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Genomics Forum · News

Neuro-Ethics Film Festival 2012 to Examine Ethical Implications of How Our Brains Govern Our Behaviour



2012 programme for Biomedical Ethics Film Festival announced.


What would it mean for people if scientists claimed to have proved that our actions were not the product of freewill, but rather resulted from the unique biological and chemical make up of each of our brains? Would we have to reconsider ethical judgements relating to the actions of individuals, and the boundaries set by society? Film-goers will be invited to explore and debate such issues around neuroscience, human behaviour and ethics at the 2012 Biomedical Ethics Film Festival – this year branded the Neuro-Ethics Film Festival – which will take place at Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 November 2012.

The Festival will feature a range of stimulating neuro-ethically themed films and documentaries, which include: Limitless (2011) a revealing tale of the potential benefits and perils of brain enhancement, staring Bradley Cooper and Robert de Niro; the genre-setting The Matrix (1999) featuring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne; the classic Manchurian Candidate (1962) which portrays brain-washing during the Korean War; and Stanley Kubrick’s challenging portrayal of moral degeneration and mental reprogramming, A Clockwork Orange (1971). Also forming part of the Festival programme will be a “double bill” screening of two BBC Horizon documentaries: Out of Control (2011), and The Secret You (2009).

Following each screening the audience will have the opportunity to debate issues raised in the film with an expert panel. Experts participating in these discussions include: former Bishop of Edinburgh, The Rt Rev. Brian Smith; leading author of medical ethics fiction, Dr Hazel McHaffie; and the Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Biomedical Ethics, Dr Martyn Pickersgill.

Speaking ahead of the Festival, the Director of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, said:

“Scientific developments mean our understanding of the human brain is ever increasing. But this knowledge might ultimately raise questions about the degree to which human behaviour is a product of our conscious choices, or results from the biology and chemistry of our brains. The Neuro-Ethics Film Festival provides an ideal opportunity for audiences to consider how such insight into the functioning of people’s minds might have implications not only for the individual, but society as a whole.”

Dr Calum MacKellar, Director of Research for the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, and Festival co-ordinator commented:

“Questions around morality, social responsibility, and what governs human behaviour have always been important subjects for filmmakers. The films screened during our Festival all raise questions about the degree to which we have free will, the extent to which our behaviour is ultimately controlled by our biological brains, and the ethical implications that result from this. The discussions that follow each film – featuring experts in medicine, biology, sociology and ethics – will allow audiences to consider further the degree to which our biology influences our behaviour and what the consequences of this might be.”

Commenting on the involvement of the Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and the Law, in the Festival, Institute Deputy Director Dr Shawn Harmon said:

“New scientific knowledge and debates around the relationship between neurobiology, human free will and individual behaviour could have profound implications for how the law is understood and how it is applied. These subjects are highly relevant to the emerging work of the Mason Institute and we are therefore delighted to be supporting the Neuro-Ethics Film Festival for the first time in 2012.

“Members of the institute will undertake an active role in the wider discussions relating to the films that make up the Festival programme and we look forward to continued future involvement in the Festival.”

Rod White, Head of Programming for Filmhouse, Edinburgh noted:

“Film provides an ideal medium through which to study human behaviour and the implications this has upon wider society. Our programming at the Filmhouse frequently sets out to stimulate debate and increase understanding of important ethical issues, and that is why we are once again delighted to host the Bioethics Film Festival. The films that make up this year’s Festival consider many facets of neuro-ethics, and the moral implications that accompany them. By also encouraging audiences and experts to debate the issues portrayed in each screening, the Festival will further enhance engagement with the subjects they consider.”

The film festival is organised in partnership with: (1) the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics – www.schb.org.uk, (2) Filmhouse, Edinburgh – www.filmhousecinema.com/ (3) The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum – www.genomicsnetwork.ac.uk/forum and (4) the Mason Institute, Law School, The University of Edinburgh – http://masoninstitute.org/.

For full information on the programme and panellists, visit: www.filmhousecinema.com/seasons/neuroethics-film-festival-2012

For ticket information - Visit Filmhouse website or contact Filmhouse Box Office on: 0131 228 2688 (Open from 10am - 9pm daily).


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