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Karl-Mannheim Chair of Cultural Studies

Research Projects

Biotechnology and Civil Society

Project Description

Anxieties and concerns about the social consequences of new scientific knowledge and novel technologies are not of recent origin. Nor are elusive promises of the plain blessings of science for humankind and the mitigation of human suffering that scientific advances entail. But a persuasive case can be made that we have reached a new, modern stage. The first controlled genetic experiment did not occur until 1972. The first human being conceived outside a woman`s body was born in 1978. The controversial discussions of recombinant DNA, embryonic stem cells, genetically modified foods, the prospects of lethal and "nonlethal" biotechnology weapons, genetic engineer-ing of the human germline, the neurosciences, the reconstruction of the genome of the ancestor of the human being, neurogenetics, and reproductive cloning exemplify some of the novel issues we are confronting in vigorously contested debates. Concerns about the societal consequences of an unfettered expansion of (natural) scientific knowledge in general, and biotechnology in particular, are now being raised more urgently, and are moving to the center of public disputes in society, in the scientific community, in the media, and in the legal system, and to the top of the political agenda. Governments will have to engage in new political activity and will be held accountable to new standards. Public conflicts, frictions, and disputes over the implementation of knowledge, seen by at least some as attacks against science, will no longer mainly take place a posteriori.


Project Duration

from 01.01.2004 through 31.12.2007

Project Head

Prof. Nico Stehr

Project Execution

Prof. Nico Stehr Ph.D., FRSC


eigenfianziertes Forschungsprojekt