Re: Genome issues

Date: Tue Jun 27 2000 - 10:20:49 MDT

Joseph writes, quoting Venter and Cohen:
> We mean a parliament in the sense of a deliberative body of experienced
> scientists and philosophers, let us say of 60 or so members, rotating
> in two-year terms to advise decision-makers in business and politics
> with the weight of their collective authority. This body, perhaps under
> United Nations auspices, would inform the public of what is at stake in
> a given scientific advance and propose solutions.
> What do you think about this? The rotation/term limits should encourage
> flexibility but the obvious concern, aside from the general one of
> nonminimal intervention, is that such a body, while potentially able to
> fight certain real abuses, will prove conservative. If the sign over the
> door says [Ye Olde House of Relinquishment] we're in trouble.

Although the wording suggests otherwise, I think this is primarily
intended to be a body which makes *moral* recommendations. They aren't
there to give technical advice. This proposal appears in the part of
the article where the authors are discussing moral issues.

I don't think it will be possible to find a group of people who have
"collective authority" on upcoming moral issues, especially in the
context of a world with incredible diversity of cultures. Is it really
plausible that the religious countries where women must go veiled and
drug use leads to execution can agree with European countries where
women go topless on the beach and drugs are freely available?

I also agree with Joseph that there may be an implication that these
moral pronouncements will be given the force of law. If they were just
intended to guide individuals who voluntarily agreed with the wisdom of
the recommendations, I'd have no problems whatsoever. The more people
thinking about the issues and giving advice, the better. But in proposing
to advise political and business leaders I think the idea is to remove
some options from end users, to take away their freedom to make their
own decisions.


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