Synthetic Biology and Symbolic Order

4 - 8 November 2013

Venue: Lorentz Center@Snellius

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In this workshop we will ask ourselves what symbolic order underlies synthetic biology. That is, which notions and distinctions that constitute the symbolic environment in which peoples of a particular culture live (e.g., the distinctions between life-death, biological life-organic material, living-nonliving, natural-artificial, or organism-machine).

We intend to create a dialogue between scientists from the natural sciences and technology and those from the humanities and social sciences, from different countries and cultures. This multidisciplinary group of scientists will be challenged to reconsider established truths about the relationship between synthetic biology and the present symbolic order. Such a dialogue could help deepening our insight in the possible long term socio-cultural and ethical implications of synthetic biology research.

The workshop will focus on the following topics:

1) The current frontiers of synthetic biology and the related scientific, technical and societal opportunities and challenges. What can we do and what should we do?

2) The symbolic background of critical discourses on synthetic biology. How is symbolic order embodied in discourses on synthetic biology and how does this relate to the prevailing conceptions of the symbolic?

3) The implications of the insights gathered under 1) and 2) for public policy making, regarding the development and application of synthetic biology as well as the manner how these are communicated to the general public. 


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