Consciousness, Genetics and Society (2002)

The Engelsberg Seminar 2002

Friday the 14th to Sunday the 16th of June 2002 In Avesta, Sweden

Does scientific research exist for man, as we understand him today, or is man something that exists for research, in its endeavour to realize the new man? Friedrich Nietzsche prophesied about this a little more than a hundred years ago, but where do we stand today? Nietzsche’s interpretation of Darwin’s theory interestingly portends present discourse. The claims of the new biotechnology – apprehensions aside – must be allowed to be tested and in routine democratic order be addressed, in advance, by an earnest and serious debate concerning its potential consequences. What prospects has mankind, given the blessings of science in the shape of cloning, artificial intelligence, organ banking? How do theologists, philosophers, historians and social scientists look upon this progression? What is the humanistic response to what appears to be a new and seemingly victorious paradigm? Is it due time to ask if evolutionary biology has gone too far by claiming issues that perhaps only can be addressed by philosophy and theology? Biology seems to maintain that it is essentially only a matter of degree alone and not one of kind that separates man from other animals. The resistance to the new technological advancements in the field of biology and genetics likely derives from this very demotion and even qualitative deterioration in man’s status, value and significance in the cosmos. In short, his ontological significance, even his very being, appears to be under attack from an apparently impersonal rational demiurge lacking all accountability: an altogether rational, free-floating, scientific reason. Yet how does the present level of progress of science look from an historical perspective? What about science’s history of broken promises? On what exactly does this culture’s immense optimism but also its apprehensiveness hinge? Are we the victims of an utilitarian bordering on pedestrian philosophy when individual suffering can be examined only in the shadow of a far greater but entirely unpredictable future? Could it be that we are facing a new battle of universals, out of which will emerge a wholly new vision of man? At the Engelsberg Seminar, no answers are taken for granted and all avenues of approach are kept wide open. Yet one thing is certain: if biotechnology is able to keep its promise, then we are situated squarely in the middle of Nietzsche’s prophecy. Perhaps nothing can prevent this development, but then perhaps we can try to understand it, should we perchance remain the same human beings following the future triumph of biotechnology.


History of Science and the State of the Art

Evelyn Fox Keller
Lecture: The Century of the Gene

Martin Alda
Lecture: Depression and Genetics – A Back ground

Sverre Sjölander
Lecture: Evolution of ConsciousnessSome Crucial Steps and Stages

Leroy Hood
Lecture: Biology Today – An Assessment


The Blessings of Science

Georg Klein
Lecture: Brilliant, Malingered Queen: Reflections About the New Biology

Leonard Guarente
Lecture: Regulation of Aging by Sir2- Possible Implications for Human Health

Panayiotis Zavos
Lecture: Human Reproductive CloningMode of Human Infertility Treatment

Lee M Silver
Lecture: Cloning, Genetic Engineering and the Future of Human Kind


Implications for Our Belief Systems

Max More
Lecture: The New Enlightenment vs. The New Reactionaries

Johnjoe McFadden
Lecture: The Brain’s Electromagnetic Information Field = Consciousness

Hilary Rose
Lecture: Arguments Against an Evolutionary Psychology

Steven Rose
Lecture: Escaping Evolutionary Psychology

Robert Wright
Lecture: Does Evolution Have a Spiritual and Moral Dimension?


The Humanistic Response

Erwin Bischofberger
Lecture: A Theological Critique

Mary Midgley
Lecture: The Many Maps Model

Raja Ramanna
Lecture: Moksha- A Critique

Luke Andersson
Lecture: Colonising the Seed – Genetic Engineering and the Patenting of Life

Richard Heinberg
Lecture: Are Democracy and Genetic Engineering Compatible?

Kenan Malik
Lecture: In Defence of Human Agency