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BBCSS Member Spotlight
|From the Fall 2012 BBCSS Newsletter|
Jonathan D. Moreno, Ph.D., IOM
David and Lyn Silfen University Professor of Ethics
Professor of Medical Ethics and of History and Sociology of Science
University of Pennsylvania
In this issue we interview Jonathan Moreno, a member of BBCSS since 2010.
What is your current position and area of research?
I teach medical ethics and health policy and history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania. For the past few years I’ve focused on the intersection of bioethics and national security (especially neuroscience, in my book Mind Wars), and the politics of biology (in my book The Body Politic).
What led you to this field/area of research?
I am generally interested in the role of bioethical issues in society, especially in sectors outside of medicine. I became aware of the relationship between bioethics and national security when I worked as senior staff on a presidential advisory committee in the Clinton administration. That committee was concerned with federally sponsored human radiation experiments since World War II. When I became a senior fellow at a DC think tank in 2005 (the Center for American Progress), I was also co-chairing an NRC committee on human embryonic stem cell research. So while I was negotiating the awkward role of an advocate (at CAP), and an academic (for the NRC), I wondered how the politics surrounding cutting-edge biology fit into the larger story of science in America, both historically and philosophically.
What, in your opinion, has been the greatest achievement in the field of behavioral, cognitive, and sensory sciences?
Wow, that’s hard. I won’t be cornered in identifying any one achievement. The field embodies what is to my mind the characteristic feature of science in the 21st century, namely the convergence of disciplines. And because that convergence involves spanning bureaucratic and organizational borders, its especially important to have this Board.
Where do you see this field progressing over the next 10 years?
From the study of the history of science, one thing I know about prediction is that it’s likely to be wrong, so I won’t make any specific ones. However, I do think we will learn so much about the sensoria and the way they construct, what Kant would have called the "world of appearances," that we will have to re-write the epistemology books – or rather, the next generation will.
What is the best part of being on BBCSS?
Really, I am so impressed with the Academies staff. They are like a university faculty unto themselves. I’ve seen them tackle some projects that I thought were next to impossible to bring home.
If you could meet anyone from history who would it be?
When I told my professor in graduate school that I had family connections to a certain philosopher I was reading, he suggested that any such encounter might not add, or might even detract, from my experience of the work. Nonetheless, at this stage of my life I’d like to have dinner with the founder of my university, Benjamin Franklin, if only to enjoy the one-liners. George Orwell is a close second, though I don’t think that would be a lot of laughs.
What was the last great book you read?
Too many great books, so little time. One recent read that made a big impression on me is the late Paul Fussell’s Wartime, about the psychological experience of World War II. He reminds us that propaganda (which was skillfully practiced on both sides), is still the greatest tool for cognitive control known to humankind.