Reinventing Humans Is Focus Of Virginia Tech Program

BLACKSBURG, VA., FEB. 19, 1999--Can humans redesign themselves? What are the qualities that define us as humans, and is it desirable--or acceptable--to change them? Are there limits to what should be attempted? How do we decide?

The Choices and Challenges Project will present a public forum on Reinventing the Human Thursday, March 25, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Donaldson Brown Hotel and Conference Center on the Virginia Tech campus. The program will offer social, political, economic, and ethical perspectives to help the community make decisions now that will affect life in the future. All programs are open to public at no charge. Registration is recommended (although not required).

The recent media focus on cloning of animals has alerted the general public to the rapid pace of work now taking place in human genetic and reproductive technologies. New genetic-engineering procedures now permit human genes to be identified and transferred. Researchers are developing these procedures to cure disorders and correct serious childhood health problems. But the techniques could also be used, before birth or during infancy, to endow otherwise healthy children with traits they would not otherwise possess or to enhance the ones they do have. The possibilities go beyond changing physical appearance such as height and build and might include intelligence, athletic skills, personality, and behavior.

How do these recent advances in genetic engineering impact our ethical and social decisions concerning the "reinventing" of children? Is it ethical to create the "perfect" baby through genetic technology, and who decides what "perfect" means?

The forum is divided into three parts: morning discussion sessions providing background information; a main panel session featuring eminent presenters from the fields of political science, medical ethics, philosophy, history, and child development; and afternoon sessions offering further discussion on issues of public policy. Se

Contact: Kirsten Worley or Doris Zallen
Virginia Tech

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