The Lower Sixth Biology students attended a talk on “Our Genomic Future” at the Natural History Museum, Oxford, on Thursday the 3rd May.
This event was part of the Museum’s Exhibition on the theme of “Settlers”, which explores population genetics and genomics. The event started with the reading/acting of the first draft of a play that is set in a dystopic future where the genomes (i.e., all the DNA) of all individuals are sequenced at the age of 14!
The discussion that followed the play dealt with the ideas raised in the play: To whom does a person’s genomic data belong? How should this data be used (by the individual and by society)? Who should have access to this data? Is knowing one’s medical future an unmixed blessing? What is the role of counselling? How should a layman (not a scientist) be taught to interpret the medical probabilities and statistics that arise from DNA sequencing?
The panel to whom these questions were posed was composed of scientists, public-engagement officers as well as the playwright / director of the play.
The students greatly enjoyed the play, particularly the fact that there were thought-provoking ideas embedded in a simple narrative, and were keen to discuss some of the ethical, philosophical and biological issues raised. Even more so, they enjoyed being photographed with the dinosaurs, and are clamouring for us to arrange an official trip to the museum one day!
Dr. Shanti M. Bharatan
Department of Biology