Tuesday, October 18, 2011
French Parliament at Yale
Jean-Sebastien Vialatte and and Alain Claeys, members of the French Parliament, visited the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics this week. They're in the US, visiting Boston, New York and Los Angeles (and Yale!) to find out what American scientists and bioethicists think about the ethics of neuroimaging. They came to us courtesy of Wendell Wallach, who runs our Technology and Ethics Working Group. (They'd originally hoped to meet with James Hughes and members of his Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). James was out of the country, and graciously recommended they speak to Wendell, instead.) They arrived, together with a translator, a member of the Parliamentary office of Science and Technology, the Science and Technology rep from the French Consulate to the US, and at least two other staff, for a morning meeting with Wendell, myself, Carol Pollard and Mike Treder, Managing Director of the IEET. We had a wide-ranging and serious discussion about the ethics of imaging, the ethics of brain technologies more generally, the current political situation in the US around several bioethics issues from stem cell research to genetic medicine, the political status of the transhumanism movement, and more. All of which blew my mind, because I couldn't imagine the analogous US Congressional delegation to France, or anywhere else. To my admittedly rather amateur eye, our Congressional delegations to foreign destinations seem to be political events (chances to be seen and heard) rather than genuine investigations (chances to listen). Who in our Congress would actually ask, "I wonder what scientists and academics in France (or Germany or Sweden or Japan or the UK) think about this important issue?" And who, then, would actually go and ask, and listen?