The true, the good, and the beautiful : the dark side of humanist science ; a study in the anthropology of science and social history
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How do we systematise our knowledge without undermining mores and beliefs that have thus far guided our conduct? How do we account for free will in a cosmos made of molecules and universal laws? Is a metaphysical rebellion against the absurdity of a universe devoid of ethical significance unavoidable? Is this rebellion inevitably leading to the organization of the world in exclusively human terms? These are the problems that have been tackled among others by Dostoevskij, Kafka, Dickens, and Camus, thinkers who framed questions of paramount importance without finding persuasive answers (Davison 1997; Dodd 1992; Lary 1973). These are the same problems that many bio-scientists have grappled with in the past and I analyze the solutions they have identified. This work of mine could be seen as a follow-up to the qualitative survey carried out by Kerr, Cunningham-Burley, and Amos in 1998 among British scientists and clinicians with a well-established reputation. That investigation looked into the way the latter distance themselves from the dark shadow of eugenics and revealed that die equation of old eugenics and new genetics is deemed irrational because; scientific knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds ever since o the socio-political circumstances are radically different as coercion is unthinkable and the final decision rests with the individual who is protected by the principle of informed choice; o the aims of eugenics simply cannot be technically met; o the new genetics involves therapeutic aims as opposed to eugenics that concentrated on the alteration of the human gene pool; o the application of science is not necessarily one of scientists' main concerns; My contention is that these objections are too facile and unpersuasive. I submit that there is an obvious connection between how the existential and humanistic side of science failed to prove humanitarian, namely benevolent, compassionate and ultimately useful - the good -, the effort by several academicians to ground ethics on scientific evidence - the true -, And our incapacity to confront abnormality - the beautiful. This connection is eugenics. Eugenics is the scientific response to modern existential angst and social predicaments and is here to stay.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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