Monday, December 10, 2007

A useful map into bio-ethics

I have complained in the past, I couldn't find a satisfying way into questions of bio-ethics through podcasts. I encountered factual explanations of what the bio-technology is capable of (or could be) or an overly religious version of ethicizing which gave me the idea the conclusions were set in advance. With a recent podcast from UChannel, I was refreshed with a more complete approach: Beyond the Genome: the challenge of synthetic biology.

Oct 24, 2007 at London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE): The 1970s introduced genetic modification, the 1990s cloning and GM food, and the human genome was sequenced in 2000. Synthetic biology is heralded as the next frontier. But what is synthetic biology and how do we imagine its future directions? What are the implications of this new field for scientists, lawyers, regulators and ethicists? What social and political challenges does it pose and what role will the social sciences, the humanities and the public play in shaping the direction of this new field?

Panelists: Sarah Franklin who does anthropological research around synthetic biology; Peter Lipton the philosopher (he appears here one month before his untimely death); Chris Mason Head of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing Unit in the UCL Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering; Dr J Craig Venter founder of The Institute for Genomic Research.

Silence and Speechlessness

The Word Nerds is a podcast about language and naturally normally deals with how we communicate in words and sentences. Communication can be non-verbal also, one tends to forget. Not the Word Nerds and consequently they already had a show about nonverbal communication a long time ago. In their recent show, they took this attention a step further and spoke of speechlessness and of silence.

Silence can be very effective in language and they proceed to show this with examples. For me the most impressive silence are the moments of silence taken for commemoration. For the dead of war, for the victims of 9/11 and such. Most impressive are those in Israel.

There is the silence of Yom Kippur, when the whole country comes to a halt and for city dwellers such as myself, the background hum of traffic comes to a stop and during the day there is the silence of the dead of night, more so than on an average night. Other silences are those of remembrance far fallen soldiers, terrorist victims and on the holocaust remembrance day. Even on the highway people stand still. They stop their cars and stand in silence next to them.

Neutraal in de Grote Oorlog

Het is al eens eerder in OVT aan de orde geweest: het neutrale Nederland tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Deze week, naar aanleiding van de verfilming van Geert Maks In Europa
, staat het jaar 1916 centraal. De blik wordt op het neutrale Nederland geworpen. Maar eerst was er een smakelijk voorafje over Tristan da Cunha - het afgelegen eiland in de Atlantische oceaan waar een virus de bevolking in de greep heeft.

Betekent neutraliteit dat de oorlog aan je voorbij gaat? De uitzending trekt de conclusie van niet. Het was politiek een vast beleid sinds 1830 om neutraal te zijn, maar er waren toch ook wel pro-Duitse sentiment, alsmede pro-Britse. Ik vroeg me af, hoe de Britse blokkade van Duitsland effect had op Nederland, maar dat komt niet aan de orde - wel het effect van een miljoen Belgische vluchtelingen.

Op mentaalgebied blijkt de oorlog ook in Nederland zijn sporen te hebben nagelaten. Niet alleen bij de strijdende partijen is er de schok en de ontnuchtering, ook bij de neutralen en ook in Nederland claimt een hele generatie veranderd te zijn door de oorlog.