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December 6, 1995

Profession of Conscience: The Making and Meaning of Life-Sciences Liberalism

Author Affiliations

Northwestern University Evanston, Ill

JAMA. 1995;274(21):1723. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530210079039

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The idea that science is a social process carried out within a network of historical, political, and ethical considerations has become well accepted among modern students of science. Sprinkle, with his training as both a physician and a public policy specialist, provides us with a remarkably accessible and complete analysis of the path that the life sciences (eg, biology, ecology, and medicine) have attempted to navigate through these cultural and political currents. The goal, according to Sprinkle, is the development of an ethics designed specifically by and for those who study life and who develop the biotechnological, medical, or environmental applications of such basic biological research.

The "liberal" ethics that Sprinkle attempts to find within the political-ethical traditions of the life sciences and to formalize in his book is both individual regarding and rights based. This use of the word "liberal" may strike many modern nonphilosophers as strange. Nonetheless, it

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