Venue: University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Humanities, KUA
9.15-10.15: Peter McLaughlin (Heidelberg), ‘The Blindness of the Watchmaker and the Super-vision of the Breeder’
10.15-11.15: Tim Lewens (Cambridge), ‘Does Mother Nature Know Best? On Rational Organic Design’
11.45-12.45: Randolph Nesse (Michigan, Ann Arbor), ‘How the Machine Metaphor Holds Back Biology and Medicine’
13.45-14.45: Mark Bedau (Reed College), ‘How Emergence Drives the Ethics and Politics of Synthetic Biology’
14.45-15.45: Julian Savulescu (Oxford),’The Ethical Implications of Designing Life’
16.15-17.15: Jacob Boomsma (Copenhagen), ‘Will the Services of Synthetic Organisms be Brief, Transient and Ultimately Dangerous?’
17.15-17.30: Concluding Remarks
REGISTRATION is free, but please e-mail Sune Holm by January 6, 2011 if you would like to attend (suneh [at] hum.ku.dk)
SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY is rapidly emerging as one of the most promising fields of science and technology, with the potential to deliver enormous benefits in a wide range of areas, including pharmaceuticals, energy, agriculture, pollution and climate change. The vision of synthetic biologists is a future where humans engage in the large-scale design and creation of new forms of life that are exquisitely tailored for human purposes. The genetic engineering of organisms, and the wholesale design and manufacture of living things from virtual genetic sequences, are blurring the line between machine and organism, life and nonlife, and the natural and the artificial, transforming the relationship between humankind and nature in ways that are exciting to some people but unsettling for others.
THIS WORKSHOP will bring together an interdisciplinary group of experts, including specialists in evolutionary biology, medicine, bioethics, and philosophy of science, to explore the conceptual, theoretical, and ethical dimensions of the machine-organism distinction. It will aim to address the following questions: Is the traditional machine-organism comparison one of analogy or disanalogy? How do engineering principles and machine metaphors figure into biological and biomedical science, and what are the limits to their utility? How shall we situate the products of synthetic biology vis-à-vis our traditional ontological categories of ‘engineered machine’ and ‘naturally selected organism’? Are these distinctions of normative significance? How might these categories inform (or misinform) bioethical discussions in relation to emerging biotechnologies? A central goal of the workshop will be to highlight the ways in which the conceptual problems associated with synthetic biology inform and shape the ethical analyses.
The workshop is sponsored by UNIK Synthetic Biology, University of Copenhagen