Genome Research and Scientific Responsibility (A Joint Session with MURS-Japan)
pp. 172-174; Discussion, p. 183 in Intractable Neurological Disorders, Human Genome Research and Society. Proceedings of the Third International Bioethics Seminar in Fukui, 19-21 November, 1993.

Editors: Norio Fujiki, M.D. & Darryl R.J. Macer, Ph.D.

Copyright 1994, Eubios Ethics Institute All commercial rights reserved. This publication may be reproduced for limited educational or academic use, however please enquire with Eubios Ethics Institute.

Genome research and scientific responsibility

Michio Okamoto
President, Japan MURS Director, International Institute for Advanced Studies, Kyoto, JAPAN

This session is titled genome research and scientific responsibility. This is a joint session with MURS Japan. There may be some of you who do not know about this name, simply it means the Universal Movement for Scientific Responsibility, MURS being the French acronym. The world president of this movement is Prof. Dausset who is with us today. We have had a movement to found a branch of this in Japan during the last two years. Last October, on the 1st, in the southern part of Kyoto, at the International Institute for Advanced Studies, which has been recently constructed there, we had a meeting there of scientists and medical scientists who have an interest in this problem we decided to firm up the shape and this became the first official meeting.

This Universal Movement for Scientific Responsibility sounds very difficult. I haven't really grasped for myself what it is all about yet. If we translate this into Japanese it sounds even harder. From the word "movement" we might think this is going to be a social movement or disturbance, so some people may have some misunderstanding about this. But this isn't attempting to be a social movement to demand that only scientists take responsibility, but I think that if you listen to the talks and discussion today, you will come to understand a bit more about the actual form and purpose of the movement.

The title of the session today is genome research and scientific responsibility, and we decided to hold this session with collaboration with MURS. Molecular biology has gradually developed towards biotechnology and these are now beginning to be moved into the clinical field. At the head of this research is genome research. I'm very thankful to Prof. Fujiki for arranging to hold this session in collaboration with MURS.

We are very lucky to have Prof. Dausset with us today. Last time (The Second International Bioethics Seminar in Fukui) we were all looking forward to meeting him, but unfortunately because of illness he wasn't able to be with us, but we are very thankful we can hear what he has to say to us today. Prof. Pompidou is the vice president of HUGO Europe, and he is also a member of the European Parliament, and he is also a professor of biology at the Eighth University of Paris, so he wears a large number of hats. Finally we are going to have a talk on philosophical problems by Prof. Fujisawa, I too was at Kyoto University, so I have learned a lot from him in the past, and also have had the chance to hear him talking on these philosophical concerns at the 23rd General Assembly of the Japan Medical Association. So I'm very pleased we can hear his lecture on the relation of science and ethics today.

pp. 173-174 in Intractable Neurological Disorders, Human Genome Research and Society. Proceedings of the Third International Bioethics Seminar in Fukui, 19-21 November, 1993.

Welcome to the Japanese branch of the Universal Movement for Scientific Responsibility (MURS)

Jean Dausset
President, MURS France, FRANCE

Amazed as we are by daily new technological exploits, and saturated with human drama, we gradually become aware that we are living in what is probably the most exhilarating but also the most dangerous period in the human adventure, a unique moment in world history. We cannot tell whether it is a privilege, but it is certainly a heavy responsibility to which we cannot remain indifferent.

The epic of life on Earth began more than three billion years ago. In the course of a slow and fabulous biological evolution, all the vegetable and animal species have emerged one by one. The size of the brain increased progressively and culminated in that of man who appeared at least two million years ago. He alone among living creatures developed in a surprising fashion the capacity to foresee, to anticipate, to relate cause and effect. Only in the course of the past century has he applied scientific reasoning systematically and rigourously.

The scientific revolution is barely beginning. Man himself, a material being, is beginning to understand the great forces which dominate matter and to apprehend the mechanisms of life. Progressively he is acquiring a certain mastery over his environment and his own reproduction, while developing even more his intellectual capacity and his spirituality. While enjoying every day the benefits of scientific progress, some people feel a nostalgia for the past, a past which we always tend to idealize (let us not forget the famines, the epidemics and, not least, the scourges of all kinds which occurred regularly).

Nor should we forget that each new breakthrough in our knowledge brings freedom, and that ignorance is the worst kind of slavery. One cannot, one must not, stop the march of science. Man must be trusted to find for himself the roads to survival. His imagination, his ingenuity, his aggressiveness, in the best sense of the term, are without limit.

Man must no longer endure his fate: from now on, he can influence fate; he can fashion and orient his own destiny toward a carefully thought-out future. The time in which we live is unique due to an unprecedented situation. An obvious imbalance has occurred between the rapidity of material changes and the slowness of mental and social changes which proceed according to the rhythm of the generations. This lag is the cause for the disarray which we feel.

In associating firmly the forces of the spirit, the incalculable forces of will, initiative, and solidarity to the physico-chemical forces, humanity must without doubt succeed in overcoming the serious crisis in growth which it is undergoing. First of all, we must make sure that all people are fed, while preserving the equilibrium of our fragile biosphere upon which man is totally dependent. Then we must promote the quality of life and culture.

The Universal Movement for Scientific Responsibility is endeavouring to accelerate the awakening in scientists, in all those who are in positions of authority and, in fact, in all people, of the awareness of their immense responsibility.

