Issues about communication in genomics have moved out of the clinic and into the public arena. Scientists other than clinicians are confronted by calls for public engagement. Genomics gives rise to these demands partly because it inevitably raises the three basic questions of philosophy as outlined by Kant: What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? Genomics on its own cannot answer these questions. In relation to what can be known, its answer is at best partial. Nor can the ought question be settled by science. In fact, science is criticized for reducing options while claiming to be neutral in the pursuit of knowledge. The answer to the ought question is crucially related to the hope question in so far as this deals with issues about the point of human life generally. The role of public engagement in relation to all these questions may have different objectives. It is argued that there is more of a place for it in relation to the hope question than is commonly recognized, and in particular with regard to the role of science, which could benefit from developing a service ideal in the sense found in discussions of professional ethics.
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