Just 22 years ago, the first baby conceived in a test tube was born to a couple in England. Today, we can bypass conception completely and create cloned sheep and pigs from cells of an adult animal.
At a time when science and technology are advancing much faster than societys ability to understand and cope with these new discoveries, the University has created the Life Sciences, Values and Society Program.
Todays scientific revolution has important ramifications for society, Lempert says. We are facing profound ethical questions related to medicine, public health, the privacy of genetic data and the meaning of human life. Our goal is to make the U-M a national center for discussion and research to explore the impact of these issues before we, as a society, must make decisions on how to handle them.
Created with a $500,000 grant from the Office of the President, the Life Sciences, Values and Society Program is part of the Life Sciences Initiativea campus-wide effort to expand learning in rapidly advancing scientific fields, including genomics, chemical and structural biology, cognitive neuroscience and bioinformatics.
Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health and president and CEO of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, will speak at 4 p.m. Oct. 11 in Rackham Auditorium to begin a series of free, public lectures and seminars on ethical issues related to the life sciences. His talk is titled Regulation of Ethically Sensitive Science: An Illustrative Case.
On Dec. 12, Robert A. Burt, visiting professor from Yale Law School, has organized a symposium titled Dying in America. The symposium will be held in Rackham Auditorium. For registration information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lempert says that in addition to the speaker series, the program will sponsor a series of faculty networking events, provide seed money grants for empirical research, and facilitate interaction among faculty and students from different disciplines.
Sheon adds that the Life Sciences, Values and Society Program will have its own page on the Life Sciences Initiative Web site, which will be ready for public access by mid-October. The site will include the latest information on upcoming seminars, lectures and classes. U-M faculty will be encouraged to post their areas of interest and contact information in a special section on the site.
We see the Web site as crucial to facilitating communication between people who share a common interest in these issues, but dont know each other, Sheon says.
Later this year, Lempert also hopes to begin a series of life science lectures for the general publicincluding discussion related to societal and ethical issues. In addition, many of the programs events will be designed to interest undergraduate students.
Students should be engaged in these discussions, because they will be living through these changes in society, Lempert says. The undergraduate years are a perfect time to think through these important issues.