COVID-19 has revealed that science needs to learn how to better deal with the irreducible uncertainty that comes with global systemic risks as well as with the social responsibility of science towards the public good. Further developing the epistemological principles of new theories and experimental practices, alternative investigative pathways and communication, and diverse voices can be an important contribution of history and philosophy of science and of science studies to ongoing transformations of the scientific enterprise.
Like every major new technology, genetic engineering is affecting the hopes and fears of many people. The risks involved are perceived differently by different groups. One group regards genetic engineering as a simple extension of older techniques with no special risks, e.g. traditional breeding. This conservative denial of special risks is confronted with a different kind of conservatism from a group which, in the name of the preservation of nature, opposes any kind of genetic engineering. A third group, rooted in (...) the liberal tradition, is prepared to accept the risks of genetic engineering as long as they are outweighed by prospective benefits. The liberal as well as the two conservative approaches, however, face serious difficulties in trying to develop a sound ethical argument concerning genetic engineering. In order to avoid these difficulties, an ethical approach focused on paradigmatic examples of good and evil is proposed. Such examples constitute rules of moral description, much as standards of measurement constitute rules of physical description. These rules are elaborated and interpreted in processes of social learning. In the present state of development of genetic engineering, such social learning requires appropriate institutional procedures. (shrink)