Program on Science and Ethics


The Program on Science and Ethics seeks to address urgent questions pertaining to the treatment of human beings at every stage of development and in all conditions. Its special focus is on questions of what is owed, as a matter of justice, to those in the earliest stages of life and those in the weakest and most vulnerable conditions. The Program seeks to identify sound principles of justice and human rights to govern the development and use of biotechnologies. It also seeks to identify standards by which to evaluate proposals for enhancing human beings by interventions designed to make them smarter, stronger, more beautiful, or better in other ways. Subjects of the Program’s study include embryo-destructive research, alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells, genetic enhancement, embryo adoption, abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, and the formation of human chimeras.

The Stem Cell Debates: Lessons from Science and Politics

In its inaugural report, the Witherspoon Council on Ethics and the Integrity of Science considers the proper relationship between science, ethics, and politics by examining the most prominent science-related controversy of the past decade: the stem cell debates. These debates touched on fundamental questions concerning the governance of science and the moral status of embryonic human life. More than just a scholarly assessment of those debates, this report seeks to improve the public understanding of how science and democratic politics relate, including the responsibilities of scientists and policymakers. The Council considers the inevitable interplay between science and ethics and the conflicts of interest that arise when scientists are both advisors to policymakers and petitioners for their allocations. Among the reports most crucial lessons is that, in our system of participatory republican government, we are responsible for considering not only the potential benefits of scientific research but also the ethical implications of that research.