We report on the deliberations of an interdisciplinary group of experts in science, law, and philosophy who convened to discuss novel ethical and policy challenges in stem cell research. In this report we discuss the ethical and policy implications of safety concerns in the transition from basic laboratory research to clinical applications of cell-based therapies derived from stem cells. Although many features of this transition from lab to clinic are common to other therapies, three aspects of stem cell biology pose (...) unique challenges. First, tension regarding the use of human embryos may complicate the scientific development of safe and effective cell lines. Second, because human stem cells were not developed in the laboratory until 1998, few safety questions relating to human applications have been addressed in animal research. Third, preclinical and clinical testing of biologic agents, particularly those as inherently complex as mammalian cells, present formidable challenges, such as the need to develop suitable standardized assays and the difficulty of selecting appropriate patient populations for early phase trials. We recommend that scientists, policy makers, and the public discuss these issues responsibly, and further, that a national advisory committee to oversee human trials of cell therapies be established. **NB we did not reccommend a NAC, we think it might be appropriate**. (shrink)
Time-domain astronomy has come of age with astronomers now able to monitor the sky at high cadence, both across the electromagnetic spectrum and using neutrinos and gravitational waves. The advent of new observing facilities permits new science, but the ever-increasing throughput of facilities demands efficient communication of coincident detections and better subsequent coordination among the scientific community so as to turn detections into scientific discoveries. To discuss the revolution occurring in our ability to monitor the Universe and the challenges it (...) brings, on 25–26 April 2012, a group of scientists from observational and theoretical teams studying transients met with representatives of the major international transient observing facilities at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, UK. This immediately followed the Royal Society Discussion Meeting ‘New windows on transients across the Universe’ held in London. Here, we present a summary of the Kavli meeting at which the participants discussed the science goals common to the transient astronomy community and analysed how to better meet the challenges ahead as ever more powerful observational facilities come on stream. (shrink)
Given the numerous parallels between the archaeological and paleontological records, it is not surprising to find a considerable fit between macroevolutionary approaches and methods used in biology – for example, cladistics and clade-diversity measures – and some of those that have long been used in archaeology – for example, seriation. Key, however, is recognizing that this methodological congruence is illusory in terms of how evolution has traditionally been viewed in biology and archaeology. (Published Online November 9 2006).
Personal observations and survey data are used to examine the future of the village in a restructured food and agricultural sector in the former Soviet Union. Specific comparisons are made between the subjective quality of life of residents in two villages in the former Soviet Union (one in southern Russia and one in eastern Ukraine) and two villages in northwest Missouri. Residents of the Russian and Ukrainian villages have substantially lower assessments of specific domains of their lives than do American (...) villagers. Respondents in the Russian and Ukrainian sample express an interest in some aspects of privatization of services and consumer goods but, by and large, exhibit little interest in replacing the collective farms with household-level private farming. Historical factors, different incentive structures, and the possibilities for different institutional arrangements are discussed. (shrink)
In Connectionism and the Philosophy of Psychology, Horgan and Tienson (1996) argue that cognitive processes, pace classicism, are not governed by exceptionless, representation-level rules; they are instead the work of defeasible cognitive tendencies subserved by the non-linear dynamics of the brains neural networks. Many theorists are sympathetic with the dynamical characterisation of connectionism and the general (re)conception of cognition that it affords. But in all the excitement surrounding the connectionist revolution in cognitive science, it has largely gone unnoticed that connectionism (...) adds to the traditional focus on computational processes, a new focus one on the vehicles of mental representation, on the entities that carry content through the mind. Indeed, if Horgan and Tiensons dynamical characterisation of connectionism is on the right track, then so intimate is the relationship between computational processes and representational vehicles, that connectionist cognitive science is committed to a resemblance theory of mental content. (shrink)
John Rawls’s political liberalism and its ideal of public reason are tremendously influential in contemporary political philosophy and in constitutional law as well. Many, perhaps even most, liberals are Rawlsians of one stripe or another. This is problematic, because most liberals also support the redefinition of civil marriage to include same-sex unions, and as I show, Rawls’s political liberalism actually prohibits same- sex marriage. Recently in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, however, California’s northern federal district court reinterpreted the traditional rational basis review (...) in terms of liberal neutrality akin to Rawls’s “public reason,” and overturned Proposition 8 and established same-sex marriage. (This reinterpretation was amplified in the 9th Circuit Court’s decision upholding the district court on appeal in Perry v. Brown.) But on its own grounds Perry should have drawn the opposite conclusion. This is because all the available arguments for recognizing same-sex unions as civil marriages stem from controversial comprehensive doctrines about the good, and this violates the ideal of public reason; yet there remains a publicly reasonable argument for traditional marriage, which I sketch here. In the course of my argument I develop Rawls’s politically liberal account of the family by drawing upon work by J. David Velleman and H. L. A. Hart, and discuss the implications of this account for political theory and constitutional law. (shrink)
In "The Disunity of Consciousness," Gerard O'Brien and Jon Opie argue that human consciousness is not synchronically unified. They suggest that the orthodox conception of the unity of consciousness admits of two readings, neither of which they find persuasive. According to them, "a conscious individual does not have a single consciousness, but several distinct phenomenal consciousnesses, at least one for each of the senses, running in parallel." They call this conception of consciousness the _multi-track account. I make three points (...) in reply: (1) O'Brien and Opie's characterization of the orthodox conception of the unity of consciousness is problematic; (2) their arguments in support of the multitrack account are unpersuasive; and (3) the phenomenon of intersensory integration suggests that O'Brien and Opie are wrong to claim that "the only sense in which it is correct to talk of a 'unified' consciousness (...) is that in which the representational contents of the various components coincide.". (shrink)
If stem cell-based therapies are developed, we will likely confront a difficult problem of justice: for biological reasons alone, the new therapies might benefit only a limited range of patients. In fact, they might benefit primarily white Americans, thereby exacerbating long-standing differences in health and health care.