Modern Biology & Visions of Humanity

Man confronts the new challenges of the Life sciences
published March 2004 • ISBN 0 906522 30 7 • pp. 214 • 20 euros


March 2004.


How do the most recent developments in the life sciences affect our understanding of what it is to be Human?

In March 2004 in Genoa, under the auspices of the European Group on Life Sciences, this question was debated by leading figures in science, in philosophy, in the arts, from all over Europe.

How modern biology might impact on notions such as progress, with its metaphysical element, on democracy, in a political context, were considered; the dangers of reductionism were debated, and time was made to consider the interactions between science itself and science fiction.

This book brings together the speeches of fourteen of the participants. The preface is written by Philippe Busquin, European Commissioner for Research.


Extract from the Preface

"In this context, I attach great importance to public debates on the increasing impact of life sciences and biotechnological innovations. The event we are organising on 22 and 23 March 2004 in the city of Genoa, the cultural capital of Europe, will put high-calibre scientists in contact with personalities from the world of art and literature. What is, therefore, the place of life sciences in today's European cultures? How can we monitor scientific and technical progress and make sure that European citizens benefit from research developments? Good governance is impossible without responsible citizens. But is it possible to imagine citizenship without cultural awareness? It is inconceivable to discuss the repercussions of research without taking into account what science is able - or unable - to achieve. And can one imagine these discussions ignoring also the impact of such advances on culture, using the word here in its fullest sense? These crucial questions are the focus of our concerns and will be at the heart of debates in Genoa."

Philippe Busquin, European Research Commissioner



Preface by Philippe Busquin


Forum - Life Sciences and the Belief in Progress

Science and Progress Axel Kahn

Beyond Enlightenment: The Rise of a Culture of Life Karin Knorr Cetina

Life Sciences, the Image of Man and Progress Evandro Agazzi

What Philosophies on Progress for the Third Millennium? Gilbert Hottois

Forum - The Challenge and Limitations of Reductionism in Life Sciences Research

Reductionism: Methodological and Ideological Fraser Watts

The Limits of Biological Reductionist Explanations of the Human Condition
Steven PR Rose

Creating Contexts: Reduction or Expansion? Marilyn Strathern

Forum - Life Sciences and Democracy

Beyond Utopias: Evolutionary Rationalism and Noocracy Ladislav Kovác

Science Without a Conscience Sophie Bessis

Science, Ethics and Danger Lewis Wolpert

Wish Fulfilment and its Discontents - On the Uneasy Relationship Between the Life Sciences and the Humanities Helga Nowotny

Life Science, Governance and Public Participation: The New Dilemmas of Democracy
Massimiano Bucchi

Forum - Science Fiction: the cultural Spin-offs from the Life Sciences

The Day after Tomorrow Christopher Bigsby

Smuggling Science onto the Page or Stage Carl Djerassi


The authors

Axel Kahn (France), Karin Knorr Cetina (Germany), Evandro Agazzi (Italy), Gilbert Hottois (Belgium), Fraser Watts (United Kingdom), Steven PR Rose (United Kingdom), Marilyn Strathern (United Kingdom), Ladislav Kovác (Slovakia), Sophie Bessis (France), Lewis Wolpert (United Kingdom), Helga Nowotny (Swizerland), Massimiano Bucchi (Italy), Christopher Bigsby (United Kingdom), Carl Djerassi (United States of America)


Available in three languages

• English edition : Multi-Science Publishing

• French edition : De Boeck Université, editor coordinator

• Italian edition : Centro Stampa d'Ateneo


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