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When science creates monsters

January 24, 2013

Jason Scott Robert presents series on moral limits of technology, discovery

"You seek for knowledge and wisdom, as I once did,” wrote Victor Frankenstein, “and I ardently hope that the gratification of your wishes may not be a serpent to sting you, as mine has been."

The notorious doctor’s warning (from the Mary Shelley novel named for him) is as ominous today as it was nearly two centuries ago; even more so, due to technology’s exponential leaps forward. Those leaps, and their consequences, are the subjects of a four-part course created by ASU professor Jason Scott Robert. “Angels, Monsters and the Moral Limits of Science” is coming up in the ASU Foundation’s series of Presidential Engagement Programs, presented from 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays, Feb. 5-26.

Robert is indisputably qualified to measure those technological leaps, and to consider their consequences. He is Franca Oreffice Dean's Distinguished Professor in the Life Sciences; Lincoln Associate Professor of Ethics in Biotechnology and Medicine; and director of the Bioethics, Policy and Law Program in ASU’s Center for Biology and Society School of Life Sciences. Robert’s February PEP series will include four fascinating, eye-opening sessions on the controversies, public perceptions, moral boundaries and possible futures resulting from our rapid scientific advance. Those sessions include:

• “Controversial Science” – What does it mean to describe science as "controversial,” and what should we do about it? This session offers a brief history of controversial scientific research across species boundaries, with special attention to transgenics, chimeras and cyborgs.

• “Moral Boundaries” – What ethical challenges are raised by scientific research across species boundaries, and how should we describe and grapple with them? This interactive session provides an opportunity for participants to get their hands dirty in the domain of controversial science.

• “Moral Futures” – As a complex, pluralistic and civil society, how should we govern science? Participants will put themselves in the places of scientists and citizens to engage in thoughtful debate about the future of science in society.

• “Science and Civilization” – What is the rightful place of science in society? This final session acknowledges the dramatic achievements of science, but concludes that society must constantly interrogate science, its contexts and consequences.

“Angels, Monsters and the Moral Limits of Science” will be presented on consecutive Tuesdays, Feb. 5-26, from 10 a.m.-noon at Northern Trust, 2398 E. Camelback Road, Suite 400. Cost for the series of four classes is $160, and validated parking is provided. To register, visit the Presidential Engagement Programs homepage. For information contact Sally Moore, Presidential Engagement Programs director, at 480-965-4814, or

Erik Ketcherside,
Communications Manager | Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University