[This post first appeared in the Neuroethics Blog on May 13, 2017: http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2017/05/happy-15th-birthday-neuroethics.html]
That birthdate could, of course, be debated. In his introduction to the proceedings of that conference, William Safire, a long-time columnist for the NEW YORK TIMES (among other things), gave neuroethics a longer history:
The first conference or meeting on this general subject was held back in the summer of 1816 in a cottage on Lake Geneva. Present were a couple of world-class poets, their mistresses, and their doctor. (Marcus)
|Camillo Golgi, image courtesy of
|Santiago Ramon y Cajal, image
courtesy of Wikipedia.
Zach Hall of UCSF and Barbara Koenig of Stanford were the main organizers of the meeting. Hall was a neuroscientist, who had returned to the UCSF faculty after serving as Director of the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke at NIH. Koenig was the Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics (SCBE). Koenig, a bioethicist who did not then have a deep background in neuroscience, was assisted by others at SCBE, notably Judy Illes, a neuroscience Ph.D. who had recently joined the Center.
This meeting had its genesis in a visit to San Francisco by Bill Safire about a year and a half ago, I took Bill down to the new Mission Bay campus at UCSF and we were talking about all the brain research that would be going on there, I said that we also hoped to have a bioethics center. As we were talking about the need for discussion of these issues with respect to the brain, Bill suddenly turned to me and said, neuroethics. It was like that magic moment – “plastics” in the movie The Graduate. Bill said, “neuroethics,” and I thought, “that’s it.” (Marcus)
|William Safire. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia.)|
The conference had four sessions, each with a moderator and three or four speakers, several mealtime speeches, and a concluding section. The sessions were called Brain Science and Self, Brain Science and Social Policy, Ethics and the Practice of Brain Science, and Brain Science and Public Discourse. (In retrospect, and in light of my preferred scope for the field, “Brain Science” would have been a better, broader term than “Neuroscience,” but “neuroethics” and “neurolaw” both sound much better than “brain science ethics” or “brain science law.”)
neuroethics generally and the conference. After starting the column with the Congressional debate over banning human cloning, Safire moved to the importance of neuroethics, ending with “The conference ‘mapping the field’ of neuroethics this week showed how eager many scientists are to grapple with the moral consequences of their research. It’s up to schools and media and Congress to put it high on the public’s menu.” (Safire)
|(Image courtesy of Flickr.)|
The following week, the cover of THE ECONOMIST proclaimed “The Future of Mind Control” with an image of a shaved head with a dial implanted in its forehead. The issue contained both a long science story on the ethical issues arising from neuroscience and a leader (editorial) on the same subject. (The Economist) While neither ECONOMIST piece used the term “neuroethics” or mentioned the Presidio conference (and the story at least must have been in preparation well before the conference), the effect, especially in conjunction with Safire’s column, was more attention for the issues.
Rita Carter, MAPPING THE MIND (1998, Berkeley, CA: U. Calif. Press).
Robert H. Blank, BRAIN POLICY: HOW THE NEW NEUROSCIENCE WILL CHANGE OUR BRAINS AND OUR POLITICS (1999, Washington, D.C.: Georgetown Univ. Press)
The Ethics of Brain Science: Open Your Mind, THE ECONOMIST (May 23, 2002), accessed on Apr. 29, 2017 at http://www.economist.com/node/1143317.
The Future of Mind Control, THE ECONOMIST, (May 23, 2002), accessed on Apr. 29, 2017 at http://www.economist.com/node/1143583.
Judy Illes, Neuroethics in a New Era of Neuroimaging, 24 Am. J. Neurorad. 1739 (2003)
Albert R. Jonsen, Nudging toward Neuroethics: An Overview of the History and Foundations of Neuroethics in THE DEBATE ABOUT NEUROETHICS: PERSPECTIVES ON THE FIELD’S DEVELOPMENT, FOCUS, AND FUTURE (ed. Eric Racine and Jon Aspler, forthcoming 2017, Springer:)
Jennifer Kulynych, Brain, Mind, and Criminal Behavior: Neuroimages as Scientific Evidence, JURIMETRICS 235-244 (1996)
Jennifer Kulynych, Psychiatric Neuroimaging Evidence: A High-Tech Crystal Ball? 49 STAN. L. REV. 1249 (1997)
Steven J. Marcus, ed., NEUROETHICS: MAPPING THE FIELD, Conference Proceedings at 4 (2002, Dana Press: New York).
Robert D. McFadden, William Safire, Political Columnist and Oracle of Language, Dies at 79, New York Times (Sept. 27, 2009), accessed on January 1, 2017 at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/28/us/28safire.html. (This is my source for most of the biographical information about Safire.)
Eric Racine, in PRAGMATIC NEUROETHICS (2010 MIT Press: Cambridge, Mass)
William Safire, the “But What If” Factor, NEW YORK TIMES (May 16, 2002), accessed on Apr 29, 2017 at http://www.nytimes.com/2002/05/16/opinion/the-but-what-if-factor.html.
Want to cite this post?
Greely, H. (2017). Happy 15th Birthday, Neuroethics! The Neuroethics Blog. Retrieved on May 28, 2017, from http://www.theneuroethicsblog.com/2017/05/happy-15th-birthday-neuroethics.html