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Journal of Long-Term Effects of Medical Implants
Abstract of "How the Science of Complexity Challenges the Way We Do Ethics"
Center for Bioethics, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
Our notions of ethical analysis are deeply informed by specific visions of science. This is clearly seen in our concepts of risk, as well as in principles of precaution. In both of these cases, we find an account of science that assumes that the world can be decomposed into bits and pieces, and that a perturbation of interest can be isolated and managed as a discrete event. This vision of science is at odds with several emerging areas in bioengineering, where complexity and evolutionary or ecological notions of adaptive systems provide alternative strategies for managing uncertainty. Although few can clearly identify the reasons for the dissonance, this divergence of visions can lead to a deep antipathy between scientists and engineers, on one hand, and ethicists and policy analysts, on the other. To overcome this gap, a far richer dialogue is needed between the two cultures, and certain essential features of both ethics and engineering need to be reconceptualized in such a way that proactive management of potential social disruptions is seen as a part of an iterative research and design activity, which modifies structures in the process of their unfolding development.
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