Being Human: Science, Ethics and Our Rights
An ICA/Index Debate
Colin Tudge, Research Fellow, Centre of Philosophy at LSE
Germaine Greer, author of the Whole Woman
Alan Colman, Scientific Director at PPL Pharmaceuticals
The ICA/Index debate on being human in a scientific, ethical and human
rights context demonstrated a genuine lack of confidence in talking about
such a fundamental issue. The speakers did not dare to put forward
defining statements on what being human is in our world of scientific and
technological advancement. They stood back from it and revealed the
general lack of focus and cross talk between the arts and sciences
regarding this very important question.
Colin Tudge spoke about the history of science and how we had arrived at
todays scientific perspectives on being human which are embodied in
the concepts of neo-darwinism. He spoke about the difference between
science and technology and how technology relies on science but is tightly
framed by profitability. Science is liberated and fundamentally a
philosophy in pursuit of the truth about how the world works. Modern
science is definitely fragmented and he is amazed at just how little
physicists know about biology and likewise. Scientists are also uneducated
in the philosophy of science nowadays and this is a major shortcoming for
our modern scientific world.
Alan Colman recounted his experience of making Dolly the sheep.
He told of how little he understood ethics before she was born. He
described his ongoing scientific dilemma, on the one hand his job is to
address unmet medical needs but on the other he is totally against human
cloning and thinks it wholly unethical.
Despite being the only non scientist at the table, Germaine Greer did at
least manage to grasp hold of the nettle. She said that science and
technology had defined an elite, giving us all a superiority complex. And
we use it. Ethics should be about our priorities and rights should be
about our duties. What on earth are we doing discussing human cloning when
most people do not benefit from science at all. Very little funding is
injected into research that may help the poor. The first priority of
science and technology is to improve the lot for humanity, not pamper to
the vanities of a minority.