Was David Hume Mistaken? Unpacking the 'Is-Ought' Gap in Science Policy
David Hume is well known for describing what has been called the “is-ought” problem in ethics: which is commonly articulated as “one cannot derive a normative, moral conclusion from a descriptive fact about the world”. The “is-ought” conundrum identified by Hume in 1739, has become one of the central questions of ethical theory, and Hume is usually aligned to the position that such a derivation is impossible.
A relevant example is the contrasting basic ethical values underpinning national health care policies in the United States and Canada. As both the U.S. and Canada are on the brink of critical decisions regarding the future direction of their health care systems, this is an especially important moment to reflect upon the ethical values that underpin alternative policy directions.
In this annual Curtin public lecture, Professor Eric Meslin, President and CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies, will consider some of the more practical implications of applying Hume’s Law to two domains of science policy: public policy about science funding, and the use of science to inform policy.
About Professor Meslin
Professor Eric Meslin is a Canadian researcher and scholar with an outstanding international reputation in bioethics, health policy and international research networks. In February, 2016, he was appointed President and CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies, bringing with him more than 25 years of experience in science policy in both university and government settings. Professor Meslin is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and is a member of the Science and Industry Advisory Committee of Genome Canada.
Professor Meslin was previously at the University of Indiana, where he was Founding Director of the Center for Bioethics for 15 years.
A common thread to Professor Meslin's work has been the connection between ethics and developments in biomedical science. He has consistently promoted good policy and good decision-making built on good facts, and defensible ethical values. Professor Meslin's experience provides a unique perspective on international models, best practices, and creative initiatives.