Search results for "farahany"

Designer Babies Revisited – Response to Nita Farahany

Co-blogger Nita Farahany takes issue with “many parts” of my post defending the morality of designer babies against claims that they would lead to unjust inequality. I always welcome a good debate. But, in this case, virtually all of the things she “takes issue” with are not actually things I said in my post.

First, and most obviously, I did not “seeming[ly]…endorse… state control of reproduction.” To the contrary, the whole point of my post was to argue against people who do favor such control on the grounds that restriction of designer babies is needed to prevent inequality. In my judgment the state should not force parents to genetically enhance their offspring, but it should also not ban them from doing so, except perhaps in cases where the technology is dangerous or seriously unreliable. Like Nita, I am “against prohibitions against genetically modifying babies,” as she describes her own position. Second, I did not “conflat[e].. self-enhancement with offspring enhancement.” Some of the points I made would, of course, apply to both.

Third, far from “sensationalizing” claims about possible designer baby technology, I specifically noted in my post that “[o]bviously, it could turn out that designer babies with vastly increased abilities are technologically infeasible, or at least a long time away.” At the same time, I cited claims by some scientists that designer baby technology could become feasible in the near to medium-term future. I did not endorse or reject those claims, because I lack the scientific expertise to do so. I merely concluded that the possibility that they could be true makes the morality of designer babies worth debating. Readers can judge for themselves whether that qualifies as sensationalism or not.

Nita complains that I overemphasize the role of genetics in intelligence, and notes that a recent study […]

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Nita Farahany Joining the Conspiracy

I’m delighted to report that Prof. Nita Farahany (Duke) is joining the Conspiracy. Nita is a Professor of Philosophy and a Professor of Genome Sciences & Policy, as well as a law professor. She is the author of Searching Secrets, 160 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1239 (2012), which deals with technology, intellectual property, and Fourth Amendment law, and Incriminating Thoughts, 64 Stan. L. Rev. 351 (2012), which deals with neuroscience and the privilege against self-incrimination, and other works, and the editor of The Impact of Behavioral Sciences on Criminal Law (Oxford University Press), a book of essays from experts in science, law, philosophy, and policy. And she is a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. I very much look forward to her posts! […]

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FDA Overreach and 23andMe

According to the FDA, a soiled plastic cup is a medical device subject to its jurisdiction. In its seemingly infinite expanse, the FDA has issued a cease and desist letter to 23andMe stating:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sending you this letter because you are marketing the 23andMe Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service (PGS) without marketing clearance or approval in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act).

“This product is a device within the meaning of section 201(h) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. 321(h), because it is intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or is intended to affect the structure or function of the body. For example, your company’s website at (most recently viewed on November 6, 2013) markets the PGS for providing “health reports on 254 diseases and conditions,” including categories such as “carrier status,” “health risks,” and “drug response,” and specifically as a “first step in prevention” that enables users to “take steps toward mitigating serious diseases” such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and breast cancer. Most of the intended uses for PGS listed on your website, a list that has grown over time, are medical device uses under section 201(h) of the FD&C Act. Most of these uses have not been classified and thus require premarket approval or de novo classification, as FDA has explained to you on numerous occasions.”

What’s the “PGS” process? Sign up on 23andMe’s website, pay the fee, and soon thereafter receive your “test kit” in the mail.  The “kit” is a small  plastic tube that you spit into, seal, and then send back to 23andMe. Using a panel of probes, 23andMe detects single nucleotide polymorphisms […]

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VC Bloggers on Twitter

Back in March, I decided to try Twitter again. It seems to have stuck this time.  I’ve tweeted about 550 times, around twice a day. Some of my tweets are only links to blog posts, so it’s stuff you’re getting by reading the VC. But I’ve found that Twitter is also useful to link to new cases, law review articles, and speeches that don’t merit a full blog post. I also often tweet news about presentations that I will be giving or include links to news stories. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, you can find it here.

And I’m only one of many VC bloggers on Twitter. Here are the feeds I could find, with apologies to any I may have missed:

There is also a @VolokhC account, although it’s just an automatic feed of all VC posts.

UPDATE: I have added Randy, Jonathan, and Dave K., all of whom I looked for but missed earlier. […]

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Bias in the Northern District of Georgia?

