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MN's Nobel Conference Takes on Reproductive Technology


Monday, October 2, 2017   

ST. PETER, Minn. – For 53 years, the Nobel Conference has brought leading thinkers to the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter.

Starting on Tuesday, this year's conference theme is advances in reproductive technology, including male birth control and fetal gene transplants.

Conference director Lisa Heldke, who spent years planning the event, says the Nobel Committee gave Gustavus the privilege and responsibility of convening a discussion that would have lasting impact.

"It's an absolutely astonishing honor that we have this right to name this conference the Nobel Conference,” she states. “This is an invitation to come and think together with us about revolutionary, transformative and pressing scientific questions, and the ethical issues that arise alongside them."

The conference will be held at Lund Arena. Tickets may still be available on a sliding scale so that students can attend. It will also be live-streamed.

For the conference, classics professor Yurie Hong surveyed adults from across the country to see how they would react to a male birth control pill, which researchers say is on the horizon. She says some of the results were surprising.

"If male contraception were available, the majority of men and women said that, in a long-term relationship, they would be less likely to use condoms," she states.

The survey also found a majority of men said they would use a birth control option in pill form, as an alternative to a vasectomy or condoms.

Hong says conference participants will consider the implications of male birth control as well as why it has taken so long to develop. And they'll cover other scientific advances that raise questions about pregnancy prevention, childbearing and fetal intervention.

"It's very much grounded in the liberal arts and this notion that we need to think critically about some of the largest issues facing us as we move forward," she states.

In past years, the conference has taken up other weighty issues, including globalization, climate change and outer space.

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