- Education and Science
Ethical Failures of the Scientific Method.
Basic Ethics in Science
As the graph shows there are already numerous areas where science has been found lacking in ethics similar to other professions. Duty, Honesty, Plagiarism, Fraud, Misconduct etc. to name a few. Many of these are already covered by existing laws.
However this Hub deals with the more fundamental flaws which occur in the Scientific Method itself: (1) that of not stating the obvious possible repercussions that a discovery or process has on human beings, animals or the environment, and (2) not having an inbuilt principle of correcting such errors. Nuclear wastes for example have no antidote or principle of correction.
In order to nip this basic problem in the bud the highest personal standard of ethics needs to be expected of scientists and codified into a style of "Hippocratic oath" as taken by doctors. From as early as the 5th Century BC ancient Greek doctors took the oath. It is now the 21st Century but there is still no "Hippocratic Oath" for scientists. Science is therefore 2,500 years behind in ethical evolution.
BIOETHICS leads the field in questions relating to ethics and science mainly because of the rich history of medical ethics and the inculcation of basic ideals such as the Hippocratic oath.
In ancient times all the sciences were often bundled into one profession. As modern times approached science began to become incredibly over specialised, but no accompanying ethical standards were applied to it.
In nineteenth century Europe arsenic tinted green wallpaper killed and sickened thousands of people. In the twentieth century thalidomide maimed and killed thousands. The common thread to such examples is a lack of ethics in the laboratory and a lack of laws to oversee these missing ethical standards.
INDUSTRIAL LAWS are now being put into place which are slowly counteracting the ethical vacuum in industry. Likewise BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL LAWS have slowly been inching forward in only the last few years.
However there are still NO SCIENTIFIC ETHICS OR LAWS imposed on scientists.
Now with at least some form of incipient ethics affecting business, industry and finance, scientists can no longer blame others or shift responsibility for their own unethical decisions.
At the very start of the scientific process, the actual scientific method must start and end with ethical considerations, restrictions and New Laws. The scientific method without these considerations is literally madness. For example, deliberately torturing animals in experiments is a form of sadism and a mental aberration that can't be condoned under the guise of "scientific research". It is an example of how wisdom is separated from science as wisdom is in fact always intimately linked to ethics and not just mere accumulated information.
The reader might say this is impossible or undesirable, however without any ethical restrictions at all in this field there is no chance of limiting the damage currently being caused.
Code of Ethics
Do you think its time scientists should abide by a written code of ethics?
The Recent Past: Industrial Science Without Ethics
Industrial science is totally different to medical science. Although based on new scientific discoveries it has few guiding personal or industry ethics and grudgingly accepts any new attempts at ethical regulation. It's only goal was, and largely still is, to make money regardless of human suffering or damage to the environment.
Many scientists do not own their work but are "bought out" by the industries financing the research. Their sole aim is to invent new products in order to increase profits. Ethical problems were conveniently shelved by scientists and totally ignored by big business.
Discussions regarding ethical problems were once totally absent from both Industry and Business. Scientists are still allowed to be indifferent to the awful consequences of their work. Industry is now reluctantly considering limited ethical problems in its greedy pursuit of money.
This careless attitude began developing five hundred years ago as science slipped out of the grasp of both the church and the law. A tradition developed excusing scientists from normal ethical restrictions as it became increasingly obvious there was money to be made. It is this unhappy marriage between science/business/ big money that is at the crux of the ethical problems facing science today. It has little or nothing to do with "freedom" except the freedom to profit unfettered from all ethical considerations. Hence scientists are still held immune from all ethical considerations with the exception of medicine. How much plastic or millions of tons other pollutants are involved in this science-business marriage is deemed irrelevant. Other vitally important issues which urgently need to be ethically analysed are the social problems resulting from the disregard of any formally established ethical criteria.
Social and Environmental Probelms
Can you see how science has contributed to pollution?
A Mad Scientist is an Unethical Scientist
The Department of Scientific Ethics
This may sound extreme or like science fiction but only relatively so when contrasted with the long history of neglect in formal scientific ethics. It is merely a result of historically bad social habits that has led science to be left out of the ethical picture.
NEW AI TECHNOLOGY could be programmed to administer ethical laws in this complex future involving both the growing internet abuse of ethics and in the monitoring of online businesses.
The old stereotype of the "mad scientist" has some basis in fact if we ponder a scientist who considers they are above all ethical considerations. This is commonly referred to as megalomania or delusional paranoia.
The fact is science has undergone revolution after revolution without any serious ethical reflection at all about the social or environmental repercussions it can cause.
New laws need to be urgently fashioned to deal with the current explosion in technology in order to curtail and repair social and environmental damage. Such laws need to be open ended so that no unintended consequences of any scientific process can excuse industry from the same said laws. If problems occur along the chain of science and industry the same laws should bite into the various businesses to immediately stop further problems regardless of cost to industry.
SOCIAL PROBLEMS: if the internet has caused social problems the reasons for the causes of such issues needs to be addressed by new scientific laws so the problem can be solved. The goal is not to allow the social problem to continue like an open sewer. A small example is the new trend in social media of bullying others. An inability to immediately stop such a problem would therefore necessitate an inbuilt legal shut down of sites until the problem is fixed regardless of the cost to industry.