Bioethics Blogs

You Don’t Miss the Cow Until the Barn is Empty*

As someone with training in both neuroscience and the law, it is maybe not surprising that I’m inclined to think (speculate, worry, etc.) about how current and future scientific and technological advances might affect society for good or bad. Luckily for me, as a fellow with the Stanford Program in Neuroscience and Society (SPINS) it’s also my job to think and write about these things, and so I do. I also read the work of many others—scientists, ethicists, lawyers, and journalists—who think and write about these issues.

But living and working in the microcosm I do, it’s easy to suffer from distorted perception—specifically, to make certain incorrect assumptions about how others process the topics I think about daily. I recognize that not everyone shares my position on a particular issue. But this recognition, in itself, overlooks a third option: that many simply may not care about the issue as much as I do. Or maybe even at all.

The point was driven home to me by a couple of recent findings. The first comes from a study by a U.K. group, published in Science Communication, that examined how the public at large thinks about neuroscience. Conclusion: they don’t think about it at all, because they believe it’s irrelevant. This, as the study points out, despite a spike in media coverage of brain research in the past few years.

The exception to this general finding was for people diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric disorders, who do pay attention to neuroscience research that might shed light on their conditions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.