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February 8, 2005

Ain't No Limits but the Ones I Got

If you haven't yet read Wesley J. Smith's Weekly Standard piece about bioscientists' ethics, you should. (Although it's spread out over two html pages, it's not that long)

[Stanford University's Irving] Weissman's stated purpose is to help the human condition by learning how the brain works. But helping the human condition can become an excuse for casting aside profound ethical concerns. Besides, Weissman apparently believes that as a scientist he has the right to do just about whatever he wants. "Anybody who puts their own moral guidance in the way of this biomedical science," he told the National Geographic News, "where they want to impose their will . . . interfere with science that could save lives." In other words, Weissman can impose his will on the rest of us because he believes an experiment is worth conducting, but society has no right to impose its collective will on him.

So how does this fit in to the ongoing conversation about experts and understanding human nature? Personally, I haven't yet worked through the disturbing realization that the moral lessons of classic science fiction have all but disappeared behind the "coolness" of its tricks. Perhaps the illustrious John Derbyshire is a bit too quick to mock English as among the "spurious academic disciplines."

Perhaps, indeed, too few scientists have put down their test tubes to benefit from the wisdom of the ages. If Derb and his fellow math and science students hadn't had so much "royal fun scoffing at the Eng Lit crowd," the less restrained of his codisciplinarians mightn't now be transforming horrific fiction into fact.

Posted by Justin Katz at February 8, 2005 1:05 AM
Science
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Perhaps, indeed, too few scientists have put down their test tubes to benefit from the wisdom of the ages. If Derb and his fellow math and science students hadn't had so much "royal fun scoffing at the Eng Lit crowd," the less restrained of his codisciplinarians mightn't now be transforming horrific fiction into fact.

Amen to that. But the problem is one particular aspect of the larger phenomenon of not taking our heritage and ideals seriously, and of the general anti-intellectualism in our society. After all, post-modernism didn't arise in science, even if many scientists have absorbed the moral relativity that came along with it.

Posted by: Mike S. at February 8, 2005 3:27 PM