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FORUM I
PROGRAMME THEMATIC MEETINGS

I.11  Science, Ethics and Responsibilty

 

Ethical principles and values in science. Promotion of science for peaceful purposes. Ethical challenges of modern scientific developments. Good practices and conduct in scientific research. Education of scientists as conscientious and responsible citizens and contributors to the culture of peace.

Chair: Vigdis Finnbogadottir Chair, World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology; Iceland
Rapporteur: Matthias Kaiser Chair, ICSU/SCRES; Norway

Session co-ordinator: G. Kutukdjian Director, Division of Ethics of Science and Technology, UNESCO
Local secretary: tdb


ABSTRACTS:

The increasing gap between North and South:
a globalization paradox

Josť M. Cantķ
Latin American Genome Project; University of Guadalajara, Mexico

North and South have been commonly identified with the developed and developing countries, despite some that appear in the wrong hemisphere. The outstanding achievements of science and technology are ending many geographical obstacles at the end of our century, allowing globalization, which, so far, is being operated by economists and politicians. Nevertheless, globalization is becoming more and more difficult to reach given the differences between the rich and the poor, which, in the last third of this century, have had at least a two fold increase with all consequent disparities in the access to health and education. In biomedical sciences the gap between developed and developing countries is constantly increasing. For example, more than 40,000 people will receive doctoral degrees this year in the USA, whereas less than 4,000 will do in Latin America. Such an abysmal difference has been similar every year of the last half of the century, which is reflected in many other parameters of scientific development.

Genocides, apparent or in disguise, are occurring in many countries under irrational rationalizations. There is an underlying process of dehumanization due to the overwhelming temptation of money that has led to an outrageous consuming excess submissively adopted by most cultures on earth. Globalization means integration, inclusion, incorporation. We must learn to love globalization. Many sacrifices are necessary to abandon patriotic traditions, customs and beliefs. At the end we all will be earthlings.

Globalization at the scientific level requires the effort of both developed and developing countries scientific communities. The exchange of scientists sounds as a logical initiative. A Northern country could associate with affinity Southern countries to do research of common interest. For instance, European Institutions could build up biomedical laboratories to study AIDS and tropical diseases in Africa. Of course, those who have more must share more.

Human cloning: the ethics of replicating us

Margaret Somerville
Director, Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, McGill University, Canada

Human cloning confronts us, in a profound and dramatic way, with the ethical dilemmas and choices faced as a result of recent, extraordinary scientific advances. t raises the critical ethical question: What, if anything, will we choose not to do with the new science, because we believe that to do it would be inherently wrong? Most contemporary societal level žethics talk is based on situational ethics, a view that nothing is inherently wrong, rather it all depends on the circumstances. This approach helps us to avoid the great difficulty of establishing consensus about inherent wrongness in pluralistic, democratic, multicultural, secular societies - let alone in a global context. Such consensus might even be impossible when we no longer have a commonly agreed upon external moral authority - whether God, religion or a monarch - to whom to appeal as the arbiter of right and wrong. Our pluralistic values base also means that we focus our ethical analysis mainly on the physical risks of interventions such as human cloning: We might agree on these risks. We tend to exclude consideration of metaphysical risks - threats to the values, beliefs, attitudes, and norms on which we base our individual and collective lives - on which we do not agree. This approach to determining the ethics of human cloning places us in grave danger of damaging important žmemesÓ (units of deep cultural information handed down from generation to generation) and the žshared storyÓ which we buy into in order to create social cohesion, community and society. We need these intangible realities to give meaning to our lives and to live fully human lives. Difficulties faced in prohibiting human cloning range from the relatively long time it takes to ždo ethicsÓ, as compared with the very rapid pace of scientific advancement, to arguments that great good can come out of such science and that it is impossible to stop. Moreover, as we become familiar with new scientific interventions which initially illicit a powerful reaction that they are unethical, our dread of them and our ethical disapproval decreases, not always with justification. There is a role for ethical anxiety in guiding our moral responses. Scientists need to recognise this and that public fear of cloning is not just a hysterical reaction of uneducated Luddites and, therefore, the solution is not simply better science education. Scientists must not act first and consider the human consequences later. Finally, in ethically evaluating human cloning and other new reproductive technologies, we must change the primary focus of our concern. We need to put the child at the centre of the Žinfertility business, not the infertile person or couple, as has so far been the case. Ethical concerns in this context include physical and psychological risks to the child, the possibility of new forms of genetic discrimination, risks to important values governing human bonding and the family, and the impact on values of the commercialisation of human reproduction, in particular, human cloning.

