Book Brief: Science in the Service of Human Rights

Richard Pierre Claude
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002 (paperback 2011)
ISBN 978-0-8122-2192-3
280 pages

In Science in the Service of Human Rights, Richard Pierre Claude examines the complex, sometimes fraught relationship between scientific progress and political society in order to propose a guiding framework with which to examine the tensions that may arise from this dynamic. Human rights, Claude contends, must be central to the debate over alleged abuses of science developments and new technologies. He examines international standards of human rights, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, demonstrating their applicability in the analysis of contentious socio-scientific debates. Claude later expands on his prescription that scientists themselves should become rights-literate so that they can actively serve to safeguard the rights of those affected by their work. He explains, “This book concentrates not so much on science as a discipline as on scientists as carriers of human rights and responsibilities, as people capable of bringing science into the service of human rights, and as the custodians and trustees of everyone’s right to enjoy and share the benefits of science and its applications.”

In offering a rights-based framework to analyze scientific controversies, the book completes its dual goal of providing grass roots empowerment through a thorough explanation of the history and international meanings of human rights, and promoting an environment in which scientists understand the link between science and human rights and take responsibility for the social effects of their work.

– By Judith Fitzpatrick