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Article
February 19, 1992

Value-Free Science? Purity and Power in Modern Knowledge

Author Affiliations

Burlington, Vt

 

by Robert N. Proctor, 331 pp, $34.95, ISBN 0-674-93170-X, Cambridge, Mass, Harvard University Press, 1991.

JAMA. 1992;267(7):998-999. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03480070114044

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Abstract

Medicine has always been a field that reflected the interplay between science and the larger issues of society. Medical practitioners and researchers alike have always had to integrate overarching principles and general observations with the real or potential demands of individual patients. More recently, issues such as genetic engineering, human experimentation, euthanasia, and disclosure of research funding sources have forced medical scientists to grapple with issues of human values and ethics even as they pursued "truth" in the isolation of the laboratory.

The idea that social goals and conditions influence science has, of course, become a commonplace among both historians and sociologists of science, as well as among a general public haunted by memories of Nazi medicine and plagued by issues such as nuclear power, environmental destruction, and militarized science. Such beliefs co-exist with the somewhat contradictory and persistent conviction that science itself represents pure truth and that only the

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