One may wonder why I am here and why you, my dear reader, have to read my lines. I am not normal. Well, concerning iGEM and the variety of young, unusual students I have to explain why I am even more abnormal. I study Philosophy and, indeed, philosophy is quite different from synthetic biology. In Spring 2010 I got involved in a strange thing called iGEM. I listened, got interested and ... was involved. Once within, the question came up what a philosopher could do in the evolving field of SynBio. There were so many interesting tasks and topics which occured after a first introduction! But after all, the human practice team and I agreed in two budding issues, one more ethical, the other more philosophical.
This year's Heidelberg team has an ambitious project that goes far beyond the aims of other teams. Not even the designing of a genetherapeutical regulator but also its test on mice is fascinating. But indeed, besides all the thrill and scientific challenges the project raises several fundamental questions. Thereby I was not interested in dealing with animal testing in general because German legislation and restriction handle this issue quiet. I pursued the matter if it is problematic that animal testing is conducted within the iGEM competition. Or asked the other way around: which problems may rise from conducting animal testing within the iGEM competition? Should we differentiate between iGEM and normal research groups? What responsibilities may the organizers of iGEM have to face? And most important: should young students conduct animal testing to win a competition?
© Stephanie Hofschlaeger, pixelio.de
The importance and public interest to SynBio increased during the last years noticeable. Magazines, newspapers, TV-stations, reports, all dealing with SynBio and all are using terms to mediate facts, opinions or even manipulations. These terms, however, are the base of the perception of SynBio and they could be quite problematic. Phrases like "artificial cells", "living machines" or "genetically engineered machines" test and provoke our intuitions concerning one of the most distinct concepts humans know: nature and technology. The terms also pretend to be something they not really are. If you want to know why "living machine" is high-grade questionable, why "artificial cell" is misleading and what kind of problems may occur of an inappropriate use of terms and what, at last, the "flesh-shoe" has to do with all of this, feel free to press the button below.
© A_kep, flickr.de