Science, ethics and responsibility
in a globalized economy

Shem O. Wandiga
Chairman, Kenya National Academy of Sciences, Kenya

Science develops through individual’s curiosity about the understanding of the secrets of nature. It is moulded through the organization and testing of known facts which leads to discovery of new facts. Discovery costs and requires inputs from society or busines organizations. Establishment of research centres such as universities, research institutes are essential for promotion of science. These are the "incubators of knowledge" which must be supported by centres for the transformation of knowledge to goods and services, or "incubators of technology". Most developing countries science policy put emphasis on the first incubators and ignores the latter. Vibrant and thriving science requires full development of both incubators of knowledge and technologies supported with sound macro-economic policies. Development in science necessitates changes in economic laws and vise versa. Full participation of developing countries in research for the understanding of natural phenomena is an essential mechanism for international cooperation in science.

Establishment of ethics of Science by scientists has over the years greatly improved the practice of science. Continued enforcement of ethics of science by the scientific community to control malpractices like plagiarism, mistreatment of test animals, experimentation with humans and environmental damage requires vigilancy.

On the other hand, few societies, especially in the south, have developed ethics for science. Advances in science have brought to focus the difficulty in choice between right and wrong in all societies. Such advances as achieved in the fields of genetic engineering, atomic physics and the unification of forces theory, solid state chemistry and physics, communication, development of biological and chemical warfare agents, to name a few, today challenge our beliefs in super-natural forces, cultural beliefs and traditions and moral values. Under such conditions, what was previously an individual or society's decision now becomes a global decision with global impacts. Therefore, it is in the ethics for science and ethics in science that we have major problems and challenges.

The major aim of science has been to benefit humanity. Today science must also benefit the environment. Free access to knowledge for research and library use has been the cornerstone of scientific development and verification. These principles that have greatly contributed to the improvement of humanity is today threatened by the invention of patent laws and market forces. The benefit of science to humanity and environment have been hawkered to the market forces under the secrecy of patents. While economic development imperatives are essential and cannot be ignored, the question which must be answered is, "How responsible are we when we see thousands die yet their lives could be saved or prolonged?" Must the "ability to pay" completely cancel our senses for the "ability to benefit"?

The precautionary principle

Biserka Belicza
Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, Croatia

It was almost five hundred years ago when European philosophers, starting with Thomas Morus Utopia (1516) announced the possibility of an ideal commonwealths based upon the increase of knowledge, advancements of natural science and technology. Hundred years later Francis Bacon in his Sylva Sylvarum (1627) provides a list of General natural achievements especially in respect to their use by man which includes: The prolonging of life; The restitution of youth in some degree; The retardation of Age; The curing diseases counted incurable; The mitigation of pain; More easier and less loathsome purging; The increasing ability to suffer torture or pain; The altering of complexions and fatness and leanness; The altering of statures; The altering of features; The increasing and exalting of intellectual parts; Version of bodies into another bodies; Making new species; Transplanting of one species into another; Instruments of destruction as of war and poison; Exhilaration of the spirits and putting them in good disposition; Force of the Imagination either upon another body or upon the body itself; Acceleration of time in maturation and clarifications; Acceleration of putrefaction; Acceleration of Decoction; Acceleration of Germination; Making rich composts for the earth; Impressions of the air and raising of tempests; Great alteration of induration, emolliention etc.; Turning crude and watery substances into oily and unctuous substances; Drawing new foods out of substances not now in use; Making new threads for apparel and new stuffs such as are paper, glass, etc; Natural divinations; Deceptions of senses". At the time when it was written, this list probably looked as desirable science fiction and there was no need to raise the question of the principle of precaution for a scientist from the perspective of an scientist, scientific community, society or citizens, even as a hypothetical one.

Today, Bacon’s list looks like an announcement of the present and future research strategy. It is no more utopian, it is becoming a reality with all predictable and unpredictable consequences. Scientific research is no more a matter of individual interest of dedicated explorers and discoverers, it became a powerful industry of producing new knowledge and new technologies.

