Bioethics Blogs

Are poets the unacknowledged bioethicists of the world?

“Are poets the unacknowledged bioethicists of the world?” asked Tom Shakespeare, one of our Council members, on Monday night. Quite possibly so, if the rich ideas and concepts put forward by the poets who entered the Council’s (un)natural poetry competition are anything to go by.

Tom was speaking at an evening of poetry and debate that we organised to mark the conclusion of our project on ‘naturalness’. The winners of our poetry competition and Kayo Chingonyi, our poet in residence since the summer, stole the show with their beautifully crafted pieces that explored topics as diverse as organic food, hand transplants, afro hair, mobile technology and emigration.

Sophie Fenella, winner of our (un)natural poetry competition, performing her poem ‘Aubergines in Acton’ in London on 30 November

In the bar after the event several people asked me “We’re glad you did, but why did you decide to work with poets?”  When we started the project earlier this year and got to thinking about how ideas about naturalness affect our views on science and technology, we soon realised this was a subject that resonated with people, and not just philosophers and scientists. When I asked my friends and family if they could define what natural meant, they would launch into a long and interesting debate, usually with no conclusion or consensus. Poetry, we thought, might encourage more people to see our work as something that applies to them. We have involved artists in the Council’s work before, as a way of bringing wider society, particularly young people, into the conversation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.