New books put scientific ethics under the microscope

Posted by pt91 at Mar 31, 2016 04:30 PM |
Two publications from University bioscientists explore ethics at frontiers of science
New books put scientific ethics under the microscope

L - R: Dr Salvador Macip and Dr Chris Willmott receiving the European Prize for the Popularization of Science.

Academics from our Department of Molecular and Cell Biology are publishing books that explore the issues that arise when cutting-edge bioscience and ethics meet.

Dr Chris Willmott will be publishing Biological Determinism, Free Will and Moral Responsibility: Insights from Genetics and Neuroscience as part of the SpringerBriefs in Ethics series on 6 April.

As scientists unravel more about the ways in which genes and the environment work together to shape the development of our brains, their studies have importance beyond the narrow confines of the laboratory.

The extent to which "biological determinism" can be used as an explanation for our behaviour is of interest to philosophers reflecting on the free will versus determinism debate. It also has repercussions for the criminal justice system; in courtrooms around the world, defence lawyers are beginning to appeal to genetic and brain imaging data as grounds for finding their clients not guilty.

On 28 June, Dr Willmott will also publish Where Science and Ethics Meet: Dilemmas at the Frontiers of Medicine and Biology with Dr Salvador Macip. This is the English version of a book that has previously been published in Catalan (2014) and Spanish (2015).

It was the winner of the European Prize for Public Understanding of Science in 2013, which funded the initial publication of the book.

Topics discussed in Where Science and Ethics Meet include preimplantation diagnosis (a technique associated with "designer babies" in certain sections of the press), human cloning, genetic enhancement, growing spare parts for surgery, brain scanning, forensic use of DNA and immortality.

Each chapter begins with a short scenario, after which a series of questions is posed, inviting the reader to think through some of the pros and cons of the innovation described. Some of the stories are fictionalised accounts of issues which have already occurred somewhere in the world. Others are looking a little further into the future and are therefore a little more speculative.

Both scientists have written extensively on popular science topics in recent years, including the development of the Posthuman as represented by Doctor Who’s Cybermen by Dr Willmott and research and insights into cancer by Dr Macip, who has also published several novels.

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