If You Want an Enhancing Experience, Be in Philadelphia in December

September 3, 2010

December 3–4 to be precise.

The Center for Inquiry, in cooperation with the Penn Center for Bioethics and the Penn Center for Neuroscience & Society, will be holding a conference on the ethical, legal, and public policy issues presented by biomedical enhancements. The conference is entitled “Transforming Humanity: Fantasy? Dream? Nightmare?” The title reflects three common reactions to enhancements, namely, that we cannot expect significant changes to human nature or society from enhancements, that significant changes are both possible and desirable, and that significant changes are possible—but are something that should trouble us.

Participants in the conference include many leading experts in the field of bioethics, such as Arthur Caplan, Allen Buchanan (who has a forthcoming book on enhancements), Martha Farah, Maxwell Mehlman, Jonathan Moreno, and Rosemarie Tong. John Shook and I will be representing CFI.

The conference will be held on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Pricing for registrants has not been determined yet, but it will be under $100; Friends of the Center will receive an additional discount. Further details regarding the conference will be posted in the near future.

But, in the meantime, save the dates. Whatever the exact consequences resulting from use of enhancements, there is no question they present significant issues. For example, we are already debating the extent to which drugs that can increase mental alertness are permissible, and the possibility of eliminating some genetic defects from children is generating controversy over so-called “designer babies.”

CFI continues to be committed to sponsoring scholarship on cutting-edge issues. Bioethics has all too often been plagued by dogmatic thinking. Sometimes it seems as though every new development in biomedical technology is decried as an ill-advised attempt to “play God.” We need sound policy, not slogans. We need to apply critical reasoning to developments in biotechnology.

Biotechnology could transform our world—it could transform you. Ponder the consequences, consider the choices—and join us in Philadelphia.