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Debate surrounding science, ethics and politics explored

March 26, 2008

KALAMAZOO--The concern that a growing number of people may be ignoring scientific knowledge and the impact that has on ethical and political questions will be explored in a panel discussion at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, in Room 210 of the Bernhard Center at Western Michigan University.

The presentation, titled "Science, Ethics and Politics: Are They Compatible?" will feature WMU professors and ethicists and a longtime newspaper science writer. Panel members include Dr. Paul Pancella, professor of physics and chair of the WMU Department of Physics; Dr. Stephen Malcolm, professor of biological sciences; and Bill Krasean, who for 20 years covered science, health and the environment for the Kalamazoo Gazette. Dr. Shirley Bach, professor emeritus of philosophy and associate director of the WMU Center for the Study of Ethics in Society, will serve as moderator.

At a time that science has vastly increased understanding of the modern world and technology is increasing dramatically, public understanding of science seems to be declining. Yet public understanding of science and technology is believed necessary for effective citizen participation in public policy decision-making. Panelists will address such questions as: Do we agree on the nature and goals of science? What is it and what is it not? What should be the role of government and the political process in translating scientific knowledge for the public? Has science been misappropriated by politics or is there honest and transparent cooperation between scientists and politicians?

Discussion topics will include the role of political appointees with partisan agendas on such issues such as the health effects of global warming and environmental contaminants, preparedness for epidemic flu, the cause of autism and whether children should receive vaccinations, the content of high school science curricula and others. The discussion is presented by the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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