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UC San Diego was founded by leaders who cared deeply about the ethics and social implications of science. For example, Roger Revelle, a pioneer in the science of climate change, culminated his career here as a Professor of Science, Technology and Public Affairs. Similarly, our first chancellor, Herbert York, a physicist with the Manhattan Project, became an arms control expert who was ambassador to the Comprehensive Test Ban negotiations in the late 1970s. The IPE is building upon this institutional history as well as on existing strengths in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. 

Inspired by these examples, IPE aims to be holistic in three ways. 

First, it attends to both the theoretical components of ethical problems and the pragmatic policy-focused aspects. Good pragmatic ethics cannot proceed without deeper reflection. But good theoretical ethics won’t be relevant unless it is grounded in the social and scientific context.

Second, as a consequence of the first, we are based on a partnership amongst social scientists, natural scientists and humanists on campus. Ethics can be fruitfully conducted on an ideal level, but we want our work to be relevant to important topics facing individuals and society. To this end, we desire to include in our analysis the social structures that shape how ethics will actually operate in our society and of course the relevant natural science or technology.

Third, it provides both social and individual analyses. Much of bioethics proceeds on the assumption that ethics only concerns the relationship between individuals (e.g. patient and doctor, fetus and pregnant woman). However, individuals are embedded in society, and society is not simply the average of individual interests. Climate change is not an individual but rather a social problem, for instance. As a public university we include the public’s values or goals in our academic vision.