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John Sanford, News Service (650) 736-2151; e-mail:

'Genetic Shopping' debate should set off some fireworks

Mark your calendars for what promises to be the hottest debate at Stanford this year.

"Genetic Shopping? A Debate on the Political and Philosophical Consequences of Deciphering the Human Genome" is scheduled for 7 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, in Room 290 of the Law School. The event, sponsored by the President's Office, is free and open to the public.

Two controversial philosophers, Peter Singer of Princeton's Center for Human Values, and Peter Sloterdijk, head of the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe, Germany, will engage in a debate with Bay Area scientists and philosophers, as well with audience members.

"Sloterdijk and Singer completely disagree on the issues," said Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, the Albert Guerard Professor of Literature. "But there seems to be a lot of respect for one another."

Sloterdijk, who told an interviewer for Der Tagesspiegel that he doesn't "believe in the god who created hare-lips," has written in favor of using gene therapy to remedy handicaps; Singer takes a more cautious position, warning about the dangers of a "genetic supermarket." Singer's notoriety stems in large part from his argument that in some cases it is permissible ­ and may even be morally obligatory ­ to kill severely disabled infants. He also is known for his views on animal rights.

Panelists are Dr. Patrick O. Brown, an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor of biochemistry at Stanford; Dr. Jane Gitschier, a professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of California-San Francisco and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Mary Varney Rorty of Stanford's Center for Biomedical Ethics; and philosopher Richard Rorty, a professor in Stanford's Department of Comparative Literature.

Gumbrecht, who organized the event with graduate student Matthew Tiews, will moderate.


By John Sanford

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