Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, December 17, 2012

NOTE to Bioethics students

Amazon has the paper edition of Richard Powers' Generosity: An Enhancementone of our required texts, for just $6 ,& the e-book for $10. (There's also a terrific audio version at audible.com.) It's the last thing we'll read, in April. But you'll probably want to get a jump-start on it. It integrates many of the themes of our course, especially the question of species perfectability through genomic engineering.

I just joined Goodreads to post a little review in its support. 
I was already a Powers fan, when "Generosity" came along just in time for my "Future of Life" philosophy class (Gen1Gen2). It served our purposes well there, and I'm going to try it next semester in Bioethics. And then in Philosophy of Happiness. 

Those who like the more cerebral Powers but think this is comparatively conventional or mainstream may be missing levels of complexity that present themselves on second and third reading. My present focus, pedagogically, is on the crucial bioethical choices we'll be making in the near future that promise great or terrible consequences for what the Aussie humanist calls the future of "human nature." Powers does a great job of setting those problems & questions in motion, leaving us with a story still to be written. I'd love to see his sequel, and am even more curious to anticipate ours.

“But this is when the story is at its most desperate: when techne and sophia are still kin, when the distant climax is still ambiguous, the outcome a dead heat between salvation and ruin.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Playing Craig Venter

I recently read the first chapter of Craig Venter's autobiography. Had no idea he'd been such a hellion back in his youth, before he started to play Himself.

Monday, December 10, 2012

HIV vs. cancer

a promising treatment, but will it be affordable in the U.S.?
...Emma, then 6, was near death from leukemia. She had relapsed twice after chemotherapy, and doctors had run out of options.
Desperate to save her, her parents sought an experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one that had never before been tried in a child, or in anyone with the type of leukemia Emma had. The experiment, in April, used a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS to reprogram Emma’s immune system genetically to kill cancer cells.
The treatment very nearly killed her. But she emerged from it cancer-free, and about seven months later is still in complete remission. She is the first child and one of the first humans ever in whom new techniques have achieved a long-sought goal — giving a patient’s own immune system the lasting ability to fight cancer...The Pennsylvania researchers said they were surprised to find any big drug company interested in their work, because a new batch of T-cells must be created for each patient — a far cry from the familiar commercial strategy of developing products like Viagra or cholesterol medicines, in which millions of people take the same drug.
But Mr. Hoppenot said Novartis was taking a different path with cancer drugs, looking for treatments that would have a big, unmistakable impact on a small number of patients. Such home-run drugs can be approved more quickly and efficiently, he said, with smaller studies than are needed for drugs with less obvious benefits.
“The economic model is totally acceptable,” Mr. Hoppenot said.
But such drugs tend to be extremely expensive. A prime example is the Novartis drug Gleevec, which won rapid approval in 2001 for use against certain types of leukemia and gastrointestinal tumors. It can cost more than $5,000 a month, depending on the dosage..." A Breakthrough Against Leukemia Using Altered T-Cells - NYTimes.com
Patenting a new drug helps finance its immense cost to develop -- but that same patent can put advanced treatments out of reach for sick people in developing nations, at deadly cost. Ellen 't Hoen talks about an elegant, working solution to the problem: the Medicines Patent Pool. TEDX

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tissue engineering

Each of our bodies is utterly unique, which is a lovely thought until it comes to treating an illness -- when every body reacts differently, often unpredictably, to standard treatment. Tissue engineer Nina Tandon talks about a possible solution: Using pluripotent stem cells to make personalized models of organs on which to test new drugs and treatments, and storing them on computer chips. (Call it extremely personalized medicine.) Nina Tandon studies ways to use electrical signals to grow artificial tissues for transplants and other therapies...
Nina Tandon: Could tissue engineering mean personalized medicine? | Video on TED.com

Friday, October 5, 2012

Reading bioethics

Texts for our Spring 2013 course, PHIL 3345 Bioethics:
  1. Glenn McGee, Bioethics for Beginners - 0470659114
  2. Michael Sandel, The Case Against Perfection - 0674036387
  3. Richard Powers, Generosity: An Enhancement - 0312429754

Monday, September 17, 2012

Glenn McGee, visionary or arriviste?

In any case, I've decided to use his book in our course this Spring.

Bioethics for Beginners: 60 Cases and Cautions from the Moral Frontier of Healthcare
"Depending on who you ask, Glenn McGee is either a visionary who made bioethicists more visible or an ambitious arriviste with questionable ethics on some issues.
McGee, a prominent  and sometimes controversial bioethicist, is raising the hackles of others in his profession again, this time for joining a for-profit Texas stem-cell company even as, his critics say, he remained editor of the American Journal of Bioethics, an influential journal he founded.
One version of Glenn McGee’s move was announced in a press release this week. "Celltex Therapeutics Corporation is pleased to announce that Glenn McGee, Ph.D, an internationally respected bioethicist, has joined the firm as president of Ethics and Strategic Initiatives,” the press release said. It said he resigned as editor-in-chief of the journal in Nov. 2011 and his position as the John B. Francis Chair at the Center for Practical Bioethics, a Kansas City nonprofit involved in practical bioethics, but would serve the journal in an advisory capacity till the beginning of March..."
Glenn McGee raises a storm in the bioethical world | Inside Higher Ed

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Against acupuncture, cupping, etc.

"Many proponents of acupuncture reject the esoteric explanations but believe acupuncture has a real physiological effect. Various mechanisms have been proposed, but none is convincing. Needling can release pain-killing endorphins in the brain, but that’s a nonspecific effect: Placebo pills do the same thing, and just throwing a stick for a dog releases endorphins in the dog’s brain.

