Archive for the ‘discussion’ Category

moral doubts

I was just wondering if some of you felt the same after the experiments we did in the class:

Allthough in the class I really made up my mind and decided to manipulate the butterfly, at home when I explained what we did I felt I couldn’t really justify why I did it.  I gave the whole class a second thought and then it occured to me that the main reason I did it was out of curiousity.

Can curiousity alone make you forget initial moral limits?

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Playing God?

The discussion on the occasion of the Henk van den Belt “Frankenstein’  article was particulary interesting because the question was raised whether mankind had a large impact on nature or not. Whether man is perhaps too much convinced of his ability to monitor and regulate his environment, life and other species. You could also put it this way; are we too arrogant about the merits of science that has enabled us to control the planet?

I think at first it is important to be critical and sceptical towards man’s achievements. At the same time we must not become too relativistic about what human beings have achieved. It’s easy to be sceptical towards man’s achievement while at the same time most of us in industrialised countries do not have to worry about our health, a house to live in or food to consume. If it wasn’t for the achievements of medical science over the last centuries most of us would not make it to 35 years of age. So we have achieved a lot and it hasn’t been without major consequences. Positive ones in terms of healthcare due to increased knowledge about medics.

What I just wrote may look like a cliché but I think it is important to underscore this again since I was reminded by that because of one of the remarks in class last Friday, stating that the influence of man on the climate is not as big as we think. I disagree with that. I think the remark was made in the context of the controversy in the climate debate last winter. Due to errors and irregularities in the IPCC climate report people find arguments to question climate change and some even state that the climate bubble bursted. I think it’s too soon to draw that conclusion yet. Temperature records show that there is global warming and the question is rather whether mankind mainly contributed to that or that we are witnessing a natural phenomena. If we did contribute to it; is it a bad thing or not? Climate has always changed and it seems to do so now in terms of getting warmer. (Check the Dutch meteorological KNMI site for the hard data; the warmest years since 1900 (true; this is in climate terms a very short period) were all in the last two decades. http://www.knmi.nl/klimatologie/lijsten/jaar_xtr.html)

So the problem with the climate I think is that we witness phenomena which we do not fully understand yet. Besides global warming we do have a major impact on our environment in lots of other cases. We deforested Europe in two millennia. We bring species from one place to another with in some cases devastating consequences. Most famous, the case of the Victoria lake in Africa in which the Lates Niloticus was introduced with the idea that it would benefit local fishermen communities. The fish killed almost all other species in the lake and therefore biodiversity in the lake decreased dramatically. Dutch biologist Thijs Goldschmidt wrote an excellent book about this.  (http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/gold002darw01_01/index.php) Only in Dutch!) That’s just a couple of cases.

Therefore I think we should not underestimate the impact of human activities. Positive and negative. If we become too modest and relativistic we call upon ourselves the danger of not feeling responsible anymore and I do agree with Marta that humans are the only species conscious enough to take responsibility for ourselves, our environment and other species.  Responsibility and consciousness eventually means making choices about directions we should go. Especially when it concerns new technologies ( those used in bio-art for example). That’s the point where our responsibilities become political!


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Week 2. Theory

The summary will be just a bunge of new or already discussed questions:

Artists working with life on microscale

1. How much do you need/want to explain as an artist working with the life sciences? How do you visualize your projects/ideas? What choices do you make in this?

2. Notice the difference in the role of the bacteria in different projects. For example the projects of Joe Davis: bacteria as carriers, expressors? of the artwork (the ‘artistic gene). Or in Mara´s work Decon: bacterias as the effector of the (decomposition of the) artwork.

Concept of life. Where does it start?

1. the playing for God argument. Can you really create life out of nothing? is that not from origin an artistic in stead of scientific practice? creating somehting out of nothing? (or almost nothing…)

2. If you understand more about the wonder of life, does the amazement and original sense of wonder stop? or does it get more profound? doesn´t every question raises a new one?!

3. Is there a way of being not natural?

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