May 20, 2024


A letter in Nature has called upon scientists to distinguish between science and ethics. David Campbell, of the University of Alabama, was commenting on a common criticism of the Bush Administration amongst scientists. There have been persistent complaints that it has been misrepresenting and distorting science in areas such as the environment, stem cell research, and sexual health.

Dr Campbell points out that scientists need to distinguish clearly between science and ethics. For example, determining whether reducing environmental protection will have an adverse effect upon a rare species is a question of science. But the decision of whether rare species should be protected is a question of ethics.

Similarly, in an line of reasoning which is rarely aired in Nature, Dr Campbell says that the decision of whether to value scientific and medical advances more than the destruction of an embryo is not a scientific question, but an ethical one. “Thus, instead of being an example of science versus anti-science, this is a case of competing ethical claims.”