Saturday, February 24, 2007

Genetics and Justice Conference

I am organising this two-day conference on "Genetics and Justice" here at Oxford University on July 2nd and 3rd. The final programme of speakers is still being finalised but I expect to post the list of speakers and titles in the next few weeks. The Conference is hosted by Oxford's Centre for the Study of Social Justice, the Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford’s Programme on Ethics and New Biosciences & the Future of Humanity Institute; and the event is sponsored by the Wellcome Trust.

Those who follow this blog will know this is a topic close to my heart and it should prove to be a unique and interesting event. So far the programme includes scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including medicine, law, sociology, politics and philosophy; and the topics addressed will range from gene therapy for cystic fibrosis and the regulation of PGD, to biobanks and enhancements and sport.

The genetic revolution compels us to re-consider the moral landscape in diverse ways-the chance/choice distinction, the limits and scope of reproductive freedom, the duty to prevent harm, who we define as the "least advantaged", etc. Of course these dilemmas are not all unique to genetics. But what is novel and interesting is how the issue of genetics, and genetic intervention in particular, brings these various concerns together in a vivid fashion.

It is imperative that normative theories keep pace with these scientific advances, that our normative theories evolve in the appropriate fashion as the moral landscape shifts in various ways. This Conference aims to address a wide range of concerns which the genetic revolution has thrust upon us. In order to tackle the moral, legal and social challenges of the genetic revolution there must be interdisciplinary dialogue and exchange so that moral ideals (e.g. inclusion, fairness, liberty) are framed and addressed in ways that give due attention to the diversity of stakes involved in the policies which we implement to mitigate disadvantage, regulate procreative liberty, etc.

Please check back in a few weeks for an update on the final programme.