Tuesday, October 23, 2012
6:30 – 8:30 pm
Busboys and Poets, 5th and K St., NW, Washington, DC
No one can synthesize life from scratch using off-the-shelf ingredients, at least not yet. But the scientific community has been devising ever more powerful ways to intervene in the genetic and molecular mechanism from which the structures, functions and behaviors of living things emerge and by which they behave. Selective breeding practices that led to domesticated plants and animals were early and hugely successful attempts to redesign organisms. Genetic engineering, in which deliberate selection of genes (DNA), rather than of traits in entire animals, has given rise in the past few decades to today’s era of biotechnologies such as pest-resistant crops and bacteria-produced medicines. Synthetic biology is, in a way, next-generation biotechnology in which mixing, matching and alteration of the genes, chromosomes, and genomes available in the living kingdom is opening avenues to dramatically modified forms of life and with them new biotechnologies…for better or for worse. Join geneticist and bioethicist Debra Mathews of Johns Hopkins University’s Berman Institute of Bioethics and senior research associate Todd Kuiken with the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in a discussion about the promise and perils that come with these new means of designing life and the ethical issues and implications they foist upon us.