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Genomics Forum · News

Battle of Ideas



Forum Writer in Residence, Ken MacLeod took part in a panel discussion on the 'designer babies' controversy.


Ken took part in a panel on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and the 'designer babies' controversy last weekend at Battle of Ideas, an annual festival of discussion organised by the Institute of Ideas.The panel, 'Frankenstein's Daughters: from science fiction to science fact?', sponsored by BPAS and the Wellcome Trust, was chaired by Science Media Centre director Fiona Fox. Leading fertility specialist and practitioner Dr Alan Thornhill opened with a presentation on the realities of PGD. Mark Henderson, science editor at The Times, argued that regulation must be based on what's possible, without 'straying into science fiction'. Ken agreed, but pointed out that science fiction has debated some current real issues decades in advance. Sandy Starr, of the Progress Eductational Trust, added that science fiction, and bold speculation generally, keeps us in mind of the 'big picture', future possibilities, and moral issues.

The audience response came from several different points of view, and a stimulating dialogue developed, in which Ken emphasised the importance of social science studies in this area, and pointed out also the interest in creative interpretation of genetic issues that he's found in the responses and contributions to the Human Genre Project.

Forum materials such as The Gen and recent briefings by Pippa Goldschmidt and Christine Knight were quickly taken up at the ESRC stall of free publications in the festival's Ideas Market.