by Christine Ballivet (France), Edith Lammerts van Bueren (Netherlands), Dr David Heaf (UK), Dr Meinhard Simon (Germany) and Dr Johannes Wirz (Switzerland).
Ifgene was formed to promote a deeper dialogue about genetic engineering by giving special attention to:
These days most biologists explain life through molecular processes in cells,
organs and organisms. Genetic information is regarded as the basis of the chemistry of
Thinking along molecular biological lines increasingly shapes our culture.
It is hoped that by manipulating the genes we will be able to create, for example, secure sources of food and improve the quality of life by medical diagnosis and therapy. But what motives are behind these developments?
Without a doubt economic considerations play a major part. The public debate about genetic engineering ranges from its economic benefits to its ecological, social and commercial risks. These issues are expressions of the fact that this technology has already become established in the world and cannot simply be ignored.
To deal with the background, the consequences and the perspectives of genetic engineering that go beyond the above questions, scientists, doctors, agriculturalists and journalists established an international forum for both public and scientific discussions. It is intended that this forum will not be for a mere sharing of opinions, but will provide the framework for research into the processes whereby the opinions are reached.
The question of the reality of genetic concepts is essentially lacking from
scientific and public discussions about genetic engineering. It is presupposed that
successful manipulation of genes brings real insights into the underlying effects of the
manipulation. Nonetheless, its many fundamental questions remain unresolved.
Behind every person's attempt to find answers there is a more or less conscious and concrete conception of life, community and the human being. Answers are coloured by such conceptions. In biology they include genetic determinism, chaos theories and non- materialistic views of life.
The various paradigms present not only a problem for epistemology, the theory of knowledge, but also determine the actions of the individual and society, and thereby affect the future. They create reality.
Amongst other approaches Ifgene working groups are tackling these questions from the point of view of anthroposophy. Anthroposophy takes a scientific approach based on the premise that life has not only a physical dimension but also a spiritual one which can be studied and explored.
Ifgene seeks to broaden the discussion to include all who are interested. Because of the complex nature of the theme, building a complete picture requires a much wider approach embracing not only different points of view but also specialist knowledge. Interdisciplinary scientific discussions need an environment which is not determined by factions or commercial interests but one which encourages viewpoints of individuals to be heard.
Ifgene has therefore created a forum for open discussion.
As a way of widening and deepening the work that has already taken place, Ifgene
is undertaking the following activities:
The operation of an international network through which questions, points of views, discussion topics, and research results can be exchanged. Ifgene will serve as the centre of coordination for this activity.
Working and research groups have been established in several countries. From time to time, these groups arrange local, national and international conferences.
Right at the beginning of Ifgene's work in 1995 the following key questions were identified:
Ifgene is an initiative of the Naturwissenschaftliche Sektion der freien Hochschule für Geisteswissenschaft, Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland.
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