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After the Genome: A Language for Our Biotechnological Future:  Rhetoric, Science, Religion, and Ethics

The rapidity with which biotechnological advances appear and make their way into our lives is changing not just the ways we experience life, but how we understand ourselves.  Many of these same technologies promise, or perhaps threaten, to change the nature of what it means to be human.  Medical science no longer looks like a neutral method of inquiry, and it is now difficult to see biotechnology as simply providing us a new a set of tools.  What ethical principles will guide our uses of miraculous new technologies?  Moreover, how will these technologies affect the theory and the practice of medicine?

There is today a rising awareness that the language which we use to discuss science and technology is not neutral, but conveys values and suggests agendas.  Increasingly we recognize the important role played by narratives and other linguistic strategies—arenas traditionally explored by the discipline of rhetoric—in shaping public expectations regarding science, including medical science.  It is even the case that terms of transcendence and redemption are employed to describe technological advances, thus suggesting a challenge from science to traditional conceptions of religion and religion’s dominion over human life and flourishing.

An exploration of the intersection of biotechnology, ethics, language, religion, and science is both timely and critically important.  This national forum will provide a location for leading scholars from a variety of disciplines to discuss the vital topic of how language is shaping medical ethics, religion, and competing visions of our biotechnological future.

- Michael J. Hyde
Department of Communication
University Distinguished Chair
Wake Forest University