Lectures explores societal, legal affects of human enhancement
How does the enhancement of human beings through technological means such as genetic engineering change our understandings of what it means to be an individual person? And if our understanding of what it means to be a person changes, does this change the political and legal foundations of democracy? These questions and others are the subject of two important events being held in April.
Maxwell J. Mehlman, a renowned expert in the field of law, ethics and human enhancement, will deliver two lectures as part of the Templeton Research Lectures organized by the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.
The first of these lectures, “Directed Evolution: Public Policy and Human Enhancement,” will be held April 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Hall on ASU’s Tempe campus. The lecture is open to the public. Mehlman will discuss potential policy solutions to the dilemmas posed by the prospects of genetic engineering.
Mehlman will deliver the keynote address for a workshop on “Transhumanism and the Future of Democracy” at 7:30 p.m. April 23 in the ASU University Club South Room on ASU’s Tempe campus. He will discuss his recent book “The Price of Perfection: Individualism and Society in the Era of Biomedical Enhancement.”
The workshop will take place April 23-24 and brings together leading thinkers as Ronald Bailey, science editor at Reason Magazine; Michael Shapiro, professor of law at the University of Southern California; Steven Goldberg, professor of law at Georgetown University; Paul Root Wolpe, professor of bioethics and director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University; Nobel Laureate Charles Townes; and Jean Bethke Elshtain, professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago.
Joined by ASU faculty members, the presenters will explore the ramifications for democracy in a world in which the enhancement of humans has the potential to transform our understanding of individual rights, free will and equality.
The events are part of a multi-year project, “Facing the Challenges of Transhumanism: Religion, Science, and Technology,” led by history professor and director of Jewish studies, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, The project includes faculty members from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.
In its first two years, the project has already begun to bear fruit. Papers from last year’s workshop were published as a special issue of the online magazine, The Global Spiral.
Past Templeton Fellows and ASU professors Brad Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz recently finished a manuscript on transhumanism, technology and culture. James Hughes, executive director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies at Trinity College, published a booklet on religious and transhumanist views based on a paper he gave in the first year of the project.
The project is funded by a grant from the Metanexus Institute and John Templeton Foundation, and organized by the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. The project is also supported by ASU units, including the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs; Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes; Institute for Humanities Research; Biodesign Institute; department of physics; School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; Norbert Samuelson, the Grossman Chair of Jewish Studies; and the Jewish Studies program.
Mehlman is the Arthur E. Petersilge Professor of Law and director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University. He is the 2008-09 Templeton Research Fellow and chosen for his work in the area of genetics, ethics, and the law; biomedical enhancement; and health reform.
Since 1992 he has received seven grants from the National Human Genome Research Institute. Mehlman also received the President’s Award from the American College of Legal Medicine.
He earned a juris doctorate from Yale Law School. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Oxford University and also Reed College.
More information about Mehlman’s lectures, podcasts of past lectures and the transhumanism project at transhumanism.asu.edu.