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    Forum Posts by
    Erik Parens

    • Gene Editing, “Cultural Harms,” and Oversight Mechanisms

      Posted on May 4, 2017

      Is it reasonable to hope that concerns about “cultural harms” can be integrated into oversight mechanisms for technologies like gene editing? That question was raised anew for me by the recent National Academy of Sciences report on human genome editing and at a recent conference at Harvard on the international governance of genome editing technologies.… Read more

    • A Decade’s Worth of Gene-Environment Interaction Studies, in Hindsight

      Posted on April 23, 2014

      In the early 2000s, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie Moffitt, and their colleagues published two papers (here and here), which suggested that we could finally begin to tell rather simple but evidence-based stories about how genetic and environmental variables interact to influence the emergence of complex phenotypes. It’s hard to exaggerate the level of interest those papers generated. According… Read more

    • Synthetic Biology: The Presidential Bioethics Commission’s First Challenge

      Posted on May 24, 2010

      When announcing its new bioethics commission, the White House indicated that it would stick to “practical” ethical questions and avoid getting bogged down in big “philosophical” questions of the sort explored by the previous bioethics commission. President Obama’s first assignment for the new commission, however, makes clear why avoiding those big questions may be harder… Read more

    • The Hastings Center Looks Forward to the Obama Era

      Posted on January 23, 2009

      The Hastings Center staff gathered together in the Robert S. Morison Library on January 20 to watch together the auspicious inauguration of America’s first black president. With Americans—and people—everywhere, we affirm the significance of this event in our nation’s history. Ethics, which precludes discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and skin color, is the… Read more

    • Puzzling about Peter Singer

      Posted on November 20, 2008

      Peter Singer has vastly expanded our moral imaginations with his argument for the moral worth of nonhuman animals. According to that argument, a being does not need a human genome to be a person. If beings like gorillas and orangutans have selfawareness— that is, a sense of themselves as a separate object with a past… Read more

    • It’s Time for the Times to Cut the Gene Hype

      Posted on November 29, 2007

      The New York Times recently ran a front-page story that gave free advertising to three companies that already are or soon will be hawking whole-genome scans. The reporter, Amy Harmon, wrote, “For as little as $1,000, and a small saliva sample, customers will be able to learn what is known so far about how the… Read more

    • We Need More Than One Language To Talk about Choosing

      Posted on March 23, 2007

      I am a determinist, in the sense that I cannot conceive of a cause of my actions that originates from somewhere other than this world of nature. I see no evidence of and cannot grasp the notion of, for example, an extra-natural cause like a disembodied mind or soul. As far as I can see,… Read more

    • Against Hyphenated Ethics

      Posted on September 8, 2006

      Bioethics is only a little more than three decades old now (The Hastings Center is 36). But apparently “bioethics” is no longer sufficiently specialized. A few years ago, “gen-ethics” made its appearance. Still more recently we’ve had “neuro-ethics” and “nano-ethics.” These labels seem to promise new arenas of ethical investigation keyed to new arenas of… Read more

    • Taking People at Their Word

      Posted on May 25, 2006

      When I was a student, I loved to read Freud and Nietzsche and Marx. I was into what the great French philosopher Paul Ricoeur called “the hermeneutics of suspicion.” Sex, power, and money were at work everywhere. So were the psychological and social mechanisms that kept everybody else from seeing beneath the surface: “rationalization,” “denial,”… Read more