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Field of Dreams: A Social History of Neuroethics

Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences

ISBN: 978-1-84855-880-9, eISBN: 978-1-84855-881-6

Publication date: 17 October 2011


Neuroscience, with its promise to peer into the brain and explain the sources of human behavior and human consciousness, has captured the scientific, clinical, and public imaginations. Among those in the thrall of neuroscience are a group of ethicists who are carving out a new subspecialty within the field of bioethics: neuroethics. Neuroethics has taken as its task the policing of neuroscience. By virtue of its very existence, neuroethics presents a threat to its parent field bioethics. In its struggle to maintain authority as the guardian of neuroscience, neuroethics must respond to criticisms from bioethicists who see no need for the subspecialty. We describe the social history of neuroethics and use that history to consider several issues of concern to social scientists, including the social contexts that generate ethical questions and shape the way those questions are framed and answered; strategies used by neuroethicists to secure a place in an occupational structure that includes life scientists and other ethics experts; and the impact of the field of neuroethics on both the work of neuroscience and public perceptions of the value and danger of the science of the brain.


Conrad, E.C. and De Vries, R. (2011), "Field of Dreams: A Social History of Neuroethics", Pickersgill, M. and Van Keulen, I. (Ed.) Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 299-324.



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