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ELSI in 20 Years: Predictions and Perspectives

Perspective ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Genet. | doi: 10.3389/fgene.2018.00063

Perspective: Letting epigenetics be all that it can be

  • 1Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Belgium
  • 2KU Leuven, Belgium

In this article, we ask to what extent the specific characteristics of epigenetics may affect the type of questions one can ask about human society. We pay particular attention to the way epigenetic research stirs debate about normative and moral issues. Are these issues implied by scientific evidence as an outcome of research? Or do moral and normative issues also shape how research is done and which problems it addresses? We briefly explore these questions through examples and discussions in (social-) scientific literature. In the final section, we propose an additional dimension and a refocusing of attention from issues of scientific evidence alone (asking what kind of evidence epigenetics produces and how it does so) to a broader picture on epigenetics as a mode of attention that encourages relational and process-oriented thinking with entities, values and scales that may not yet fit within conventional problem-frames that inform research funding and policy-making. We argue that the task of (post-)ELSI approaches is to take inspiration from the ecological complexity of epigenetics in order to bring more relations, relief and gradient in our ethical and political questions.

Keywords: epigenetics, (post-)ELSI, Ecology, Norms, Values, relationality

Received: 02 Dec 2017; Accepted: 12 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Ignacio Segarra, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

Reviewed by:

Maurizio Meloni, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
Jonathan D. Moreno, University of Pennsylvania, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Hendrickx and Van Hoyweghen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Kim Hendrickx, Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Brussels, Belgium, kim.hendrickx@kuleuven.be