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Playing God? The ethics of biomedicine - Tuesday 28 October, 6:45pm start

Tuesday 28th October: Playing God? Ethics of biomedicine

Andy Miah, Sorcha Ui Chonnachtaigh, Steve Fuller and Anna Bergqvist will discuss on the ethics of biomedical enhancements

Public forum for engaging and debating ideas
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Salon Discussions

Writers and WarWriters and war: reflecting or shaping our perceptions?

Saturday 25 October, 11:30am start

Shirley Dent, Jonathan Ali, John Greening and Jane Potter will look at how literature shapes our perceptions of war, chaired by Rania Hafez


Shirley Dent

Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori. Whether schooled in the classics or not, this is the one line of Latin that most of us can probably recall from our school days and our introduction to war poetry through Wilfred Owen’s visceral and haunting lyrics. Next to Owen’s young soldiers bent double like old hags towing a gas-ravaged corpse we may have been asked to compare Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier, read by the Dean of St Paul’s at Easter 1915. The poem’s gold-tinted, almost giddy, expostulation to the concealed dust in some corner of a foreign field that is forever England seems as jingoistic and sentimental as Owen’s lines are tormented and disillusioned.

Jonathan Ali


It is the later poets of the First World War – notably Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen – who set the timbre and tone for not just the poetry that came out of the trenches but for a genre of poetry, literature and art that deals with the subject of war. Following the trenches, gone is the sentimental glorification of sacrifice for country, replaced with the savagery and senselessness of war. If the First World War was ‘the war to end all wars’ First World War poetry is ‘the poetry to define all wars’.

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Salon Discussions

Playing God? The ethics of biomedicine - Tuesday 28 October, 6:45pm startPlaying God? The ethics of biomedicine

Tuesday 28th October, 6:45pm start

Andy Miah, Sorcha Ui Chonnachtaigh, Steve Fuller and Anna Bergqvist will introduce a discussion on the ethics of biomedical enhancements


Andy Miah

Over the past decade, dramatic advances have been made in synthetic biotechnology, neuroscience and digital technology. Engineers of brain computer interfaces predict headbands that will deliver digitally enhanced cognition, letting us talk without speaking, see round corners, and drive just by thinking about it. In 2010, Craig Venter made headlines with his (partially) synthetic cell, and, as he plans to patent an entire manmade lifeform in the future, work continues on the creation of smaller DNA constructs known as bioparts. This year a man in Austria voluntarily had a (damaged) hand amputated so he could be fitted with a bionic limb controlled by brain signals. Stem cell science and synthetic biology bring the prospect of replacing flesh with ‘synthetic skin’ rather than creating crude cyborgs.

Dr Sorcha Ui Chonnachtaigh


Yet while futurists and transhumanists talk excitedly about the possibilities of biomedical enhancement, there is considerable ambivalence about such advances across wider society: the so-called ‘yuck factor.’ Ethics committees and ‘public dialogues’ have risen in prominence in recent decades partly to tackle public fears about the impacts of experimentation in controversial areas such as mitochondrial exchange, acting as a significant check on its development in the UK.


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