In August of 2001, President Bush announced his decision to limit federal funding of stem cell research to already established lines of embryonic stem cells, while forbidding funding for any research that required the destruction of additional human embryos. But his decision ended neither stem cell research nor the debate over the ethics of such research. How do we weigh the medical benefits of this research against the destruction of embryos? Where do we draw the line on research using human embryos and are we on a slippery slope toward even more controversial research?
Peter Berkowitz is right to condemn abuses in the peer-review process ("Climategate Was an Academic Disaster Waiting to Happen," op-ed, March 13 ), many of which reflect the biases of both articles' referees and journal editors. . . .
Cloning—using biotechnology to create embryos with specific genetic information, identical to other embryos or even human adults—used to sound like science fiction. Today, however, the ability to successfully clone human embryos is a matter of when, not if. But should human cloning be allowed to go forward? Is cloning morally wrong, in and of itself? Should we make a distinction between cloning for medical research and cloning for procreation? If cloning is morally wrong, could we stop it even if we wanted to? And if cloning isn't or can't be banned, how should it be regulated?
Computers more intelligent than humans? Self-replicating molecular robots? Virtual immortality? These may sound like science fiction, but some reputable computer scientists are predicting they will happen within the next several decades. What will our world be like if and when our machines surpass us in intelligence? Do the advances in biotechnology, robotics, and nanotechnology, which make intelligent machines possible, pose dangers of their own? Should we embrace such a future or try to stop it?
Proponents of embryonic stem cell research proclaim the potential of the research to find cures or treatments for many diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Opponents say the use and destruction of human embryos in the conduct of this research are immoral. In 2001, President Bush announced a ban on federal funding involving any new lines of embryonic stem cells. But calls to lift the ban continue, as do movements to increase funding at the state level. Which side of the debate is right? Is embryonic stem cell research ethical or not? Peter Robinson speaks with Ramesh Ponnuru and Irving Weissman.
This week on Uncommon Knowledge, host Peter Robinson mediates a discussion between PayPal founder and Stanford Professor Peter Thiel and Velocity Capital Management founder and journalist Andy Kessler on the state of technology and innovation in the United States over the past four decades. Thiel argues that, outside of computers, there has been very little innovation in the past forty years, and the rate of technological change has significantly decreased when compared to the first half of the 20th century. In contrast, Kessler asserts that innovation comes in waves, and we are on the verge of another burst of technological breakthroughs. Industries covered include education, medicine and biotechnology, as well as robots and high tech.
Peter Thiel spoke about the basic principles that underlie innovative products and startup firms, using examples from his own experience starting up firms such as Paypal and Palantir. He emphasized the importance of creating a firm or product with characteristics of monopoly, and contrasted that idea with the distinction between monopoly and competition taught in economics.
The outgoing Stanford president reflects on the founding, and the future, of a truly great university.
Mathematical Challenges To Darwin’s Theory Of Evolution, With David Berlinski, Stephen Meyer, And David Gelernter
Based on new evidence and knowledge that functioning proteins are extremely rare, should Darwin’s theory of evolution be dismissed, dissected, developed or replaced with a theory of intelligent design?
Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, insists that we humans must face the truth about ourselves—no matter how good it might be. An interview with Peter Robinson.