Illusions of Perfection in the Genomic Age

  • Speaker
  • Sheila Jasanoff, Ph.D.Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Date & Time


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Simons Foundation Presidential Lectures are free public colloquia centered on four main themes: Biology, Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Neuroscience and Autism Science. These curated, high-level scientific talks feature leading scientists and mathematicians and are intended to foster discourse and drive discovery among the broader NYC-area research community. We invite anyone interested in the topic to join us for this weekly lecture series.
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Our growing ability to read and manipulate the human genome has brought a dream of human perfection. Genome editing offers the tools to correct what many see as nature’s mistakes so that no one need suffer from drawing a poor hand in the lottery of life. In this talk, Sheila Jasanoff will discuss how this view ignores the social foundations of what makes lives worth living and wrongly reduces the value of life to the material properties of the genetic code.

To attend this in-person event, you will need to register in advance and provide:

● Acceptable proof of vaccination (vaccine card/certificate, a copy or photo of vaccine card/certificate or electronic NYS Excelsior Pass or NJ Docket Pass)
● Photo ID
● Eventbrite ticket confirmation email with QR code
● Simons Foundation Health Screening Questionnaire approval email

Guests are expected to complete these requirements each time they visit the Simons Foundation and entrance will not be granted without this documentation.

On-site registration will not be permitted. Walk-in entry will be denied.

About the Speaker

Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. A pioneer in the social sciences, she explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies. Her books include “The Fifth Branch,” “Science at the Bar,” “Designs on Nature,” “The Ethics of Invention” and “Can Science Make Sense of Life?” She founded and directs the STS Program at Harvard; previously, she was the founding chair of the STS Department at Cornell. In addition, she has held distinguished visiting professorships at leading universities in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the US. Jasanoff served on the AAAS board of directors and as president of the Society for Social Studies of Science. Her honors include the 2022 Holberg Prize, the SSRC’s Hirschman Prize, the Humboldt Foundation’s Reimar-Lüst award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, a foreign member of the British Academy and the Royal Danish Academy, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds A.B., J.D., and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University.

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