Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Editorial: Ethics and Neurosciences and Cognitive Sciences

Ethics of Science and Technology:
explorations of the frontiers of science and ethics

A collection of selected publications by
the first two laureates of the Avicenna Prize for Ethics in Science

Henry Greely has an editorial in Science magazine this week titled "On Neuroethics". Henry Greely is a Professor of Law at Stanford University who has long worked on legal and ethical issues in the biosciences.

Neuroscience and cognitive science have grown greatly. For example, on 3 November 2007, the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting is expected to draw more than 30,000 scientists to discuss brains. New knowledge has begun to spill out from the laboratory into society and as a result new ethical, legal, and social concerns are being created.
"The brains of "normal" people in some imaging studies yield clinically significant findings disconcertingly often: 8 to 10% of the time in some studies. What kind of information and follow-up do we owe those people? Other studies may have military implications: Suppose brain stimulation created an indefinitely awake and alert soldier or pilot? Will neuroscience be a new source of dual-use technologies such as those we worry about for biological or chemical warfare? Other researchers are studying "the neuroscience of ethics," as philosophers and neuroscientists explore how brains make decisions when confronted with moral dilemmas. The implications are unclear, but the work is fascinating."
Last year the Neuroethics Society was created as an interdisciplinary group of scholars, scientists and clinicians who share an interest in the social, legal, ethical and policy implications of advances in neuroscience. More generally,the growing interconnections between moral philosophy and research that draws upon neuroscience, developmental psychology, and evolutionary biology.requires serious attention from a broad interdisciplinary perspective.

Greely emphasizes that more work has to be done to develop Neuroethics:
In these days of tight federal budgets, money is hard to get. But to fund science without supporting work on its social consequences will ensure that the neuroscience revolution brings far too much social pain and chaos along with its scientific and medical breakthroughs.
UNESCO held a meeting in 1995 on the topic of Ethics and Neurosciences. Moreover, within UNESCO's Social and Human Sciences Program, there is an Ethics program with substantial programs on:
The ethics of neuroscience and cognitive science and their expanding applications and technologies raises concerns that would benefit not only from discussion within the United States, but in an international forum. Not only could multicultural perspectives help to clarify the ethical issues, but would help to avoid and/or resolve intercultural misunderstandings and conflict.

UNESCO is the obvious venue for such discussions. It is to be hoped that the U.S. National Commission will strongly recommend to the State Department that the permanent delegation recommend UNESCO become more important in the evolving debates about the ethics of neuroscience and cognitive science.

1 comment:

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