Pinker to bioethicists: Get out of the way

The free marketplace of ideas can be an interesting place. In a recent Boston Globe opinion piece, psychologist and Harvard faculty member Steven Pinker has a recommendation for bioethicists who weigh in on the merits of biomedical research: Get out of the way. “A truly ethical bioethics should not bog down research in red tape, moratoria, or threats of prosecution based on nebulous but sweeping principles such as ‘dignity,’ ‘sacredness,’ or ‘social justice,’ he writes. He argues that delaying the implementation of effective treatments¬†by even a year “could spell death, suffering, or disability for millions of people.” He also states that predictions about the long-term impacts of technology are so unreliable as to render them largely useless.

The full article can be read here. His is certainly a thought-provoking point of view. ¬†Staff from Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) wrote a response letter in which they called Pinker’s opinion “dangerous and ill-informed.” We encourage our IRB members to take a few minutes to read both. If you have trouble accessing them, please contact IRB Program Manager Edith Paal at for assistance.