Wise Words from a Comedic Critic

Posted by Doug Pet July 14, 2010
Biopolitical Times

When it comes to human genetic and biotech issues, popular comedic newsman Stephen Colbert's commentary goes beyond snarky satire. In fact, his consistent precautionary tone on such issues often echoes our concerns here at Biopolitical Times.

His show, The Colbert Report, recently covered the Myriad gene patent case, the LA Fertility Institute's ad for genetically designed babies, and free market eugenic pitches from the ridiculous BeautifulPeople.com. Though riddled with his brand of faux-libertarian hilarity, Colbert's segments surface many of the oft-overlooked moral, ethical and social implications of such issues.

Colbert's show has hosted biopolitical figures such as Francis Collins and J. Craig Venter, as well as science writer/journalist Rebecca Skloot. Colbert's interviews are layered with clever sarcasm, yet do not shy away from tough bioethical questions related to distributive justice, personal privacy, and corporate greed.

For example, in a 2007 discussion with Craig Venter around for-profit full genome mapping, Colbert paused from parody to ask:

Couldn't some say that you're sequencing the human genome with a private company to someday be able to use this information to extort billions from technology that people need?

Few popular media icons have consistently pushed human biotech issues towards the center of the public gaze. Colbert's successes in this regard are certainly noteworthy.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: