Brews and Views events are moderated discussions addressing fascinating and provocative areas of bioscience and engineering. The series is a collaboration between the Institute for Quantitative Health Science and Engineering (IQ) and the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences that began in the fall of 2017. These casual discussions engage researchers and scholars in considering the implications of innovative biomedical research for patients, people, animals, and populations.
Brews and Views Archive
"Trust Me, I’m a Scientist! Responsibility and Accountability in Science"
January 24, 2020 Discussants: Victor DiRita, PhD, Rudolph Hugh Professor & Chair, Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, College of Natural Science; Heather Douglas, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, College of Arts & Letters. Moderated by Monique Mitchell Turner, PhD, Chair and Professor, Department of Communication, College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Read more on the MSU Bioethics blog
Scientific discoveries have the stunning potential to change everything—from how living things survive or thrive on the planet to raising questions of what it means to be human. The impact of related discoveries therefore is profound, with the potential for transforming our lives for the better—or for the worse. Who should govern the practice and application of science? Should those with expert scientific knowledge have explicit or implicit authority over their respective discipline? Alternatively, should those without such expert knowledge have a say in regulating scientific inquiry? Good, or bad, who ultimately is responsible for the impact of what scientists create when their discoveries are put into broad use? Moreover, what is the role of institutional oversight in those decisions?
"Promises Promises: Will Genomic Approaches to Health Redefine Illness and Disease?"
September 13, 2019 Discussants: Christopher Contag, PhD, Director, Institute for Quantitative Health Science & Engineering; Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Hannah Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, College of Natural Science; Nigel Paneth, MD, MPH, University Distinguished Professor, Departments of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and Pediatrics & Human Development, College of Human Medicine. Moderated by Leonard Fleck, PhD, Acting Director and Professor, Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, College of Human Medicine. Listen to the event podcast via IQ
With millions of human genotypes now determined, our information about human genetic variation is increasing faster than many other areas of science. That pace stokes an appetite for expanded investment. But has this information led to measurably improved, actionable understanding of illness and disease? Genomic medicine is fundamentally a biological and public health topic. Is the genome the major repository of the information we need in health? If so, to what extent might genomic approaches reduce the burden of disease in the community? Will they meet the promise of preventing/eradicating disease and illness? If not, what alternative approaches carry greater promise? What data is most salient/compelling to sway funding sources?
"How would you like that prepared? In a Petri dish, please!"
March 29, 2019 Discussants: Gale Strasburg, PhD, Professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources; Helen Veit, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of History, College of Social Science. Moderated by Steve Pueppke, PhD, Professor, Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, College of Agriculture & Natural Resources.
Are we compelled to change consumption habits to ensure a sustainable world? Many are unwilling to give up burgers and steaks yet the resources to produce a pound of beef are 5x greater than a pound of chicken, and 10x greater than a pound of grain. Animal agriculture is a way of life for millions but there are concerns about the processes used to raise farm animals. An alternative is to grow meat in a dish; cultured lab meat will be a reality for consumers in 2019. Would you eat cultured steaks? Might such meat appeal to vegetarians? What are the relative costs of a pound of beef produced in a dish to that produced in the field? Join us as we debate how best to feed modern humans on a shrinking planet.
"Should my phone diagnose my mental health?"
January 18, 2019 Discussants: Arthur Ward, PhD, Academic Specialist, Lyman Briggs College; Mi Zhang, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering. Moderated by Laura Cabrera, PhD, Assistant Professor, Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences and Department of Translational Science & Molecular Medicine, College of Human Medicine.
Our phones know a great deal about us. They collect an impressive amount of personal data, including voice and text correspondences, internet and social media, spending habits, stairs climbed, and geographic location. They already can make assessments about our health, but what additional information can they glean about our mental health? Soon, phones could predict if we’re unhappy, depressed, or even suicidal, and might urge us to seek mental health services. Should your phone then reveal that diagnosis to your doctor, family, boss, or advisor so they might take further action? While such capabilities could effectively address mental health needs, they simultaneously raise ethical questions about privacy, algorithm transparency, and the potential for corporate manipulation of our emotions. Join us in discussing these benefit/burden thresholds.
"Precision Medicine: Precise or Just Pricey?"
September 21, 2018 Discussants: Leonard Fleck, PhD, Acting Director, Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences; Professor, Department of Philosophy; Marty Pomper, MD, PhD, Director, Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging; Professor, Radiology and Radiological Science, Johns Hopkins University. Moderated by Anna Moore, PhD, Professor, Departments of Radiology and Physiology; Director, Precision Health Program; Assistant Dean, College of Human Medicine.
