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Based at The University of Edinburgh, the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum is part of the ESRC Genomics Network and pioneers new ways to promote and communicate social research on the contemporary life sciences.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

NeuroEthics Film Festival asks whether or not we are zombies

Blog by Dr. Calum MacKellar, Director of Research - Scottish Council on Human Bioethics

Do we have free will, or is our behaviour ultimately controlled by our biological brains? Does morality actually exist? Recent advances in our understanding of neurobiology have raised a number of ethical questions for human beings.

Using a number of films including the 1962 film entitled The Manchurian Candidate where Frank Sinatra plays the role of a man whose mind and free will may be controlled by others and the film Clockwork Orange, a neuroethics film festival was organised between the 23-25 November 2012 at the Edinburgh Filmhouse. The event was organise in partnership with: (1) the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics , (2) the Edinburgh Filmhouse, (3) The ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum and (4) the Mason Institute, Law School, The University of Edinburgh.

The film festival sought to address some of these questions in post-film discussions with the general public and a number of expert panellists. The issues included whether the responsibility of an individual actually exist? If it doesn¹t what are then the consequences for our legal systems and the manner in which human beings see themselves. Could they just be considered as biological robots or
zombies?

Participants were then able to engage with some of the issues raised by new discoveries in neurobiology and the ethical implications which result from them. One question that kept recurring in the debates was whether it is better to know the truth or to be happy. What would you choose?

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