We don’t need to know how it works to know if it works. Acupuncture has been tested repeatedly and found wanting. Studies have shown that it doesn’t matter where you stick the needles, and it doesn’t matter whether you pierce the skin. Stimulating intact skin with toothpicks or electricity works just as well. The crucial factor seems to be whether patients believe they are getting acupuncture."

Quack medicine in the military: Acupuncture, cupping, and moxibustion are endangering troops

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Who wants to live for ever?

"Thinking machines, eternal life, space colonisation, neon bunnies – no, not science fiction but soon-to-be-realised science fact, according to a new generation of futurologists. But who are they, and can they be serious?"

Adam Smith - Who wants to live for ever? | New Humanist

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

As Humans and Computers Merge ... Immortality?

The Singularity Prophet's still preaching, still hoping to live long enough to live forever.
"Paul Solman interviews inventor Ray Kurzweil, who predicts that advancing technology will result in augmented brains, memories recorded on "mind files" and a greatly increased life span."
As Humans and Computers Merge ... Immortality? | PBS NewsHour | July 10, 2012 | PBS

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species?

(You mean they're not?)

"Throughout human evolution, multiple versions of humans co-existed. Could we be mid-upgrade now? At TEDxSummit, Juan Enriquez sweeps across time and space to bring us to the present moment -- and shows how technology is revealing evidence that suggests rapid evolution may be under way.

Juan Enriquez thinks and writes about profound changes that genomics will bring in business, technology, and society. His TED Book, "Homo Evolutis," explores those changes. Full bio »

Since the 1940s, we've been saying there are no differences, we [humans] are all identical. We're going to know at year end if that is true.” 

Juan Enriquez: Will our kids be a different species? | Video on TED.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2012



Centre for Professional Ethics ( At the University of Central Lancashire, Preston)
Centre for Research Ethics and Bioethics
Centre for the Study of Ethics in the Professions (Illinois Institute of Technology)
European Institute for Business Ethics (Nijenrode University in the Netherlands)
Institute for Business and Professional Ethics
Dartmouth College Ethics Institute 
MacLean Centre for Clinical Medical Ethics University of Chicago
Centre for Applied Ethics
Bioethics – Charles Sturt University
Bioethics Centre University of Otago
Centre for Applied Philosophy – Flinders University
Centre for Bioethics – University of Minnesota
Centre for Bioethics and Health Law – University of PittsburghCentre for Biomedical Ethics – Case Western Reserve University
Centre for Ethics and the Professions – Harvard University
Centre for Health Care Ethics – Saint Louis University
Centre for Human Bioethics – Monash University
Centre for Law and Genetics
Centre for Professional Ethics – University of Central Lancashire
Centre for Social Ethics and Policy - University of Manchester
Centre for the Study of Health and Society (CSHS) – University of Melbourne
Eubios Ethics Institute
Hastings Center
Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics 
Joint Centre for Bioethics – University of Toronto
Kennedy Institute of Ethics
King’s Centre for Medical Law and Ethics
Princeton Bioethics Forum
Program in ethics in Science and Medicine – University of Texas Southwestern
Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics
University of Washington (bioethics education project)

Resources and News

The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics - Links:

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Neuroethics - Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics (SCBE) - Stanford University School of Medicine

We are devoted to the new field of neuroethics, with an initial focus on issues at the intersection of medical imaging and biomedical ethics. These include ethical, social, and legal challenges presented by advanced neurofunctional imaging capabilities, the emergence of cognitive enhancement neurotechnologies and pharmacology, self-referral to health care and imaging services, incidental findings, and fetal MRI. New initiatives are underway in regenerative medicine, neurogenetics and pediatric neuroethics. More »

Neuroethics - Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics (SCBE) - Stanford University School of Medicine:

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Bio-Ethics Bites

A podcast series of 10 interviews with leading influential thinkers on bio-ethics, titled ‘Bio-Ethics Bites’. This series of interviews, representing various ethical perspectives tackling controversial subjects arising out of recent scientific advances...

The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics - Bio-Ethics Bites:

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Monday, April 23, 2012

the great task of our generation « Up@dawn

the great task of our generation « Up@dawn:

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Synthetic DNA Created, Evolves on Its Own

Synthetic DNA Created, Evolves on Its Own:

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Coming to MTSU, Spring '13

PHILOSOPHY 3345, Bioethics

Description. This course explores ethical issues arising from the practice of medical therapeutics (conventional and “alternative”), from the development of new biomedical technologies, and more largely from reflections on life’s meaning and prospects. 

      The course aims at clarifying relevant bioethical and medical issues and debates, representing various perspectives in application to present and future human possibilities and concerns (for example: genetic engineering and biochemical “enhancement,” longevity and life extension, end-of-life decisions, health care access, nanotechnology, cloning, stem cell research, mood and performance-enhancing pharmaceutical use, animal research, and reproductive technologies). 

      “Bio” means simply life, but questions about life’s goals, about appropriate means for attaining them, and about the professions devoted to sustaining life, give rise to the most complex and enduring ethical problems.

Objectives. The course compares many approaches to the urgent human preoccupation with life and its many challenges (biological, environmental, social, technological) ,  in order to articulate the appropriate uses of emerging technologies, therapies, pharmacological interventions etc., in ameliorating and possibly altering the human condition.

Other objectives include exploring the future of life (human, nonhuman, and possibly post-human) and reflecting constructively on what it can mean to be human in an age of rapidly advancing technologies and bioengineering.

The course’s ultimate objective is to provide students with critical resources and tools they can apply in making crucial life-choices.