From now on, in the face of an unbalanced and limited world very soon to be overpopulated, the responsibility of scientists is becoming greater and greater. Apt in weighing objectively the advantages and the risks of scientific progress, scientists are the most able to inform public opinion with the greatest possible objectivity and clarity.

Public opinion is thirsting for this information. One is struck by the avidity to know and the desire to penetrate into what appears to be a fabulous scientific world. This avidity is not idle curiosity: it testifies to the unconscious feeling for a responsibility in which all aspire to participate. It is up to the scientists to break down the barriers created by language and to get their message across.

Thus, armed with the specialists' authoritative opinion, public opinion will be able to alert and influence those in authority.

The Universal Movement for Scientific Responsibility, both in France and now in Japan, has taken on the task of promoting this triple dialogue between scientists, the lay-public and "decision-makers". Scientists now feel that it is time for them to serve society. They believe that they have an essential role in determining the rational utilization o f science applied to daily life.

New knowledge entails new duties: duties for the investigators, but also duties for all those who, because to their functions, their profession, their mandate, are decision-makers; duties also for those who participate in the education of young people and the crystallization of public opinion.

The process of living is a process of constant adaptation which was subjected formerly to blind and unjust laws eliminating the weakest. This must no longer be so today. Scientific culture, i.e. accumulated knowledge in the different branches of science, sociological, economic as well as physico-chemical or biological science, must gradually take charge of the future of humanity. Science should lead mankind to pursue its extraordinary breakthrough.

Humanity is actually at the mercy of imponderable forces. It seems that only a well-informed and determined public opinion can guarantee a wise course. By participating actively in the Japanese Branch of MURS you will help to leave to your children a better world.

p. 183 in Intractable Neurological Disorders, Human Genome Research and Society. Proceedings of the Third International Bioethics Seminar in Fukui, 19-21 November, 1993.


Okamoto: Thank you very much Prof. Dausset, and as I said at the beginning, in my chairman's comments, we're only just starting MURS in Japan, and we didn't know everything about it. But as we have been able to hear directly from Prof. Dausset, we've come to understand this better and also to understand the responsibilities that we scientists have. Also I'd like to use this opportunity to inform those of you who do not know, that a MURS branch has been founded in Japan. Thank you very much Prof. Dausset, next we will ask Prof. Pompidou to speak to us.

Thank you very much. I was very impressed that Prof. Pompidou is a Professor of cell biology at the Eighth University of Paris, as well as a politician. I was also very interested at the global environment summit in Rio held in June this year, Vice President Gore gave a very detailed and thorough talk on the problems of the global environment, and his book was also surprising because it was so scientifically rich. The other day at the opening ceremony of the International Institute of Advanced Studies, Karl Friedrich Von WeizsŠcker a theoretical physicist, a theologian, philosopher, and politician as well. I was impressed by the existence of scientists who can move beyond pure science to give concrete suggestions. I think that we need to move away from doing pure science, we need men of learning who can cover the whole field from pure sciences to proposing measures to deal with societal problems. I was impressed by Prof. Pompidou similarly, and thank you for your explanation of the ethical problems of patents.

Next we are going to have a talk from Prof. Fujisawa. He is the Director of the Kyoto National Museum, and is the former president of the Japanese Society of Philosophy. He is an expert on Greek philosophy. He is going to give a talk on the relationship between science and ethics. Thank you very much. I'd like to ask Prof. Dausset to make some comments on what we have just heard.

Dausset: Prof. Fujisawa has given us much to think about in science and ethics. Because time is short, let me just give you some information about MURS. MURS is non-governmental, without any ethical or political approach. The Japanese MURS is obviously completely free to organise it's activities, it just has to stick to the bylaw of MURS which is to inform the public of the development of science and to stimulate reflection on the future of man and the planet, as well as on urgent measures that are necessary for the safeguarding of the future of man. As you know, the motto of MURS is science and the future of man. If Japan MURS sticks to the spirit of the movement it is completely free to organise the ways of acting to inform the public and to influence the decision-makers. This is all I would like to say. To finish I would wish good luck to Japan MURS, and long life. Thank you very much.

Okamoto: Thank you very much Prof. Dausset. Now we would like to end this session. We heard very passionate talk from Prof. Dausset. We've heard from Prof. Dausset directly for the first time today the meaning of this Movement, and very concretely we've heard about ethical problems and their fundamental relationship to basic science. I think that this has made a very deep impression on me as we are starting our movement in Japan. On the 10th December last year Prof. Lars Gyllensten, at the Nobel Prize receiving ceremony, pointed out that it was 500 years since the discovery of America, and 50 years since the discovery of the fission of Uranium. He talked about the results and fruits of this work, and how it had brought about a great source of energy for people, but how it also has the possibility of leading to the destruction of mankind.

We need to be very responsible in the way that we utilise science, science needs to be inspected. I was very impressed. I think the time has come throughout the world where we have to come to grips with the problem, and I think that the movement of Prof. Dausset will have great meaning and be of great benefit to this. I hope that you will all be interested and concerned with the development of this movement, and I am thankful for the interest you have shown today. We were able to hear very practical and very theoretical talks today, and I am very thankful to the speakers. A number of publications are coming out, so please look at these if you would like more information, and please join with Prof. Dausset in his efforts.

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