Daniel Callahan, with Willard Gaylin, was the founder of The Hastings Center.
It is hard to recall these days that there used to be a great deal of suspicion about any public talk on the matter of ethics. Ethics was seen as a topic of great delicacy.
Even to suggest that we needed a public debate and discussion about issues of ethics ran into a fundamental problem. For many, particularly among educated people and particularly the educated elite, ethics connoted religion, and religion had been put behind them, at least within the universities.
There was also a significant number of people, particularly older physicians, who had been very powerfully influenced by the positivism of the 1930s. One felt that one was always hearing A-J. Ayer in the background--that there was science, which was solid and real and developed true knowledge, and there …