A Different Reason for Worrying about Stem Cell Research. (an Educated Guess)

By Blake, Christopher R. L. | Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education, October 2001 | Go to article overview

A Different Reason for Worrying about Stem Cell Research. (an Educated Guess)


Blake, Christopher R. L., Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Higher Education


Considerable attention has been given in the past two decades to the role of technology in education, in teaching, research and administration. Many of us have incrementally shifted through degrees of acceptance, utilization, reliance and advocacy of technology in our disciplines. A related but different development, however, has not happened so thoroughly or quickly, and this other shift is inestimably more significant for the academy in the century ahead.

The development in question is required by all higher learning to make sense of the biotech revolution. Whereas the digital revolution may transform our view of the universe, the biotech revolution has the potential to alter the universe itself. There is a parallel here with previous epochs in human history, notably the invention of the printing press and the birth of the Renaissance.

Gutenberg's and Caxton's inventions turned the world figuratively and intellectually upside down and heralded new patterns of human activity and organization that were inconceivable prior to the early 15th century.

One of the great achievements of that era was the adaptation of the new communications revolution by the centers of learning.

The Medieval Schools of Thought (Rhetoric, Letters, Astronomy and so on) were not completely abandoned. Instead, they were transformed into new forms and fields of knowledge that allowed the academy to dominate the epistemological structures of those extraordinarily creative centuries.

A New Renaissance

We are at the beginning of a new Renaissance, although a more negative analogy, such as Global Laboratory, might be more applicable depending on the steps we choose for our future.

That new Renaissance was heralded recently when President George W. Bush announced his compromise decision on stem cell research. Here is not the place to review that truly fundamental issue. Instead, we'll examine the context in which this announcement was made so we can discern a powerful distinction between the epoch-making events of the Renaissance and those of today. …

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