Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

History to the Highest Bidder

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

History to the Highest Bidder

Article excerpt

A joke has it that in the Soviet Union the future was easy to foretell--predicting the past was the tough part. The uses and abuses of history are as fickle as the memory of it. The historian's work is necessarily partial, and how research is conducted and presented always a matter of selectivity.

And perhaps also of the fee a historian receives for filtering the record. Medical historians are the most recent academic field to confront the questions bioethicists have been hashing out in recent years: some have been enlisted to testify in court for industries that allegedly endanger the public's health, and the practice is raising hackles among historians. While scientists are expected to disclose who funds their research, historians are not--indeed, have never really had occasion to ask whether they should--creating a crisis that has generated much discussion and debate among medical historians regarding the ethics of giving legal testimony.

As reported in the New York Times, the debate over whether the relation ship taints historical objectivity has grown acrimonious. …

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