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Foreword j o n a t h a n d . m o r e n o , p h.d. This collection of essays marks an important milestone in the maturation of bioethics. In 1995 I published a book on the nature of moral consensus called Deciding Together. As should happen when an author is truly grappling with the material, I was surprised by the direction I felt impelled to pursue in the last chapter. Having explored bioethical consensus from various disciplinary perspectives , including a theory of morally justifiable consensus processes, I found myself wondering what hazards a field that engaged in moral consensus building would face if the coherence and legitimacy of its intellectual mission were called into question, a development I guessed was inevitable. At that more innocent time in bioethics I did not fully perceive how this might happen, but it was clear that any group of self-appointed professionals who presented themselves as (in some sense or other) experts on ethics was setting itself up for one hell of a lot of scrutiny. As events have unfolded over the ensuing decade the sheer volume of that scrutiny and the raw feelings it has often engendered exceeded anything I then imagined. There were two sources and types of controversy that in retrospect should not have been surprising. One source that was latent in the field from the very beginning was a deep disagreement about the acceptability in principle of technologies that manipulated the products of human reproduction processes, especially when the research or the technologies themselves involved creating, altering , or destroying human embryos. The morality of abortion itself was such an incendiary topic within bioethics circles that, with few exceptions, it seems to have been studiously avoided as a matter of professional discourse. Many concluded that the subject was so hopelessly politicized that no progress could be made in thinking in new ways about the issue, much less constructively influencing public policy. The de facto agreement not to join this issue, which I have elsewhere called the Great Bioethics Compromise, fell apart in the late 1990s (Moreno 2005). The cloning of Dolly the sheep in 1996 and the isolation of human embryonic stem cells in 1998 created public confusion about the related but distinct issues raised by each breakthrough. When President George W. Bush announced his policy of extremely limited funding of embryonic stem cell research and appointed a bioethics advisory council chaired by a bioethicist who has long been perhaps the leading skeptic of artificial reproductive technologies, both professional and popular media carried the voices of an unprecedented, politically supercharged bioethics debate. Academic bioethicists found that someone had crashed the party: A neoconservative Washington policy institute with staff connections to the President ’s Council on Bioethics began a journal of commentary on biotechnology, theologically conservative think tanks declared bioethics programs, and journalists began referring with far greater frequency to “liberal” and “conservative” bioethicists . Many of the newcomers declined to pursue traditional means of entry to the field through several prestigious university centers believed to typify the left-leaning academy. It became clear that the genteel compromise among those who called themselves bioethicists was at an end. It is true that before the end of the compromise there was one sustained “immanent critique” (to borrow the language of critical theory) of the institution of bioethics. Feminist bioethicists raised questions about the selection of issues and the sorts of theoretical strategies dominant in the field (Sherwin 1992; Warren 1992; Wolf 1996). But this discussion nonetheless took place in the polite language and conditions of the academy. However challenging feminist bioethics has been and continues to be of bioethics orthodoxy, it has never abandoned the assumption that mainstream bioethics could and should be saved from itself. The operative question now is, can a scholarly field retain its intellectual legitimacy , both internally and in the eyes of the public, when some of its core topics seem matters of ideology rather than, or at least as much as, expertise? It might be argued that other fields, like economics and sociology, have long been characterized by similar ideological colorings and disputes yet they have retained at least a measure of credibility and cohesion. A critical difference, however, is that bioethicists believe themselves to be engaged in a normative as well as descriptive enterprise, a self-understanding that has given rise to a small but important literature. Through the eighties and nineties there was a low-intensity but continuing debate about how bioethicists could...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780801892264
Print ISBN
9780801886126
MARC Record
OCLC
299751107
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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