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About Media Coverage & Human Biotechnology


Until a few years ago, human biotechnologies were rarely discussed in the popular media. Now magazine covers, television shows, newspaper headlines and front-page articles showcase their development and the controversies surrounding them.

This increased coverage is welcome; sunlight can be a good disinfectant. Nevertheless, mainstream media coverage has been inadequate or misleading in several regards.

Too often it prematurely celebrates new techniques as "breakthroughs" or "medical miracles," even when they are preliminary and unconfirmed. This is particularly dangerous in a growing culture of "science by press release," where fantastic findings are often later debunked (with less fanfare) by peer review. Also, the press rarely scrutinizes scientists' and bioethicists' statements, actions, or potential conflicts of interest with the same rigor they bring to reports about other public figures.

Lastly, too few media accounts make clear the full import of what's at stake. Excitement about possible new medical therapies tends to drown out consideration of undesirable prospects including genetic discrimination, increased health inequalities, and the misuse of human biotechnologies.



How Long Is Immortality?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesApril 15th, 2014A Russian millionaire created a big splash less than a year ago when he sponsored a conference at the Lincoln Center about mind uploading and immortality, but seems to have fallen off the media radar, at least in the U.S.
Stop Calling Science a ‘Frontier’ by Leah CeccarelliThe Seattle TimesApril 6th, 2014The notion of a special relationship between Americans and a metaphorical “frontier of science” is troubling because of the historical baggage it subtly imprints on its listeners.
Gene of the Week: Entrepreneurship (again)by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesApril 2nd, 2014Scientists keep trying, and failing, to find the gene for starting a business.
‘Stem Cell Tourism’ Takes Advantage of Patients, Says Law Professorby David TenenbaumUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison NewsMarch 24th, 2014Desperate patients are easy prey for unscrupulous clinics offering untested and risky stem cell treatments.
Opinion: Women Don't Need Any More Big Liesby Tanya SelvaratnamCNNFebruary 8th, 2014In The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock, I explore many Big Lies. One is that women can delay motherhood until we're ready and rely on science to make it happen for us.
The $1,000 Genome: Game Changer or PR Stunt?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesFebruary 6th, 2014The DNA sequencing company Illumina announced a new product capable of sequencing an entire human genome for under $1,000. What are the hidden costs? What are the implications of reaching this long-awaited benchmark?
Why the Promise of Cheap Fuel from Super Bugs Fell Shortby Martin LaMonicaMIT Technology ReviewFebruary 5th, 2014The sell-off of synthetic biology pioneer LS9 goes to show that making biofuels from genetically engineered microbes has yet to deliver economically.
Review: The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock by Amy Richards, Biopolitical Times guest contributorFebruary 4th, 2014A generational wake-up call directed to those raised to think that medical breakthroughs are always in humanity’s best interest.
Genetic Determinism: Why we Never Learn — And Why it Mattersby Nathaniel ComfortGenotopiaJanuary 29th, 2014Studying the history of genetics and popularization has led me to the surprising conclusion that genetic oversell is independent of genetic knowledge. We see the same sorts of articles in 2014 as we saw in 1914.
How FDA and 23andMe Dance Around Evidence That Is Not Thereby Cecile JanssensHuffington PostJanuary 27th, 2014Almost all former direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies have closed up shop. In the wake of criticism from all sides will 23andMe be next?
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