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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Science journalist warns against the "institutionalised idolatry of science"

A friend sends this report by Geoffrey Lean, "Beware scientists who insist they always know best" from the Daily Mail, in which he notes,
In far-reaching, hotly debated votes over the past two days, MPs have been making decisions that get to the very essence of what it is to be human, when it is right to kill and how far we should go in order to save lives.”

[ ... ]

“Shamefully, the worst offenders have been the scientists and their supporters, the very people who make the loudest claims to rationality and of being swayed by facts not fundamentalism.”

None of that should be any cause for surprise. As a bioethicist told me years ago, some scientists would like nothing better than to get their hands on live human beings that they could do anything they wanted to.

I do not know why anyone should be surprised by that. A decision to go into science no more guarantees morality than a decision to go into policing or social work. Morality must be determined by what happens after that.

If the mystique of science (what Lean quotes Professor Brian Wynne of LancasteraUniversity as calling "the institutionalised idolatry of science") blinds us, we will all be guilty along with the perpetrators.

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