No Cover Image

Perspectives in Bioethics, Science, and Public Policy

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Purdue University Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Perspectives in Bioethics, Science, and Public Policy
    Book Description:

    In this book, nine thought-leaders engage with some of the hottest moral issues in science and ethics. Based on talks originally given at the annual “Purdue Lectures in Ethics, Policy, and Science,” the chapters explore interconnections between the three areas in an engaging and accessible way. Addressing a mixed public audience, the authors go beyond dry theory to explore some of the difficult moral questions that face scientists and policy-makers every day. The introduction presents a theoretical framework for the book, defining the term “bioethics” as extending well beyond human well-being to wider relations between humans, nonhuman animals, the environment, and biotechnologies. Three sections then explore the complex relationship between moral value, scientific knowledge, and policy making. The first section starts with thoughts on nonhuman animal pain and moves to a discussion of animal understanding. The second section explores climate change and the impact of “green” nanotechnology on environmental concerns. The final section begins with dialog about ethical issues in nanotechnology, moves to an exploration of bio-banks (a technology with broad potential medical and environmental impact), and ends with a survey of the impact of biotechnologies on (synthetic) life itself.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-269-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, General Science, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. VII-X)

    This book,Perspectives in Bioethics, Science, and Public Policy, is the first in a series of books sponsored by Purdue University’s Global Policy Research Institute designed to bring a unique insight into the nexus of public policy and research. The series will appeal to a diverse community of individuals including policy makers, scientists, the general public, and students entering higher education in any field. My observation upon returning to Purdue University in 2010 after serving ten years in the Bush and Obama administrations, most recently as director of the National Science Foundation, is that students being admitted to universities and...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XI-XII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book is grounded in the idea that exploring the intersections of moral beliefs, scientific knowledge, and public policy can enrich our understanding of the value assumptions inherent in bioethical conflicts. Science pushes us to consider the outcomes of knowledge dissemination and the timeliness of our responses to them, ethics guides the normative conclusions we draw from this knowledge, and policy codifies these conclusions into principles for action. This book captures these intersections by bringing together thought leaders from a variety of backgrounds to frame and explore diverse themes in bioethics.

    Bioethics, as its prefix suggests, is a domain of...

    • [I. Introduction]
      (pp. 7-8)

      Our moral world has been almost entirely driven by a human-centered view that has consistently emphasized some set of properties that made the human being unique with respect to the animal world. From Aristotle to Aquinas to Descartes, and from Hobbes up through John Rawls, our moral community was conceived as a function of our humanity, either in reference to our presumed uniquely linguistic character or the complexity of our rational minds. We were not merely different than the rest of the animal kingdom, but our uniqueness was as a source of specialness, of moral worthiness. For this reason, the...

    • Minding Animals (2011)
      (pp. 9-28)

      I want to start off with a view that I think is fairly widely held and fairly intuitive. It’s the idea that we don’t tend to think of a lot of nonhuman creatures as being moral agents, at least in the full sense that humans are. What moral agency amounts to is still much debated in moral theory and moral philosophy, but we have certain markers that we can point to. We tend not to think of things as moral agents if we don’t hold them morally responsible for their behaviors. We certainly don’t do so with cows and pigs....

    • Animal Pain: What It Is and Why It Matters (2011)
      (pp. 29-50)

      I’m going to tell you a famous story from antiquity that supports what I’m going to argue here. In this story, a man buys a camel from a wise man. And he says, “Tell me, oh savant, I’ve never had a camel before. Is there anything I need to know in particular in order to manage and husband the camel?” And the savant says, “Well, there’s actually one thing. When springtime comes and mating season approaches they can get extremely hostile.” (That’s true of equids generally.) And the guy says, “Well, how do I manage that? What do I do?”...

