Advances in genetics are opening new powers for intervention at the most fundamental levels of human life, and, with them, difficult social and ethical issues. The questions they raise go beyond matters of individual rights and social responsibilities to considerations of the very source and significance of the natural world, its integrated organic processes, and the way these provide the foundations for the physical, psychological, and spiritual meaning of human life.
Building on two JTF-funded planning projects, we propose a strategically integrated program of deliberation and public engagement to assess and advance constructive applications of emerging biotechnologies.
Acknowledging the breadth of scientific complexities and the fundamental philosophical issues central to this task, we seek a common core of shared concerns (framed by foundational questions) to open respectful dialogue between those with scientific expertise and those who represent the personal, social, and religious perspectives of the wider human community.
Grounded in our scholarly convenings, our program of public engagement will include 1) human-centered design research, with a focus on religious audiences 2) creation of informative multimedia content and learning activities to help audiences understand the science and implications of emerging biotechnologies 3) alternative scenarios exploring how biotechnology could shape the human future, and 4) creative forums for inclusive and respectful dialogue that encourages participation by scholars, religious leaders and influencers, futurists, and journalists.
The wise governance of these technologies is a key challenge of our age, and our collective choices will significantly alter the very future of life on earth. Now, at the early edge of this revolution in biotechnology, within the context of deepening public awareness and concern, we have an opportunity to consider these matters in an informed, comprehensive, and forward-looking way.