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Thursday, January 10, 2008

scientific advances and human values, Often At Opposite Ends

Scientific advances often clash with human core values, creating a unique tension in the relationship between science and society, according to Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., the chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS),

Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provided the introduction for Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., the featured speaker at the recent 28th annual Joseph W. Mountin Lecture, held at CDC.

Gerberding described Leshner as a remarkable leader with "a mature and wise vision of how important it is that we respect public values as we think about what science can do and how we utilize the results of that science."

Leshner framed his comments around a quote from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Leshner stated that science was experiencing the best of times in regards to remarkable medical and technological advances, such as understanding the workings of the human brain and embryonic stem cell research. However, the worst of times are being experienced when society impacts science by imposing moral, political and religious views that threaten to slow down or interfere with scientific progress.

"This overlay of values is having tremendous consequences for the science-society relationship," says Leshner. "Society wants to influence the course of science—not just in a positive way and to pose new questions—but people are saying, "I don't want the answer to that.' It's creating a divide."

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