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Short Course on Public Deliberation and Gene Editing in the Wild
September 29, 2021 @ 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm EDT
Hastings Center scholars Michael Gusmano and Karen Maschke present a Short Course on Public Deliberation and Gene Editing in the Wild for attendees of Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association via zoom.
Emerging technologies for the genetic modification of organisms present unprecedented opportunities to alter wild populations of organisms, from microbes to mammals, and consequently change interspecies dynamics and reshape ecosystems. With these opportunities come perplexing governance challenges. Most commentators maintain that decision-making about whether, when, and how to use these technologies should include public engagement activities, through which the public can learn about the science; researchers and their funders can learn about the public’s values; and final decisions can be shaped by a range of inputs. In its strongest form, the argument for public engagement holds that proceeding with a proposal to modify a wild population requires the public’s authorization. In this course, we discuss how to draw on interdisciplinary scholarship in bioethics, political science, and public administration to teach a class or deliver individual lectures that explore this knot of conceptual, normative, and practical problems. We review several key issues and questions. What is gene editing in the wild? What are the ethical and political questions raised by these technologies? When is broad public deliberation about gene editing in the wild necessary? And when it is required, how should it be done? These questions lead to a suite of further questions about, for example, the rationale and goals of deliberation, the features of these technologies that make public deliberation appropriate or inappropriate, the criteria by which “stakeholders” and “relevant publics” for these uses might be identified, how different approaches to public deliberation map onto the challenges posed by the technologies, how the topic to be deliberated upon should be framed, and how the outcomes of public deliberation can be meaningfully connected to policy-making.