The goal of precision medicine is to target the molecular drivers of a disease process, without the debilitating side effects characteristic of much medical treatment today. In a relatively small number of cases that goal has been achieved. In the vast majority of cases the therapeutic results have been marginal and costly. A just and caring society with limited resources (money) to meet unlimited health care needs must ask whether such costs are either ethically or economically reasonable. Who deserves precision health? Can we afford to be precise in healthcare, or should we all be treated the same? Can we afford personalized care? Are we driving toward improved health or an impoverished health care system? Can we deliver precision in health care to populations who don’t have access to current healthcare?
"De-extinction: Who needs a pet dodo bird?"
June 15, 2018 Discussants: Kevin Elliott, PhD, Associate Professor, Lyman Briggs College, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and Department of Philosophy; Michael Gottfried, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, College of Natural Science. Moderated by David Favre, JD, Professor of Law & the Nancy Heathcote Professor of Property and Animal Law, College of Law.
More than 11 years after the Jurassic Park movie first piqued the public’s curiosity on the process of de-extinction, scientific advances are coming closer to making species revivalism a reality. Is de-extinction a worthy goal? How would we steer clear of negative consequences when re-introducing animals into current ecosystems? Moreover, given the number of living species that are critically endangered, might it not be preferable to focus on extant animals rather than wasting resources trying to resurrect the dead? Who should decide which species are worth resurrecting and which are not?
"Doc-bots, Companion-bots, and Siri – Oh My! What’s next from the AI Wizard?"
March 16, 2018 Discussants: Andrew Christlieb, PhD, Chair, Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering; MSU Foundation Professor, Department of Mathematics; Aaron McCright, PhD, Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Sociology; Professor, Lyman Briggs College and Environmental Science and Policy Program. Moderated by Arthur Ward, PhD, Academic Specialist, History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science, Lyman Briggs College.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and robots may seem like science fiction, but in fact the explosion of AI algorithms already has profoundly altered the way we live. AI is deeply embedded in most aspects of modern living including robotics, medicine, cybersecurity, finance, automobiles, online services, and education. With AI’s unprecedented speed capabilities and predictive accuracy, there is room for concern regarding the role of humans in an AI-dominated world. How might society best encourage future development of potentially beneficial AI technologies in ways that preserve what we value about human relationships?
"Should we genetically engineer our grandchildren?"
January 26, 2018 Discussants: Leonard Fleck, PhD, Professor, Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences and Department of Philosophy; Stephen Hsu, PhD, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies. Moderated by Mark Reimers, PhD, Associate Professor, Neuroscience Program.
Most of us carry several dozen harmful genetic variants, which affect our health or may be masked by other variants we have, but which could result in more serious disease in some of our offspring. Until recently there was little any of us could do about this, other than becoming informed and perhaps modify our lifestyles. However the recent revolution in genetic engineering through CRISPR/Cas brings into view the prospect of changing these alleles permanently. Do we have an obligation to remove these alleles from the gene pool of humanity?
"It's not my fault: my brain implant made me do it"
November 3, 2017 Discussants: Jennifer Carter-Johnson, JD, PhD, Associate Professor of Law, College of Law; Galit Pelled, PhD,Professor, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering. Moderated by Laura Cabrera, PhD, Assistant Professor, Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences and Department of Translational Sciences & Molecular Medicine, College of Human Medicine.
Some brain implants, such as those for deep brain stimulation, are well-accepted treatments for movement disorders and their use as treatment options for various psychiatric disorders is being explored. However, there are cases where brain implants may influence mental states critical to personality and affect an individual’s behavior and identity. This raises a number of ethical and legal questions. For example, if a brain-implant-induced change in personality results in undesirable or deviant behaviors that cause harm, who is responsible? Is the person with the implant? The implant itself? Or its designer? Who controls the actions of people with these implants? Should we blame the healthcare system, the technology, or the designer? What if the engineer who designed your brain implant had deviant behavior from a faulty implant—are we improving human health or spiraling down a rat-hole?
"The Porcisapien: Humanization of Livestock"
October 6, 2017 Discussants: Erik M. Shapiro, PhD, Associate Chair of Research and Associate Professor, Department of Radiology; Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor, Department of Philosophy, and W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics. Moderated by Christopher H. Contag, PhD, Hannah Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Microbiology & Molecular Genetics; Chair, Biomedical Engineering; Director, Institute for Quantitative Health Science & Engineering.
Imagine you can grow a new heart, or other organ, from your own cells in a pig. If your heart was failing, you could grow a new, perfectly matched heart and have it available when you need it. In order for this to happen we need to humanize livestock. How human should we make livestock? How close to a human is a humanized pig and when would it deserve human rights? While it might address the shortage of human organs, is it fair for the pig to be just a bioreactor for spare parts? What human organs should we produce in pigs: heart, liver, pancreas, skin and muscle? What about a human brain in a pig? Are we going too far, have we already gone too far?