An Ethical and Progressive Scientific Policy

| 7/7/2009 4:17:14 PM

Eight years of scientific repression under the Bush administration gave progressives an overly idealized view of science. President Obama was hailed after issuing an order promising that his administration would “base our public policies on the soundest science.” Taken to an extreme, Marcy Darnovsky writes for Democracy Journal, that the subjugation of policy to science threatens progressive ethics. Biomedical advancements from cloning to sex selection, racially targeted drugs to commercial surrogacy, demand ethical and political discussion and consideration.

Progressives were right to fight against the Bush administration’s suppression of environmental research and the undue influence that fundamentalist Christians had over the public policy, Darnovsky writes. The problem is that eight years of fighting against those policies has left progressives with a kind of dangerous reflexive libertarianism that, according to Darnovsky, has the tendency to “discount the importance of regulation and oversight of scientific practice and application.”

The idealization of science, and the discounting of moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in biomedical advances, also gives fodder to progressivism’s opponents. According to the conservative journal The New Atlantis, “Obama never articulates any moral principle other than the absolute sovereignty of scientific activity.” The journal attacks Obama’s politics as “a kind of techno-aristocracy—hypereducated elites with specialized politico-scientific expertise are singled out to manage the benighted rest of us.”

The United States, in fact, remains an outlier for its lack of oversight for genetic modification, assisted reproduction, and other biomedical technologies, according to Darnovsky. Such medical advances could yield benefits, but ethical considerations should come into play. Instead of insulating science from politics, Darnovsky writes that progressives should seek out an ideology that “welcomes the benefits of human biotechnologies while opposing their harmful, excessive, and unprogressive uses.”

Sources: Democracy Journal (article not available online), The New Atlantis

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