Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Should Politics and Values Be Removed from Science?

Associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society and WBP supporter, Marcy Darnovsky argues in a new article in the Democracy Journal that for too long progressives have built a bioethics around opposition to the religious right, and have thus failed to explicate a positive vision. In an article complementary to the WBP’s report (downloadable here), Darnovsky outlines a framework for just such a vision, one that balances individual autonomy with the real social concerns raised by biotechnological advances, such as how will human biotechnologies reshape our sense of ourselves, our relationships, the shape and feel of the world we occupy together? Who will profit, who will lose, and who will survive?:

“For many progressives and liberals, President Barack Obama’s March 9 announcement on stem-cell research affirmed the now-conventional wisdom that virtue lies in protecting science from the interference of politics. Fulfilling a campaign promise, the president repealed his predecessor’s stem-cell funding restrictions and pledged to ensure that ‘scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda–and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.’

Scientists and stem-cell research advocates celebrated. The president of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation said he was thrilled that the new Obama policy will ‘remove politics from science.’ A vice president of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation lauded the commitment to ‘keep politics out of science.’ John Kessler, director of the Northwestern University Stem Cell Institute, recalled Bush’s funding limit and labeled it a ‘really, really unwelcome intrusion of politics into science.’

The policy is certainly a victory for progressives. But the assumptions embedded in its reception deserve close examination. Embedded assumption number one is that Bush’s restriction on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research was part of a broad ‘anti-science’ agenda. Assumption number two is that this policy constituted an illegitimate incursion of politics into science. The third assumption–and the one of greatest import as progressive politics tries to keep pace with scientific developments–is that we want to insulate science from moral values and political commitments.”

For access to the complete article, click here (free registration required).


Anonymous said...

The idea that some how we can remove politics from science agendas is problematic. It negates the fact that politics/power is inextricably connected to all forms of social actions, including scientific agendas.

Elli said...

That´s true, bur I hope they can remove it someday...

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