Democratizing Bioethics. Online Participation and the Life Sciences
Bioethics has historically taken up the challenge of creating an arena for the adjudication of permissibility claims for practices in the broad field of the Life Sciences. Long-standing academic arguments have thus managed to percolate into proper political debates and actual policy-making. With the pressing urge to democratize politics overall, the ways in which bioethical issues have been and still are officially discussed have been thoroughly contested. A number of solutions to the alleged lack of transparency, inclusiveness and accountability in bioethical decision-making have been suggested. Some of these solutions resorted to ICTs for their implementation. However it is unclear, so far, exactly to what extent these initiatives have been able to recruit proper participation, foster reasoned deliberation, and, most importantly, cast politically legitimate decisions. Democratizing Bioethics tackles the unresolved issues of political legitimacy that underlie the current approach to deliberative public engagement initiatives for science policy-making. In doing so, it provides a political framework in which to test political theories supposed to apply to the political management of moral disagreement. Furthermore, it articulates and defends an actual political theory—moderate epistocracy for online deliberation—as a proper political means to deal with disagreement that is essentially moral arising from scientific and technical progress. Finally, the theory is preliminarily empirically tested via a tool for online direct competent participation.