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Culture Clash: Law and Science in America

Steven Goldberg
Copyright Date: 1994
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Culture Clash
    Book Description:

    It is an article of faith in America that scientific advances will lead to wondrous progress in our daily lives. Americans proudly support scientific research that yields stunning breakthroughs and Nobel prizes. We relish the ensuing debate about the implications - moral, ethical, practical - of these advances. Will genetic engineering change our basic nature? Will artificial intelligence challenge our sense of human uniqueness? And yet the actual implementation of these technologies is often sluggish and much-delayed. From Star Trek to Jurassic Park, the American imagination has always been fascinated by the power of scientific technology. But what does the reality of scientific progress mean for our society? In this controversial book, Steven Goldberg provides a compelling look at the intersection of two of America's most powerful communities - law and science - to explain this apparent contradiction. Rarely considered in tandem, law and science highlight a fundamental paradox in the American character, the struggle between progress and process. Science, with its ethic of endless progress, has long fit beautifully with America's self image. Law, in accordance with the American ideal of giving everyone a fair say, stresses process above all else, seeking an acceptable, rather than a scientifically correct, result. This characteristic has been especially influential in light of the explosive growth of the legal community in recent years. Exposing how the legal system both supports and restricts American science and technology, Goldberg considers the role and future of three projects - artificial intelligence, nuclear fusion, and the human genome initiative - to argue for a scientific vision that infuses research with social goals beyond the pure search for truth. Certain to provoke debate within a wide range of academic and professional communities, Culture Clash reveals one of the most important and defining conflicts in contemporary American life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3348-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    America’s relationship with science is paradoxical. On the one hand, we proudly support basic research that yields stunning breakthroughs and Nobel Prizes. We then relish the ensuing debate about the implications of scientific advances. Will genetic engineering change our basic nature? Will artificial intelligence challenge our sense of human uniqueness? On the other hand, the actual implementation of new technology is often slow and sporadic. The technologies that were supposed to provide abundant energy, inexpensive medical care, and a new sense of humanity always seem a few years away. The result is grumbling about a wasteful and uncompetitive American economy....

  5. TWO Lawyers and Scientists
    (pp. 6-25)

    For many years I have begun my law and science seminar by asking the students to write down the name of the most brilliant person who ever lived. I instruct them to write the first name that comes to mind using whatever definition of brilliance they like. I then collect their responses and read them aloud. They always fall into the same categories. Scientists predominate, led by Einstein and Newton, but Shakespeare and Mozart do rather well too. There is often a smattering of support for da Vinci, and I have seen occasional votes for Plato, Freud, and many others....

  6. THREE The Constitutional Status of Basic Research
    (pp. 26-43)

    Because the U.S. Constitution says little about science explicitly, analysis of the role of science in American society is rarely perceived as having an important constitutional dimension.¹ Yet numerous provisions of the Constitution have the intent and effect of shaping the relationship between government and science. The result is a framework that is extremely supportive of basic research.

    This result is hardly surprising, given the background of the framers of the Constitution. Veneration of science was a central tenet of eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinking² for science was believed to illuminate not merely natural phenomena but political and theological matters as well.³...

  7. FOUR The Statutory Framework for Basic Research
    (pp. 44-68)

    As we have seen, Congress possesses the constitutional power to fund scientific research. But Congress lacks the institutional capability to make the day-to-day decisions concerning who gets that funding. There are simply too many such decisions and they involve too much expertise. Thus Congress has passed statutes delegating its science funding power to administrative agencies. For example, when Congress created the National Science Foundation,¹ it said the agency should “support basic scientific research” and have the work done by those “qualified by training and experience to achieve the results desired.”² Similarly broad language was used to set forth the science...

  8. FIVE Science versus Religion in American Law
    (pp. 69-83)

    The power of organized religion has waxed and waned dramatically throughout human history. In many preindustrial societies, the church provided not only answers to what we think of today as scientific questions, but strict guidance to political leaders as well—religion “once could define secular laws in usury, regulate the conditions of production in the guilds, and prohibit what today are normal business and commercial practices. . . . [M] onarchs were brought cringing to religious shrines and matters of personal morality were effectively dictated by pontifical power.”¹ In the twentieth-century Soviet Union, by contrast, religion was repressed in the...

  9. SIX Legal Restrictions on New Technology: The Regulatory Gap and the Emergence of the Science Counselor
    (pp. 84-111)

    When scientific developments lead to commercially important products, the legal situation changes dramatically. Gentle inquiries are replaced by intense scrutiny as technologically complex products are subject to regulation in countless arenas.

    Here, as with basic science, the best place to begin an examination of the law is with the constitutional framework. Where in the Constitution is the federal government given the power to regulate technology? After all, the federal government is limited to those powers enumerated in the Constitution and there is nothing there that speaks specifically about the regulation of technology. Indeed, when the Constitution was written, and for...

  10. SEVEN The Human Genome Initiative and Human Responsibility
    (pp. 112-130)

    The Human Genome Initiative is a massive government undertaking designed to determine the structure of every gene in the human body. It has been presented to the public as a concentrated scientific effort aimed directly at knowledge that will cure disease. In reality it is a controversial multiagency set of programs with unclear medical implications but with a growing impact on how we think of ourselves as individuals.

    From its scientific origins to the present, the Human Genome Initiative has illustrated the fundamental relationship between science and society. At the outset, the basic research that made the initiative possible was...

  11. EIGHT Nuclear Fusion: Boundless Optimism and Limited Energy
    (pp. 131-150)

    The front page of theWashington Posttrumpets, “U.S. Makes Major Advance in Nuclear Fusion,” with the first paragraph quoting a government expert saying this “could lead to the production of the first practical working fusion reactors.”¹ This was not a reference to the short-lived hope for “cold fusion,” but rather to the long-standing billion-dollar government project to tame the power of the sun for peaceful use. But this headline appeared in 1978, and “working fusion reactors” remain decades away.

    TheWashington Poststory was neither the first nor the last time that breakthroughs have been breathlessly announced in the...

  12. NINE Artificial Intelligence and the Essence of Humanity
    (pp. 151-177)

    Spectacular developments in the far reaches of computer science are announced almost daily. And the most striking advances concern not the brute power of ever faster machines, but artificial intelligence. Computers that appear to think will, we are told, revolutionize the workplace and the schoolroom. This field has so far produced relatively little in the way of usable technology, but it has triggered an enormous debate on philosophical questions about the nature of intelligence. As with so many debates in our society, most of the participation on both sides has taken the scientists' view of the world, even when implicit...

  13. TEN Conclusion
    (pp. 178-184)

    The relationship between law and science in America can now be summarized. Basic research flourishes under the control of basic researchers. This is not because science is “free of legal control,” but because the legal system we have gives power to the scientific community. Without the protections in the Constitution and statutes, our peer review system scattered over scores of agencies and hundreds of universities would not exist. Under our laws, effective control of who receives research funding lies with scientists, not with elected officials or judges.

    Moreover, our legal system shields science from religion, a traditional rival. Religious doctrine...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 185-232)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-250)
  16. Index
    (pp. 251-256)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-257)