Bioethics Civil Discourse and a Common Humanity

Because the issues with which bioethics grapples are profoundly relevant to the future of nature, human nature, and healthcare, they are often contentious. Moreover, in the dialectic between moral objectivism and moral relativism, while many of these issues allow for plausible resolutions, there are others for which no resolutions emerge. Tolerance, civility, respect, and the willingness to seriously engage with the views of others who work out of different traditions, both secular and religious, are necessary virtues and habits of mind. Bioethics is inevitably subject to criticism by those who believe that answers to the many new questions brought on by the accelerating biological and healthcare revolutions are immediately and simply apparent. But what, after all, is a good ethicist, whether secular or religious, if not the person who asks an unsettling new question that no one else envisioned, and thereby prompts renewed debate as an alternative to superficiality.

While this Encyclopedia does not include biographies of bioethicists who were also moral leaders attempting to influence the world of science, healthcare, and public opinion, the list would be extensive and pluralistic. Many of the finest contributors to the field of bioethics are actively engaged in the service of needful constituencies, involved with voluntary associations, and otherwise engaged in practice. As appropriate, they move beyond the mere exposition of the essential inventory of existing thoughts on a topic, and argue persuasively for a normative viewpoint. Indeed, those who read these volumes will hopefully be motivated by a sense of responsibility and service, as well as by intellectual curiosity. For the purpose of liberal education and learning is not only the enhancement of knowledge, but also progress in benevolence, creative altruism, and commitment to a common humanity.

As Editor in Chief, I hope that readers of these volumes become better informed participants in a respectful public dialogue over a set of issues that increasingly must be understood and appreciated by all citizens of a liberal democracy. The gravity and significance of these bioethical issues for the future of our generative planet, of life itself, and of humankind might impress the reader so as to inspire purposeful educational and life pursuits.

STEPHEN G. POST EDITOR IN CHIEF, THIRD EDITION SEPTEMBER 2, 2003

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