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This presentation was recorded at The Aspen Institute, in Aspen, Colorado on July 3, 2007. A video of this presentation is available at Fora.tv.
Scientific advancements have made it possible to scan an embryo to determine the sex of the to-be-born child, and to use such a process for sex selection; to genetically engineer a child with specific qualities by seeking aid from a sperm donor with the desired attributes; or to shift chromosomes at pre-conception stage to give birth to a child of the desired sex.
Are we right in the exploration of such powers that modern science has bestowed on our generation? Or, do we condemn such an interference with the laws of nature? What is the basis for prejudice against such experiments? In genetically designing a child before birth, do we deprive the child's autonomy to choose his or her own life? How is such an imposition different from hyper-parenting?
Michael J. Sandel, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, with William Haseltine, founder CEO of Human Genome Sciences, debate the moral and ethical implications of such actions.
Michael J. Sandel is the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught political philosophy since 1980. He is the author of Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Democracy's Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy, Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics, and The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering. His writings also appear in general publications such as The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and The New York Times.
In 1985, he was awarded the Harvard-Radcliffe Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize, and in 1999 was named a Harvard College Professor in recognition of his contributions to undergraduate teaching. Sandel has lectured to academic and general audiences in North America, Europe, Japan, India, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and China. He was a visiting professor at the Sorbonne (Paris) in 2001, and delivered the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Oxford University in 1998. The recipient of three honorary degrees, he has received fellowships from the Carnegie Corporation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. From 2002 to 2005, he served on the President's Council on Bioethics, a national council appointed by the President to examine the ethical implications of new biomedical technologies. A summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brandeis University (1975), Sandel received his doctorate from Oxford University (D.Phil.,1981), where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He lives with his wife and two sons in Brookline, Massachusetts.
A distinguished scientist, William A. Haseltine founded Human Genome Sciences (HGSI) to sequence the DNA in human genes, boasting that his activities would lead to the immediate development of an array of new drugs for treating diseases. A controversial figure within both the scientific community and the biotechnology industry, Haseltine made enemies everywhere. He has catalyzed a major shift within the biotech industry by demonstrating that there was money to be made in the sale of biological information. He graduated in BA from the University of California Berkley in 1966, and completed his PhD from Harvard University in 1973.
Since 1992, he has held the chair at Human Genome Sciences, acting as its chairman and CEO. From 1976-93, he has been a professor at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School. He has been honored with the Carter Burden Award for contributions to aging, 1995, the Golden Plate Award, by the American Academy of Achievement in 1996, the Greater Washington Entrepreneur of the Year Award by Ernst & Young in 1996 and the High Technology Entrepreneur of the Year Award by KPMG Peat Maverick in 1996.