MARS HILL AUDIO Reprint 8

Yuval Levin, "The Moral Challenge of Modern Science"

(from The New Atlantis, Fall 2006)

It is commonly assumed that science is a morally neutral set of practices which may be used for good or bad purposes. But Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, insists that science has always been "a profoundly moral enterprise, aimed at improving the condition of the human race, relieving suffering, enhancing health, and enriching life." Because this moral dynamic is so deeply assumed, our society finds it difficult to assess how we ought to use science when the improvement of health comes into conflict with other social goods. In this article, Levin calls for a more deliberate awareness of how science shapes how we ask and answer moral questions together. Read by Ken Myers. 44 minutes

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    “ . . . The notion that science is morally neutral is . . . widely held by scientists. . . .”
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    “THE IDEALISM OF SCIENCE—The modern scientific project was not conceived or born as a morally neutral quest after facts. . . .”
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    “THE PRIMARY GOOD—As he wrote the earliest chapters in the story of modern science, Descartes had already grasped the nub of the matter. . . .”
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    “SCIENCE AND SELF-GOVERNMENT—There are, of course, different ways for politics to exert authority over science. To distort or hide unwelcome facts—that is, to manipulate the findings of scientific investigation for political ends—is surely an illegitimate tactic. . . .”
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    “OUR MORAL FORGETFULNESS—In part, the supposed supremacy of scientific authority is rooted in the fact that science builds its understanding cumulatively—so that it always knows more today than it knew yesterday. . . .”
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    “‘IF WE CAN PUT A MAN ON THE MOON . . .’—By its very success and its impressive power, then, the scientific mindset convinces us that it is the path to the only knowledge worth knowing. . . .”
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    “SCIENCE AND ETHICS—As the ability of science to remake the natural world continues to expand, science itself, or at least our concession to its authority, has left us increasingly powerless to decide how best to use our novel mastery. . . .”