Report from Genome Conference

On 9 October, the McDonald Centre hosted an interdisciplinary conference, Reason, Theology and the Genome to explore the ethics of human enhancement. Speakers representing fields including political science, biochemistry, philosophy, and theology debated questions such as the scientific potential for fundamentally altering human nature via technology, the implications for parenting of choosing the genetic capacities of children, and more. Throughout the day, attention was given to the form that such discussions should take:

  • Can theology contribute to such debates, even in a pluralist society?
  • Are recent contributions from Sandel and Habermas legitimately ‘public’ or do they depend on parochial religious commitments that are somehow inaccessible to a wider audience?
  • Must Christians translate their religious perspectives when speaking in public? Must Aristotelians? Must utilitarians? If so, translate into what language? Liberalism or human rights?

The day concluded with a Round Table discussion in which various speakers addressed these questions in more depth, as they relate to questions of human enhancement.

Participants at the conference included scholars from various Faculties at Oxford, including law and medicine, as well as postgraduate students, visiting academics from other universities, and members of the general public.