The inference from a single case: moral versus scientific inferences in implementing new biotechnologies
Medical Humanities 2008 June; 34(1): 19-24
Are there similarities between scientific and moral inference? This is the key question in this article. It takes as its point of departure an instance of one person s story in the media changing both Norwegian public opinion and a brand-new Norwegian law prohibiting the use of saviour siblings. The case appears to falsify existing norms and to establish new ones. The analysis of this case reveals similarities in the modes of inference in science and morals, inasmuch as (a) a single case functions as a counter-example to an existing rule; (b) there is a common presupposition of stability, similarity and order, which makes it possible to reason from a few cases to a general rule; and (c) this makes it possible to hold things together and retain order. In science, these modes of inference are referred to as falsification, induction and consistency. In morals, they have a variety of other names. Hence, even without abandoning the fact value divide, there appear to be similarities between inference in science and inference in morals, which may encourage communication across the boundaries between "the two cultures" and which are relevant to medical humanities.
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