“The Philosopher Who Says We Should Play God” Write Up by Jackson Hassell

Steve Paulson’s “The Philosopher Who Says We Should Play God” is a good example of nearly bias-free journalism. There is some minor commentary at the beginning – “Does Savulescu just get off being outrageous?” – but for the most part the writer just lets the content stand for itself. The questions aren’t pointed towards one side – the author mentions common arguments against genetic engineering and all that, but only so that Savulescu has a chance to address them, rather than trying to pin him down in inconsistencies and discredit his argument. Even the pictures and selected comments (restated in a larger font after Savulescu says them) don’t betray anything beyond the piece trying to present someone’s opinion. Yes, there is bias in that Nautilus chose to highlight such a left wing philosopher, and has no parallel article from the point of view of a right winger, but that is a fault of the magazine (and it pandering to its audience). In isolation, the article doesn’t try to convince the reader of anything – it’s just a spotlight of the thoughts of a prominent philosopher.

A couple of things to note that the author does well: before we hear almost anything Savulescu has to say, he mentions that he’s “a prominent moral philosopher at the University of Oxford,” proving that he at least is worth listening to before his stance biases you too much against it. It would be better if this was revealed before we heard anything at all, as it is that sentence at the end of the first paragraph and the title itself already identify him as very progressive, which could put conservative readers in a defensive mindset without giving Savulescu a chance. But I guess since the point of this article isn’t to convince so much as to inform, and it probably isn’t meant for conservative readers anyways (based on what assumptions Savulescu makes), it isn’t a big deal.

Additionally, Paulson orders the questions so that they fall into a natural arc. Conversations tend to skip around on tangents a lot, but all that we get in the article is a smooth transition from discussing the ethics of bioengineering humans to general futuristic moral issues, giving the feeling that there’s always worthwhile information ahead, unlike a lot of journalists who will give the reader most of the information in a lump at the beginning, which makes reading the rest of the article feel like a waste of time. But we get the most relevant information at the beginning – the bioengineering discussion – but from there we don’t just backtrack what’s been stated already, we move on to new and interesting things, making us want to read to the end.

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