Lot of people seem to be giggling about a high-profile intersection of biomedical ethics and Star Trek. Matthew Yglesias, who should know better, is representative here (omitting the hyperlinks in the original):
. . . highlighting in particular this post which reveals (really) that at least one member of the President’s Bioethics Council (really) came to the view that “that cloning and embryonic stem cell research are evil . . . in part, by watching Star Trek.” Really. Personally, I’m more of a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, but I’d really prefer not to launch a dispute on the topic. My hope would be that we can all agree this is perhaps not the soundest method of formulating bioethics policy. Although, considering the low knowledge level of the White House’s in-house Social Security expert I suppose we’ll take what we can get. Ironically, while the Trekkie bioethicist is not a scientist, the Social Security expert is not an economist but . . . a chemist. I suppose it’s very pointy-headed elite of me to think that people should be basing their views on actual knowledge, but that’s just what you get.
Well, I’ve never had much time for Star Trek, any generation, to be honest. But I don’t see what is wrong with coming to a view in part by watching Star Trek. We’re talking about a Bush appointee, I think, so you never know. The original story makes her sound like a real flake. But it isn’t as though she’s defending her view by an appeal to the authority of Star Trek or that the view is even wholly the result of reflecting on Star Trek. Instead, as far as I can tell, all we have is a slightly embarrassing revelation that someone prominent was moved by a bit of pop culture to think more deeply about a subject, or to see it in a way that she hadn’t previously. I can’t see anything wrong with that.
In the last decade or so, I’ve spent an awful lot of time reading high-falutin’ philosophical material on ethics. I’ve learned a lot from it, but I’ve also noticed that some embarrassingly non-philosophical sources can yield insights into philosophical topics. The first thing that comes to mind is the Lord of the Rings, and in particular the view that both Gandalf, and eventually Frodo, take of Gollum. For some reason that stuff made a deeper impression on me than a lot of straight-up philosophical wonkery. And – sorry! – my official view is that Lord of the Rings is fun stuff, but basically silly and cheesy.
. . . On the other hand, every word of this post by Yglesias is gold.
Howls of outrage (7)