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Scholars to discuss science, ethics, humanity

by Cindy Weiss - March 26, 2007

An all-day celebration of the humanities on March 30 will consider how breakthroughs in science and technology raise questions about what it means to be human.

“A Day in the Humanities: Redesigning the Human” at the Nafe Katter Theatre will bring together scholars from disciplines throughout the University to discuss the ethics, wisdom, and meaning of developments such as stem cell research and engineering new forms of human life.

Among the questions that will be examined are, how far should we go? Will we lose our humanity or enhance it? Do we have the wisdom and the courage to set limits?

Organized by the Humanities Institute in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the activities are open to the University community and the public.

A Day in the Humanities will provide a broad perspective on some of the issues facing scientists, engineers, and society.

“Humanists and artists have long played the role of our society’s moral conscience,” says Charles Mahoney, associate professor of English and interim associate director of the Humanities Institute. “Literature, philosophy, history, and art can illuminate the choices that physicians and patients are facing every day.

”The day will be introduced at 9 a.m. by Anne Hiskes, associate professor of philosophy and director of research ethics and education for stem cell research.

She chairs the University’s Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight Committee and also directs the Program on Science and Human Rights.

A dramatic presentation of Caryl Churchill’s one-act play exploring ethics and cloning, A Number, will follow at 9:15 a.m.

The keynote address, “Contemplating Human Enhancement,” will be delivered at 1:30 p.m. by Audrey Chapman, recently named the Joseph M. Healey Jr. Chair in Medical Humanities and Bioethics at the Health Center.

Chapman came to UConn from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where she was director of the Science and Human Rights Program.

She has written, co-written, or edited 16 books and many articles on issues related to health, genetic developments, and pharmaceuticals.

A faculty-led roundtable on “The Quest for Perfection: Aesthetics, Gender, Immortality” will be held at 11 a.m.; and one on “Technology and Morality: The Ethics of Human Manipulation” will be at 3:30 p.m.

“The roundtables are key – the idea is to gather perspectives from as many different disciplines as possible on a topic of interest to all of us in the University community,” says Mahoney.

The day concludes with brief remarks at 5 p.m. by Richard Wilson, the Judi and Gary Gladstein Distinguished Chair in Human Rights and director of the Human Rights Institute.

For a complete schedule, go to the Humanities Institute web site

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