularity’,” New York Times, September 28, 2014.
Erik Parens, “The Thorny Ethics of Prenatal Testing,” Time, February 5, 2014.
Selected Scholarly Articles
Erik Parens and Paul Appelbaum, eds., The Genetics of Intelligence: Ethics and the Conduct of Trustworthy Research, special report, Hastings Center Report 2015; 45 (5): s1-72.
Erik Parens and Paul Appelbaum, “An Introduction to Thinking about Trustworthy Research into the Genetics of Intelligence,” The Genetics of Intelligence: Ethics and the Conduct of Trustworthy Research, special report, Hastings Center Report 2015; 45 (5): s1-72.
Erik Parens, “Drifting Away from Informed Consent in the Era of Personalized Medicine,” Hastings Center Report 2015; 45 (4): 16-20.
Paul Appelbaum, et al. (Erik Parens co-author), “Researchers’ Views on Informed Consent for Return of Secondary Results in Genomic Research,” Genetics in Medicine, published online December 11, 2014.
Erik Parens, et al., “Incidental Findings in the Era of Whole Genome Sequencing,” Hastings Center Report 2013; 43(4): 16-19.
Erik Parens, “On Good and Bad Forms of Medicalization,” Bioethics 2013; 27 (1): 28-35.
Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston, eds., Troubled Children: Diagnosing, Treating, and Attending to Context, special report, Hastings Center Report 2011; 41(2).
Seth J. Gillihan and Erik Parens, “Should We Expect ‘Neural Signatures’ for DSM Diagnoses?” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, March 18, 2011.
Erik Parens, “The Ethics of Memory Blunting and the Narcissism of Small Differences,” Neuroethics 2010; 3 (2): 99-107.
Erik Parens, Josephine Johnston, and Gabrielle A. Carlson, “Pediatric Mental Health Care Dysfunction Disorder?” New England Journal of Medicine 2010; 363 (20): 1187-1189.
Erik Parens, Josephine Johnston, and Jacob Moses, “Do We Need ‘Synthetic Bioethics’?” Science 2008; 321 (5895): 1449.
Erik Parens, “Do Think Twice: Kramer and Shenk on Depression,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 2007; 50 (2): 295-307.
Erik Parens, “Authenticity and Ambivalence: Toward Understanding the Enhancement Debate,” Hastings Center Report 2005; 35 (3): 34-41.