How Philosophy Can Provide Frameworks for a Global Biotech Revolution

Throughout history, when presented with new technologies, humans as a species have shown a recurring pattern: a tendency for reckless exploitation, often ignoring harmful side-effects and hazards, and only much later pausing to consider the need for ethical reflection and direction. At the dawn of a new revolution in biotechnology, accelerated by the discovery of the precise (and cheap) gene-editing method CRISPR/Cas9, we are yet again facing decisions with wide-ranging consequences. While genome editing technologies promise therapies for a number of serious and deadly diseases, they also open the door to eugenics and enhancements with the potential for irrevocable modifications of the human germ line. Françoise Baylis, a philosopher and professor at Dalhousie University, is one of the foremost voices among bioethics scholars worldwide. Her mission is to foster an inclusive dialogue on what should and should not be allowed through gene editing. As the consequences of these decisions will affect future generations, the ultimate goal is to reach a broad societal consensus on the direction and limits to how this technology should be developed—a consensus that needs to include the voices not just of scientists and policy makers, but also of informed and ethically educated citizens. At Falling Walls, Françoise reflects on the immense opportunities and threats posed by next generation biotechnologies and provides clues on how we, as a species, should deal with them.

Françoise Baylis is the Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy at the Dalhousie University and one of the most important voices in the bioethics community. As a public intellectual, she is ensuring that ethical sensibilities are applied to a wide range of public issues. Her current research focus is on women’s health and human reproduction, inserting a powerful philosophical perspective into cutting-edge genetics research.

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