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Scientists informing policy should disclose their own beliefs

I was intrigued by Alberto Kornblihtt’s premise of using science to explain how facts can influence beliefs (Nature 559, 303; 2018). I agree that, as scientists, we should inform people about the complexity of reality, but we must be careful not to impose our own beliefs in doing so.

Scientists have the right to be passionate about their interpretations and convictions — but only as far as their bias is fully disclosed, as Kornblihtt respects. In my view, however, his analogy between an embryo and a mother’s organ falls short. In advocating that women seeking abortion should not be held hostage by an organ, he mixes up two separate planes: useful information on embryo development and a moral interpretation that goes well beyond the information provided.

In political discussions, the value of science lies in its ability to provide models. These are our least-subjective interpretations of reality, yet we need to remind ourselves and instil in politicians that they are nevertheless not reality — they are simply useful tools for improving our awareness.

Nature 560, 431 (2018)



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