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  Open Dialogue with Scientists and Industrialists

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By: Archibald Weigel

Open Dialogue with Scientists and Industrialists - IFGENE, An Initiative of the Science Section

(Original title: Offene Dialoge mit Wissen- schaft und Industrie - IFGENE, eine Initiative der Naturwissenschaftlichen Sektion. Der Merkurstab 1996; 49:328-9.)

IFGENE, International Forum for Genetic Engineering, is an initiative of the staff at the Science Section of the School of Spiritual Science, Goe- theanum, Domach, in collaboration with Werkgroep Genenmanipolatie en Oordeelsvorming at the Louis Bolk Institute in Zeist (NL).

IFGENE is an international network of biologists and medical scientists working with genetic engineering, DNA technology and Gene manipulation who have personal experience of the special problems that arise for gaining insight, human feelings and moral actions. All are seeking to understand the laws and phenomena of the new genetic and molecular sciences in the light of Rudolf Steiner's science of the spirit.

Regional groups meet to establish contact with colleagues whose explicit views of the world and of science do not base on anthroposophy and discuss issues concerning the limits and fundamental issues of the field. IFGENE is dedicated to the methodology of non- polarized, dominance-free dialogue, and its members endeavour to create an atmosphere of trust in scientific interaction with others, a common quest and a genuinely open forum. The aims of the initiative are to de- velop viewpoints that allow an objective evaluation of genetic engi- neering that will provide guidance, to increase public awareness of the inherent risks and potential and initiate broad-based yet also deep discussion, both among those specially concerned and also in the Society at large.

The objection may be raised that 1996 is rather late for anthroposophists to enter into such dialogue. The initiative has however had quite a number of many different precursors, some of them starting in the late 1980s (Louis Bolk Institut), and good work was also done in small groups for many years before that. IFGENE is a late but well thought-out step in addressing the public at large. It involves a new methodologic approach and is supported by the younger generation of applied scientists. The aim is not to present finalized views on the gentic engineering issue, and the starting point is just as open as what happens at a forum: conviction is carried by content.

IFGENE currently has about 30 active members in 6 countries (Switzerland, Holland, Germany, France, Great Britain, USA) who are in contact through electronic media and regional conferences. Apart from subject-related work organized by individual regional groups, preparations are in progress for an international conference to be held near the Goetheanum as a culmination of the work done since IFGENE was created in 1994. We expect scientists and medical experts of international repute to attend as well as about 350 biologists and medical scientists.

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