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December 1998


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Chris Young <[log in to unmask]>
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Mon, 7 Dec 1998 12:30:17 -0600
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From:  "Cor van der Weele" <[log in to unmask]>

Session Proposal on Biology and Ethics
Normative questions on biological knowledge: frustrations and

It is not controversial that scientific inquiry is subject to ethical
evaluation, in that human rights have to be respected, and
'unnecessary'animal suffering has to be avoided, to put it very
briefly. When it comes to the content of scientific knowledge, the
relevance of ethics is much more controversial. Science has a strong
internal normativity to the effect that more knowledge is better.
Choices about the direction of knowledge gathering should be defined
within scientific disciplines and on scientific grounds, not on
ethical grounds and certainly not by scientific outsiders, or so at
least many scientists think. But given the almost direct enormous
practical implications of much modern genetic and biotechnological
knowledge acquisition, many outsiders wonder whether the direction of
scientific research should not be subject to social and moral
judgment. This situation is the basis of a crisis of trust between
scientists and non-scientists, which has conceptual as well as social
aspects. In this session, I propose to look at the frustrating as well
as the happy experiences in the relation between biology and ethics,
with regard to the content of knowledge. The goal is to enrich the
diagnosis and to define in which directions there may be promise for
the relationship. In order to reach that goal, it may be fruitful to
pay attention to:
- empirical as well as analytical dimensions of the relation between
biology and ethics
- mutual images of biology and ethics, and of science and lay
- the implications of various definitions of the task of ethics in
relation to science

Cor van der Weele
Center for Bioethics and Health Law (CBG)
Utrecht University
Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS Utrecht
The Netherlands
Tel: (+31) 30 2539408 / 2534399
Fax: (+31) 30 2539410
e-mail: [log in to unmask]