In “The Moral Imperative for Bioethicists,” Steven Pinker argues that ethicists should not use their philosophical distinctions and niceties to slow down research. “Given this potential bonanza, the primary moral goal for today’s bioethics can be summarized in a single sentence. Get out of the way. A truly ethical bioethics should not bog down research in red tape, moratoria, or threats of prosecution based on nebulous but sweeping principles such as ‘dignity,’ ‘sacredness,’ or ‘social justice.’ Nor should it thwart research that has likely benefits now or in the near future by sowing panic about speculative harms in the distant future.”
Paul Bloom says no. “It is a mistake to see the powerful and unique morality that modern humans possess as a divine gift. Doing so distracts us from its origin as a cultural accomplishment, best understood in terms of processes such as the exercise of reason and imagination … .”
Are the humanities (including especially philosophy) and science two separate and independent methods that deal with two separate and independent realms? Or should they be integrated with each contributing to the other? Or, as Arts & Letters Daily summarized the discussion: “An academic turf and budget battle is under way between science and the humanities. Are you for porous borders or a two-state solution?” Is science the single best way to figure out what reality is and how we ought to live our lives, or is it philosophy’s task to tell science what its limits are? This is “round three” of a discussion initiated by Steven Pinker and then picked up by Leon Wieseltier. The “round three” exchange includes links to the first two rounds. And here is Daniel Dennett’s comment on the debate.