The conversation between the sciences and humanities is often short, and sometimes curt. However, last week philosophy students broke that barrier by bringing a philosophical debate of a scientific topic to the forefront. The event held on April 11, “Genetic Engineering: Is it Ethical to Engineer the Perfect Child?” was organized by philosophy students Gourav Nandi, Leah Heusser, Taylor Haring, Garrett Smith, Chris Mora and Sally Marcus. They were aided by Dr. Sara Waller.
Welcoming MSU’s new Vice President of Research Dr. Renee Reijo Pera, the debate began with a short lecture from Pera on her topic of specialty, embryology. Her discussion, coupled with video of human eggs hatching, was followed by feminist philosopher of science, Dr. Kristen Intemann. Intemann gave a short introduction to the ethical possibilities that would be explored in the debate.
The debates commenced with encouraged audience participation and questioning. Nodifficult questions were off-limits. The audience consisted of professors, students and teachers from Bozeman High School, biochemistry professor Edward Dratz and a variety of students. Opening comments focused on the economic and social implications of genetic engineering and the philosophical basis for each side.
The audience was given a chance to fill out a survey on whether their opinion changed before or after the debate and to provide the debaters with comments. Nandi, a senior formerly studying mathematics and currently studying philosophy, reflected after moderating the debate: “Referring to John Stuart Mill on liberal thought, we need to consider every opinion and side of an issue, so that we might find something useful for society or might acknowledge the bad [ideas] that we want to avoid.” An interdisciplinary student, Nandi presented papers on both mathematics and philosophy at conferences and will attend Oxford next year.
The debate was called a “fantastic success” by Dr. Waller and new Phi Sigma Tau President Leah Heusser hopes to see more debates continue into coming years.