Washington, DC– The Appignani Bioethics Center, a project of the American Humanist Association, held a panel discussion today at the National Press Club to examine controversial emerging technologies in biomedical sciences and climate change. The topics were framed by Jonathan Moreno and Andrew Light, both of the Center for American Progress, who considered the issues from ethical and political angles.
A video of the event will be made available here later today: www.youtube.com/humanistvision .
The panelists argued that debates around these controversial technologies have become increasingly politicized–highlighting fundamental differences between basic moral convictions, world-views, and political assumptions, which makes finding common ground an almost impossible task.
One such illustrative case is that of Terri Schiavo, which Jonathan Moreno commented on in a statement to the Appignani Bioethics Center: “Neurologists who study cases of vegetative states like those of Terri Schiavo have come to identify them as permanently vegetative,” said Moreno. “‘Right to life’ advocates insist upon more and more medical tests and interventions, thus exploiting a private family matter for political advantage. Legally (and in my opinion morally), it will still be up to the patient or their appointed agent to decide about treatment, despite disagreements among family members.” At the panel, Moreno spoke about the history and politics of bioethics, and noted that as science has advanced, concerns about the implications for traditional values have deepened. He went on to illustrate how those concerns have played out in the political debate.
Andrew Light spoke about the science, politics and ethics of climate change, and noted that the subject is particularly timely due to a scheduled early-December meeting in Copenhagen that will bring together countries around the globe to consider ways to curb CO2. Light argued that success at the meeting would be an agreement on the architecture–one that will bring developed and undeveloped countries together to work on the issue in a way that ethically accounts for the differing needs and responsibilities of all parties. He went on to call on the United States to take steps to curb CO2 by reducing deforestation, developing renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency, and cutting carbon emissions–steps which Light projected would save the United States a net of 14 billion dollars.
Jonathan Moreno, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a David and Lyn Silfen University professor of ethics, a professor of medical ethics and of history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania and formerly a member of President Barack Obama’s transition team for the Department of Health and Human Services. Andrew Light, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and director of the Center for Global Ethics at George Mason University. The panel was moderated by Ana Lita, Ph.D., the director of the Appignani Bioethics Center at the United Nations in New York City.
The Appignani Bioethics Center (ABC), a project of the American Humanist Association, helps inform local, state, national and international policy debates about global issues in medical and biotechnological sciences through collaboration with NGOs and UN departments, bodies and agencies. The Center provides educational venues and opportunities for confronting various issues facing developed and developing world countries. www.humanistbioethics.org.
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across the United States.
Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God.