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Bruce Jennings, Director of Bioethics
Center for Humans and Nature, Dobbs Ferry, NY

We live in what geologists are calling the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans, because our activities now fundamentally shape the entire planet and its biosphere. Much of this is due to large scale activities that are changing the composition and behavior of the atmosphere and the oceans, altering climate and reducing biodiversity. But part also has to do with advances in molecular biology, genetics, and biotechnology. Biotechnology, especially the area called synthetic biology, significantly extends the human capacity to manipulate the conditions of life at virtually all levels and scales, from the molecular and cellular level, to local, regional, and planetary ecosystems.

What then is "natural"and what is "artificial"? What should we accommodate and what should we enhance? Is the power to create the flip side of our power to destroy? These questions come together in the notion of "de-extinction" or bringing back extinct species through genetic engineering and also altering endangered species to prevent their loss. Using de-extinction as a case study, this presentation will ask how science and technology teach us to think about natural systems, the relationship between humans and nature, and ourselves and our communities. Does it teach us to see ourselves as civic trustees and stewards of a fragile and increasingly fragmented web of life? Or does it teach us to see ourselves as fabricators, improvers, and engineers of a world that only serves human interests and needs?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 5:00 p.m.
Seelye Hall 201, Smith College

Open to the public