Bioethics is Not a Science

From the Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine


Both western and eastern civilizations have linked moral teaching with theology followed by philosophy. New-knowledge-seekers about natural world, were called ‘natural philosophers’. There was a paradigm shift during industrial revolution in western world which culminated in modern science. The word “scientist” was coined during the 19th century. The paper examines whether natural philosophers could be called ‘scientists’? A short history of philosophical paradigm shift is given.

Although written moral and “ethical principles” were in vogue from the time of Hammurabi (1750–1795 BC), the phenomenon of bioethics is very recent. Bioethics is a bridge among different sciences and a bridge to the future. The question is: Is bioethics, by itself, science? The present paper is concerned with the quality of bioethics and about the nature of science during the next 30–50 years.

Science is value-free but bioethics is value-loaded. Science does not proclaim any value whereas bioethics underlines the moral life and its value to survive. The paper examines two issues: Can science be bioethics-friendly? and (ii) Can bioethics be science-friendly? It appears that both science and bioethics are incompatible. We need to develop a new system of knowledge to include/infuse the bioethical-notion of values in (into) science. Such a move may necessitate the development of an alternate but new model. Bioethics is not a science-discipline. A new term to replace science is needed. Elevating bioethics as an academic science may create job openings in India.

Keywords: Science, Scientists, Bioethics, Immoral sciences, Evolutionary ethics, morals

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