A controversial moral issue is something that is perceived by a population to be crossing, or close to crossing, the boundary of what is acceptable in society. The specific morals of a person are defined by their value system and their zeitgeist. The value system of an individual is determined by their genetics (e.g. temperament, race, sex, etc.) and environment (e.g. culture, religion, socioeconomic status, etc.). Science, morals, and politics will be discussed, as well as their effect on each other.
Science influences political issues in the United States by motivating citizens to vote for propositions that provide funding for research and for those who will hold a public office and endorse certain sides of scientific issues. The main controversial issues regarding science today are abortion and stem cell research. Generally, those individuals who believe that abortion or stem cell research are morally wrong will vote against propositions and political candidates who support those types of research. Many have difficulty supporting abortion and stem cell research due to moral conflicts such as Don Marquis’s argument of a future like ours (Kuflik, 2008). This argues that embryos that are destroyed don’t have a chance to have a full future like the rest of the population. However, it can be argued that those who are suffering from diseases and cancers, that can possible be cured by stem cell research, aren’t able to have a full future either.
Science influences moral issues because new knowledge of scientific developments can, for many, dispel incorrect notions or shed new light on scientific advances. As mentioned earlier, a controversial topic that has shown this recently is stem cell research. People during this current zeitgeist tend to believe that it is immoral to clone whole human bodies. However, stem cells have shown that we are able to grow identical healthy body parts of human beings. There is also potential to find cures for diseases that in the past have been thought to be incurable, such as cancer and various diseases of the brain, like Alzheimer’s disease. This new information that science has brought us leaves many battling with their morals on the issue of cloning. Some experts suggest that just cloning body parts can work if research is correctly regulated by the government (Sandel, 2004). One such regulation would be to not allow cloning of whole human bodies.
Political issues influence science by deciding whether the government will allocate funding or use laws to restrict scientific research. Recently in the news, President-Elect Obama has been talking about reversing restrictions on stem cell research that have been put in place by the Bush Administration in 2001 (Olemacher, S. 2008).
Moral issues influence science by generating a consensus in the population on what is right and wrong. This eventually leads the population to have an influence on political issues, such as voting for funding, laws to restrict certain scientific research, and to elect political candidates that will follow through on their beliefs on what should be done about scientific research.
The many different value systems in society creates a difficult problem in deciding what is right and wrong when regarding scientific research. Science, morals, and politics all have an effect on each other. Science effects morals and politics by providing new information for voters and politicians to shape the amount of funding and laws that are put in place. The funding and laws that are put in place come back around to create a full circle and affect scientific research.
Kuflik, A. 2008. The ‘future like ours’ argument and human embryonic stem cell research. Journal of Medical Ethics. 34(6): 417-421.
Ohlemacher, S. (2008, November 10). Obama to use executive orders for immediate impact. The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/09/AR2008110900860.html?sub=new. [accessed 2008 November 13]
Sandel, M. J., 2004. Embryo Ethics The moral logic of stem-cell research. New England Journal of Medicine. 351(3): 207-209.