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 51-52)

      Ethical thinking about the natural environment developed only recently as a direct result of continued moral expansionism. This expansion of moral thinking out into the natural world was driven by the ethical considerations first of the human rights movement and then of the animal rights movement, but it was equally the result of developments in our scientific thinking about ecology, the study of relationships within the natural world. Ecological research in the US began to pick up steam as far back as the early 1930s. It was the economic thinking of that era (thinking that continues to pervade environmental policy...

    • The Future of Environmental Ethics (2010)
      (pp. 53-70)

      The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment gives us a stark warning about the future of environmental ethics. “Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted” (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment Board 2005b, 5). This environmental concern about the future is much like that of a former vice president of the United States who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his concern about “an inconvenient truth” (Gore 2006; Guggenheim 2006), or another once almost-president and his wife who wrote a book on today’s...

    • Climate Change, Human Rights, and the Trillionth Ton of Carbon (2010)
      (pp. 71-82)

      Those plaintive lines are, of course, written in 1859 by Emily Dickinson in Amherst, Massachusetts. She wasn’t thinking about climate change then, although 1859 is only a hundred and sixty years ago. In fact, no one was thinking about climate change. We didn’t really have the concept yet, although we were already shoveling coal and firing up steam engines and revving up the Industrial Revolution, which, of course, has made us rich and happy—richer anyway—and inaugurated the explosion of greenhouse gases. But it seems to me her questions are maybe appropriate for the younger people of today because...

    • Ethics, Environment, and Nanotechnology (2009)
      (pp. 83-98)

      Be advised, I am neither a philosopher nor an ethicist. However, I am pleased to have been invited by philosophers to share my thoughts on ethics, environment, and nanotechnology, since I believe it is necessary to talk beyond one’s narrow groups; in this case, environmentalists or nanotechnologists. It is a rare opportunity to address a very interesting subject: the impact of nanotechnology on environmental concerns and the ethic that underlies it. The first half of the chapter is for the non-nano informed: a sort of Nano 101. The second part, for the nano informed, will cover my understanding of issues...

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 99-100)

      In the opinion of Bill Joy, a well-known computer scientist and co-author of the Java computing language, the new universe of biotechnologies—including reproductive genetics, synthetic biology, biobanking, and nanotechnologies—is leading our world into a new era in which humans may be rendered obsolete (Joy 2000). Do we take such a warning seriously or do we take his opinion simply as a new form of technophobia? Either way, Joy’s concern has provoked the undertaking of novel modes of inquiry and interdisciplinary research in order to gain a more solid understanding of the impact biotechnologies will have on the well-being...

    • Nanotechnologies: Science and Society (2007)
      (pp. 101-122)

      As a nanoscientist, I initially wasn’t sure I had anything useful to say about the broader implications of this developing technology. But, after some reflection on the subject, I have come to see that we scientists are well placed to consider the implications of our work. What I’m going to try to do in what follows is give you an overview of key issues and try to put things in perspective. Nanotechnology will have a pervasive and disruptive effect on the world around us and on human ethical (or unethical) behavior in how we apply it within our society.


    • Ethical Issues in Constructing and Using Biobanks (2008)
      (pp. 123-136)

      There is a wide range of interests in biobanking. Some people are interested in the topic because they came across the term in their research. Others are interested because they have seen descriptions or depictions of biobanks in the media. Those who have been thinking about this issue or who have contemplated the ethics of donating parts of their bodies, whether that is via an organ donor card in a wallet, a blood test, or a biopsy that was done at a hospital—maybe a suspicious mole or something worse removed—may have wondered what happened to those pieces of...

    • Synthetic Life: A New Industrial Revolution (2012)
      (pp. 137-154)

      In what follows I will be talking about synthetic biology: a technology that, I think it’s safe to say, relatively few people had heard of five years ago. At that time the Hastings Center was contacted by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to explore the possibility of running a research project generally laying out the ethical issues associated with this emerging field in hopes that we could kick start the scholarly bioethical discussion of it.

      This is still a brand new field. Many in the field and many critics of it, as well as mutual observers, think that this is...

  9. INDEX
    (pp. 155-161)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 162-162)