Genetics is the subject for Wellingborough talk by Professor Robert Winston
Professor Robert Winston is worried about the future.
And it is this worry about implications of the human genome project that has led him to create a new show entitled Modifying Humans: Where Does Genetics Stop? which is coming to The Castle Theatre in Wellingborough on Wednesday May 17.
He is the presenter of many BBC television series, including Your Life in Their Hands, Making Babies, Superhuman, The Secret Life of Twins, Child of Our Time, Human Instinct, The Human Mind and Frontiers of Medicine.
He was also the presenter of the BAFTA award-winning documentary series The Human Body broadcast in 1998.
Does the sequencing of the human genome really herald a new opportunity for medicine or is there a darker side that we ignore?
Professor Winston said: “I think the idea that we could create super humans is something that is extremely worrying.
“There is also the optionthat if the technology to create these super human is only available to the super rich, then that raises a lot of ethical questions.”
And advances in gene technology mean that we can not only select embryos for ‘desirable’ characteristics but we can now modify genes of animals with remarkable ease; so possibly very soon we may be able to enhance humans by genetic modification.
Will ethical considerations prevent us from the next step - manufacturing stronger, more gifted and very intelligent children?
Or will our imperfect knowledge of how our abilities are inherited mean that they there are some major surprises in store?
Professor Winston also gave us one or two examples of research that is currently ongoing.
He said: “We have already seen pigs that are being bred to provide organs to be transplanted into humans.
“There is nothing to stop scientists being able to do in humans and that raises a lot of ethical questions.”
I ask Professor Winston if there is an element of scientists playing God with this?
He added: “I think it is a kind of a fatuous question because many of us have taken an antibiotic, have driven a car or being on an aeroplane.
“In a sense we have all played God at some point in our lives. But the difference is that we have informed ourselves about this and that is what I am suggesting we do in this instance.”
Education is one of the main passion subjects on the field of science.
Professor Winston added: “We are obsessed with our genetics and for the improvement of ourselves whereas I would argue that we should start by improving the environment that we live in.
“I don’t necessarily mean the physical environemnt but improving education and making people more science literate.
“For me, it is comparable to Theresa May’s obsession with grammar schools, there is no evidence that it will improve the social mobility . You could look at grammar schools within the debate about genetics as it is choosing the elite pupils to be in an environment.”
It will be the first time that Professor Winston has visited the venue, one of several he is coming to across the United Kingdom throughout May and July.
And while he is dealing with a subject that might initially come across as intimidating and daunting, does he have to cater for people who aren’t as scientifically literate ?
He said: “I am very used to speaking in public and I think a key part of that is to make it intelligible to people, this show will be no different.”
The show will also include a discussion on the subject of genetics as well as a question and answer session.
The show starts at 7.30pm.
Tickets for this event are priced £17.
For further information about the show or to book tickets in advance call the box office on 01933 270 007 or visit at www.castletheatre.co.uk.