In the Age of Biotechnology, there is no more pressing question than whether a philosophy of science exists and translates into a notion that—with or without qualification—the sovereignty of science is central to the advancement of society and should be totally emancipated from concurrence or oversight by society at large. Far too many Americans choose neither to be “informed” nor to accept the responsibilities of citizenship to participate fully in a deliberative democracy—they have chosen instead to exercise their “right” to remain ignorant. Consequently, science reigns without restraint or even review. The scientific community has a coordinated responsibility to society, in general, to disclose to and educate the public about its research agendas in a transparent and understandable manner. In order to meet this responsibility, however, factual data—not “junk” science—is an absolute requirement for an “educated” partnership of interest between society and science in order to flourish.
Lawmakers and the courts must be in alignment with the march of science. For society to remain apathetic and for the legal system to fail to be responsive to advancement guarantees societal malaise or uneasiness and results in an absolute sovereignty of science. Both in dialogue and policy making, however, a principle of precaution has been introduced and accepted domestically and internationally as a means of mediation. This precautionary principle serves as a construct for evaluating scientific and biotechnological undertakings, which would create more potential risks rather than benefits before proceeding. In essence, this is a cost/benefit analysis.
This Article investigates the steps which need to be undertaken in order to ensure that scientific conduct is legitimized—and thereby recognized—as indispensable for global peace and progress. Contemporary philosophy of science embraces the positive value of scientific investigations that are not only useful and practical but also, at the same time, view biotechnology as a tool for viewing the whole of life in a positive, affirming way. Such a philosophy must seek to accommodate what may be seen as a shared partnership rather than codify an absolute sovereignty of science.
George P. Smith II, Restricting Scientific Legitimacy in the Age of Biotechnology?, 24 Or. Rev. Int’l L. 1 (2023).