Governed with or being used for the market economy based upon the principle of profit and political power, joined with the struggle for social and professional recognition, science cannot any more be a priori considered as ethical, moral, progressive, beneficent and harmless.

However, it is rather symptomatic that these aspects have been primarily recognised in the field of medicine and biomedical research, although medicine and biomedical research are just a top of an ice-berg which indicates very complex substructure and interactions originating from the basic scientific postulates and contemporary scientific knowledge.

We may not forget that medicine is just an perfect and ultimate medium for practical implementation, testing, verification and evaluation of scientific ideas and technology, their relations and interactions. It provides very complex biological, social, economical and political enterprise for scientific observations and experiments in the time of prosperity or disasters, in the time of peace or wars, either in a short or long term study.

In the comparison with the abundance of medical professional conducts, conventions, declarations and guidelines regulating medicine, health care and biomedical research on universal, national, local and institutional level, there is a clear gap in development of such instruments for scientists, researchers and scientific research in general or in particular scientific branch.

Increasing consciousness of the possible damaging impacts of science, technology and scientific investigations on global plane, demands the rethinking of the declarative principle of the freedom of research and requires the raising of the question of responsibility of the individual scientists and researchers involved into the scientific research.

With the respect of the principle of precaution, such orientation will accomplish the question of values, ideals, duty, morals, honesty, virtues and standards, the question of prevention, handling and investigation of misconduct and fraud, plagiarism and dishonesty in scientific research, the question of goals, methods, risks, subjects and objects of research, as well as the question of decision-making based upon the individual informed choices of the scientist, researchers and citizens.

Scientific power, economic power, political power

Rynichi Ida
President, International Bioethics Committee; Japan

Science is a source of power. In the contemporary interdependent world, "Power" means rather "Scientific Power" as well as "Economic Power". It is true that the science and technology has become a kind of ultimate source of power at least in three aspects: (1)Scientific progress made a tremendous development of communicational ability of humankind, and made the earth as "ONE"; (2)Science and technology are the basis of industrial capability of people, and thus determine the economic power of a given community; (3)In particular, the genome science may control the whole human life. We should recognise such characteristics of the science, because these natures of science in our contemporary world give rise to various social, ethical and cultural problems. How scientists should reply to these problems? And what are the roles of scientists, of people including media, and of governments, respectively.

Freedom of scientific research is basically free and, as such, a part of freedom of thought recognised as human rights. So this freedom should be guaranteed in every country and in everywhere. However, science will not make its true progress for the service of humanity in claiming only such a freedom. Scientific research needs some "practical" elements. (1)status for fully enjoying freedom : independence ; (2)environment enabling and facilitating research : material and financial circumstances; (3)societal acknowledgement on the results of research : patent or publication.

In each of these elements, difficulties come up to the scientists. Sometimes scientists feel bound by some constraints, psychological, material, financial or even social. Often scientists lack financial or material support, especially in the fields of basic scientific research which has apparently few practical benefits. On the one hand, there are those who succeed in inventions and discoveries or in publishing books and articles, and, on the other, those who feel lost. However, some constraints should not be neglected in promoting scientific research, because science and scientific research have their existence in a given society. We may take the genome science as an example to show what are the issues involved in developing this field of science in our time.

The genome science has two components, namely, research on human genome that on genome other than human. The human genome research, on the one hand, may be applied to innovative treatment and prevention of diseases. But, with the possibility of manipulating genes, and so human life, it will cause various social and ethical issues, and encounters the logic of the market economy. The human genome research may change in the very near future the conception of the human dignity as well as the that of identity and diversity of each human being. What we call "Bioethics" will surely play a central role. The patent issue is all the more important not only in developed countries but also in the developing states. Technology transfer and publication of information are at stake.

The research other than of human genome has its profound implications on the industrial and, in particular, agricultural applications and on the environment, especially on the bio-diversity. Some unknown risk of producing some natural living being should be envisaged.

How we realise our potential power of science? Three actions may be efficient. First, all the information on the results of genome research should be published, with or without patent scheme following cases. Second, the education on genome science, or rather on sciences in general is indispensable from the early stage of the youth. And finally, the State plays a crucial role in founding the whole power of its nation. The remaining question is in what way the State may make all the potential power of its people in action for progress.

 

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