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Erik Parens, Ph.D

Erik Parens photoErik Parens is a Senior Research Scholar at The Hastings Center. He investigates how we use new technologies to shape our selves and how emerging science shapes our self-understanding.

Regarding the use of new technologies to shape our selves, he has directed a wide range of research projects, including ones: on the technological “enhancement” of human capacities; on the disability-community critique of prenatal genetic testing; on the surgical “normalization” of children with atypical bodies; and on the controversies surrounding the use of psychotropic drugs to treat emotional and behavioral disturbances in children.

Regarding how emerging science shapes our self-understanding, he has also directed a wide range of projects, including one on the controversies surrounding the meaning of the results of behavioral genetics research and one on the meaning of results from neuroimaging technologies (such as fMRI).

Those projects have been funded by diverse sources, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Institutes for Health. They have led to the publication of many widely cited articles, reports, and edited volumes. They have also led to many opportunities to speak across the US and Europe. 

He has served as a consultant to several government and nongovernmental bodies, including the National Bioethics Advisory Commission and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Vassar College, a Visiting Fellow at the Bioethics Center at Yale University, and a Fellow of the Center for Neuroscience and Society at The University of Pennsylvania.  

Mr. Parens was educated at The University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.D (1988) and MA (1983) from the Committee on Social Thought, and his B.A. (1979) from The College.


Selected Publications

E. Parens, "Good and Bad Forms of Medicalization," Bioethics (2011): doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2011.01885.x.

E. Parens and J. Johnston, “Troubled Children: Diagnosing, Treating, and Attending to Context,” Special Report, Hastings Center Report 41, no. 2 (2011): S1-S32.

S. Gillihan and E. Parens, "Should We Expect "Neural Signatures" for DSM Diagnoses?" Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (2011).

E. Parens, "True Human Enhancement. On Nicholas Agar's Humanity's End: Why We Should Reject Radical Enhancement," Science Progress (March 11, 2011).

E. Parens, "The Ethics of Memory Blunting and the Narcissism of Small Differences," Neuroethics May 15, 2010.

E. Parens and J. Johnston, "Controversies Concerning the Diagnosis and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder in Children," Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 4, no. 9 (2010).

E. Parens, J. Johnston, and G. Carlson, "Pediatric Mental Health Care Dysfunction Disorder?" New England Journal of Medicine 362, no. 20 (2010): 1853-1855.

E. Parens, “Does Science Threaten Democracy?” Science Progress (February 9, 2009).

E. Parens and J Johnston, “Facts, Values, and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): An Update on the Controversies,” Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 3, no. 3 (January 9, 2009).

E. Parens, J Johnston, and Jacob Moses, “Do We Need ‘Synthetic Bioethics’?” SCIENCE 321, no. 5895, p. 1449.

E. Parens, “Making Cells Like Computers,” Boston Globe, February 18, 2008. Reprinted, The New York Times, December 1, 2008.

E. Parens and J. Johnston, “Understanding the Agreements and Controversies surrounding Childhood Psychopharmacology,”Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health vol. 2, no. 5 (February 2008).

E. Parens, “Do Think Twice: Kramer and Shenk on Depression,” Perspectives in Biology andMedicine 50, no 2 (2007): 295-307.

E. Parens“Taking People at Their Word,”Bioethics Forum May 26, 2006.

E. Parens, (Ed.) Surgically Shaping Children, (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).

E. Parens, Audrey Chapman, and Nancy Press, (Eds.) Wrestling with Behavioral Genetics: Ethics,Science, and Public Conversation (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).

E. Parens,Authenticity and Ambivalence: Toward Understanding the Enhancement Debate,” Hastings Center Report 35, no. 3 (2005): 34-41.

E. Parens, “The Elusive Ethics of Body Modification,” Boston Globe March 28, 2005.

E. Parens, “Genetic Differences and Human Identities: Why Talking about Behavioral Genetics Is Important and Difficult,” Hastings Center Report 34, no. 1 (2004): S1-S36.

E. Juengst and E. Parens. “Germline Dancing: Definitional Considerations for Policy Makers,” in Designing Our Descendants: The Promises and Perilsof Genetic Modifications, ed. Audrey Chapman and Mark Frankel (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003): 20-36.

E. Parens and E. Juengst. “Inadvertently Crossing the Germ Line,” SCIENCE 292 (20 April 2001): 397.

E. Parens, “On the Ethics and Politics of Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” in The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Science, Ethics and PublicPolicy, Ed. Suzanne Holland, Karen Lebacqz, and Laurie Zoloth (MIT Press, 2001).

E. Parens and A. Asch (Eds), Prenatal Testing and Disability Rights, Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2000.

E. Parens and A. Asch, “The Disability Rights Critique of Prenatal Genetic Testing: Reflections and Recommendations,” Hastings CenterReport 29, no. 4 (1999): S1-S22.

E. Parens,Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and Social Implications (Ed.), Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1998.