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Deliberations on the Life Sciences: Pitfalls, Challenges and Solutions


Michiel Korthals

Wageningen University, NL
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In this article I sketch several versions of the deliberative approach and then discuss five problems which confront a deliberative ethicist of contemporary problems of the life sciences, in particular about food, nature and agriculture. I begin by discussing problems of unequal participation in deliberations and secondly analyze cognitive and normative uncertainties that abound in the life sciences like biotechnology. Thirdly, these sciences comprise different scripts (e.g. nutrigenomics: personalized or public health) that steer the type of outcome, like products and services. Dependent on the framing, the products and services look different. Fourthly, multi-level problems are addressed, in particular the relationship between local, regional, national, international opinion formation and decision making. Fifthly, I will turn the table and argue that some scientific and technological project can have a large and severe deliberative impact and others not. Discussing these challenges I will develop some tools, like mapping different arrangements of the interaction between genomics and societal developments, developing imaginary futures by aesthetic explorations and by scenarios, by different moral screenplays and dramatic rehearsals, deliberative leadership, and designing deliberation eliciting technologies.

How to Cite: Korthals, M. (2011). Deliberations on the Life Sciences: Pitfalls, Challenges and Solutions. Journal of Public Deliberation, 7(1), 8. DOI:
Published on 19 Oct 2011.


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