The second in a series of gatherings described by Michael Sandel as “conversations that transcend the areas that we normally populate” was a far cry from the first such conversation, conducted a month earlier.
The “Between Two Cultures” series, co-sponsored by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) and the Humanities Center, is intended to foster understanding of and discussion about stem cell science and the social and ethical issues it raises. Scientists and humanists of diverse points of view take part in these talks. The inaugural session in late October, featuring a lecture on human cloning by Leon Kass, past director of the President’s Council on Bioethics, developed into an intense, at times heated, debate.
But last week’s session was far calmer, and was intended by Sandel, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government, to take a step backward, in order to lay the groundwork for future sessions next semester. There was “some feeling after the [initial] discussion that we should have one session early on in the series without an outside speaker, but have a conversation among colleagues,” Sandel said, explaining the purpose of the second gathering.
And so, the approximately 50 faculty members gathered in the late afternoon of Dec. 8 in a living room-like setting in the Barker Center’s Thompson Room, listened first to an overview of stem cell science from Douglas Melton, Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences and co-director of HSCI, and then discussed a bioethics case study laid out by Sandel.