On Sunday, the Atlanta Journal of Constitution published a front-page story: Workers Who Cry Foul Seldom Get a Day in Court. The story focuses on an empirical study on summary dismissal of employment discrimination claims brought in the Northern District of Georgia in 2011 and 2012. That study reveals that it is “nearly impossible to get trial in an employment discrimination case” in the Northern District of Georgia. [The study was commissioned by the law firm of Barrett and Farahany in Atlanta, GA, and authored by Tanya McAdams and Amanda Farahany (full disclosure: my sister)]. The Northern District of Georgia (and Atlanta, in particular) appears to be an outlier, in that “70 percent of cases brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are dismissed before trial [nationwide],” while in the Northern District of Georgia, “judges toss more than 80 percent of all cases.” In Atlanta, they toss 94% of employment discrimination claims. In 2011 and 2012, 100% percent of racial harassment cases and all but one sexual harassment case were dismissed. By comparison, when the firm compared the results from the Northern District of Alabama (also within the 11th Circuit, and also a state with no state laws concerning employment discrimination (like Georgia)), they found that 66% instead of 80% of employment discrimination claims were dismissed in full.

How should we interpret these results? Could the Northern District of Georgia be facing far more frivolous suits than other jurisdictions? Perhaps, although it’s hard to believe that’s a complete answer. I, for one, would like to know how these results compare to summary dismissal of other types of claims in the same jurisdiction. Assuming that the rate of summary dismissal for employment discrimination claims differs from dismissal of other civil claims, should we infer some […]

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Hello Conspiracy!

Hello Conspiracy! I am truly delighted to be joining you as the newest Conspirator, and thank Eugene for the invitation and warm welcome. I’ll be blogging primarily about issues at the intersection of law and the biosciences, including developments in neuroscience, philosophy of biology, and bioethics and the law. Occasionally, I’ll be posting about seemingly random but truly amazing breakthroughs in the biosciences. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a Professor of Law and Philosophy, and a Professor of Genome Sciences and Policy at Duke. I’m also one of the co-founders of a new peer-reviewed journal, The Journal of Law and the Biosciences (a collaborative effort between Duke University, Stanford University, Harvard University and Oxford University Press). As a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (our esteemed staff is now back at work), and the most recent recipient of the Paul M. Bator award from the Federalist Society, I’m also a bit of an enigma. You can also find me on Twitter @NitaFarahany where you’ll get daily morsels of science. And if you followed the Law and Biosciences Digest, please join me here from now on, instead. I look forward to engaging with my fellow co-conspirators, and with all of you, our excellent readers! […]

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IQ2US Debate: Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies

Intelligence Squared is hosting a provocative debate on the motion “Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies” — this Wednesday, February 13, 6:45-8:30pm, at the Kaufman Center, 129 West 67th Street (btw Broadway and Amsterdam), New York City.

As IQ2US describes the issue:

Imagine a world free of genetic diseases, where parents control their offspring’s height, eye color and intelligence. The science may be closer than you think. Genes interact in ways that we don’t fully understand and there could be unintended consequences, new diseases that result from our tinkering. But even if the science could be perfected, is it morally wrong? Would it lead to eugenics and a stratified society where only the rich enjoy the benefits of genetic enhancement? Or would the real injustice be depriving our children of every scientifically possible opportunity?

For the motion: Sheldon Krimsky, Professor, Tufts University and Chair, Council for Responsible Genetics; and Lord Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor, Fertility Studies, Imperial College. Against the motion: Nita Farahany, Professor of Law and Professor of Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University; and Lee Silver, Professor, Princeton University.

Tickets are available here. If you can’t make it to the live debate, you can watch live online here, or download the NPR podcast via iTunes next week, here. […]

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District Judge: I Don’t Trust Psychologists, Who Are “All Over the Board” — But My Guess About Genetics “Fifty Years From Now” Is Rock-Hard Science

OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration of what the district judge said, but not much. Prof. Nita Farahany (Law & Biosciences Digest) has the scoop, and a link to the decision (which came in late January). An excerpt from Prof. Farahany’s post:

The Defendant in this case, convicted of possession of child pornography, was given an “unreasonable” sentence based on the judge’s invented genetic theory that the defendant’s incorrigible genes made him act the way he did, and that there was nothing he could do about it…. [The Second Circuit] took the extraordinary measure of vacating the sentence and remanding the case to a different judge.

Note that the Second Circuit expressly said that the judge didn’t have to trust psychologists if he didn’t want to, and could look at the evidence that this defendant was indeed likely to repeat his offenses (there was some in the record). Nor did the Circuit hold that real evidence of a defendant’s genetic predisposition couldn’t be used (an interesting question on which I don’t think there’s a settled answer). But the court rightly said that speculation about what genetics will find 50 years from now can’t be part of the decision. […]

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