Illinois Federation for Right to Life Daily News                       Published: 10/21/2004 2:24 PM

Biotech Issues Increasingly Political

-Prop 71 and the Death of Christopher Reeve

(CBHD) As the election campaign draws to a conclusion we are seeing every day the impact of biotechnology questions on our national political debate. The continued prominence of the stem cell and cloning issues underlines the vital importance of our engaging in the public debate about ethics and science policy -- and being well-informed so we can do so effectively.  That is why Chuck Colson and I have just published our new book, HUMAN DIGNITY IN THE BIOTECH CENTURY (InterVarsity Press), with contributions from many colleagues that survey the big issues facing us at the outset of this momentous century. I hope you find it helpful.

Meanwhile, the sad news of the death of Christopher Reeve, who had emerged as a key celebrity advocate of embryonic stem cell research, has reminded us how difficult future debates will be. Reeve has been the poster boy for two powerful forces in the culture: the devastating effects of crippling disease, and the equal devastation of the irresponsible peddling of hope in a culture that is always seeking miracle cures. Cures for diseases don't appear magically. Rarely are there quick fixes. Remember the so-called "war on cancer?" Remember the so far almost entirely unfulfilled promise of the wonders of gene therapy?

Whether or not our culture can develop responsible science policy in an environment of hype and celebrity remains to be seen. In California, Proposition 71 could hardly better express the disasters that await us if democracy throws in the towel to the tabloid rhetoric of the "politics of hope." Its most healthy sign is that it has brought pro-life and pro-choice advocates together in a common cause, something that will be the pattern as the new biotech issues emerge to dominate our cultural agenda.

Here also are details of the most unusual conference you will ever attend, which takes place in Washington D.C., October 28 and 29. Focusing on the use of new technologies (especially), TECHNO SAPIENS: NANOTECHNOLOGY, CYBERNETICS AND THE FUTURE OF THE HUMAN RACE will provide a forum to discuss the capacity of nanotechnology and cybernetics to reshape human nature. Participants will be speaking from many perspectives, and include Dr. Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics; Christine Peterson, founding president of the premier nanotechnology think-tank, the Foresight Institute; and Lori Andrews, progressive feminist former chair of the Ethical, Legal and Social Issues committee of the human genome project; Nick Bostrom, the Oxford philosopher who founded the World Transhumanist Association. I hope you will join us.

We must commit ourselves afresh to being well-informed leaders in the bio-debates. Biotech Update has been less regular in recent months; we are hoping to get it back on schedule now so we can help you play your part!

By: Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Director, Council for Biotechnology Policy, Dean, Wilberforce Forum
Source: Council for Biotechnology Policy
Publish Date: October 21, 2004
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