The Public Interest

Snow's two cultures-and ours

Yuval Levin

Fall 2003

TODAY, perhaps more than ever before in America, science has become a political issue. A series of advances in cloning, embryo research, and related biotechnologies—long predicted but now upon us—has forced the nation to ask itself some hard questions about the purpose and progress of science. This, in turn, has forced the scientific establishment to make its case in the public arena. The resulting debates have been fascinating, and for the most part the right issues have been raised. But these debates have also demonstrated a profound confusion on all sides. Tongue-tied politicians have struggled to make sense of complex scientific terms denoting even more complex scientific concepts, and more importantly have tried to discern what role, if any, politics should have in overseeing science. Meanwhile, many researchers and advocates for science have been genuinely frustrated and puzzled about all the fuss, unable quite to see what concerns are being expressed, and why they are important.

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