This study is concerned with processes for discovering new theories in science. It considers a computational approach to scientific discovery, as applied to the discovery of theories in cognitive science. The approach combines two ideas. First, a process-based scientific theory can be represented as a computer program. Second, an evolutionary computational method, genetic programming, allows computer programs to be improved through a process of computational trialand-error. Putting these two ideas together leads to a system that can automatically generate and improve (...) scientific theories. The application of this method to the discovery of theories in cognitive science is examined. Theories are built up from primitive operators. These are contained in a theory language that defines the space of possible theories. An example of a theory generated by this method is described. These results support the idea that scientific discovery can be achieved through a heuristic search process, even for theories involving a sequence of steps. However, this computational approach to scientific discovery does not eliminate the need for human input. Human judgment is needed to make reasonable prior assumptions about the characteristics of operators used in the theory generation process, and to interpret and provide context for the computationally generated theories. (shrink)
Under current UK law, an embryo cannot be transferred to a woman's uterus without the consent of both of its genetic parents, that is both of the people from whose gametes the embryo was created. This consent can be withdrawn at any time before the embryo transfer procedure. Withdrawal of consent by one genetic parent can result in the other genetic parent losing the opportunity to have their own genetic children. We argue that offering couples only one type of consent (...) agreement, as happens at present, is too restrictive. An alternative form of agreement, in which one genetic parent agrees to forego the right to future withdrawal of consent, should be available alongside the current form of agreement. Giving couples such a choice will better enable them to store embryos under a consent agreement that is appropriate for their circumstances. Allowing such a choice, with robust procedures in place to ensure the validity of consent, is the best way to respect patient autonomy. (shrink)
Since 1991, sperm donors in the UK have had the legal right to withdraw consent for the use of their sperm in fertility treatment. This has the potential to adversely affect patients. It may mean that previous recipients of a donor’s sperm cannot have further children who are full biological siblings to an existing child, and that embryos created from the donor’s sperm and a patient’s eggs must be destroyed.