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← Who matters (or should) when scientists engage in ethical decision-making?

canadian_right's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by canadian_right

Do you feel like you have an interest in what science and scientists are up to? If so, how would you describe that interest? If not, why not?

Of course I have an interest. Science affects my health, happiness, general well being, knowlwedge of how the world really works, and is responsible for my living in luxury that only kings could dream of only a few hundred years ago.

Do you think scientists should treat “the public” as an interested party when they try to make ethical decisions? Why or why not?

I don't think the public's opinion of your research should be taken into account, only the effect of your research on the public. If your research will directly harm people you have to rethink the research. If the results of your research could harm people then some safeguards should be in place to prevent the wrong people from getting the results of your research.

I don't think the moral qualms that someone, somewhere is going to have need be taken into account. If your methods and goals are ethically sound then only the outcome of your research on the public needs to be considered. Your research IS going to offend someone, somewhere, but irrational opinions, or even sincerely held, but misinformed opinions can be discounted.

If you think scientists should treat “the public” as an interested party when they try to make ethical decisions, what should scientists be doing to get an accurate read on the public’s interests?

They should only be considering any harm or benefit the process of the research will have on the public, and in the case of research that will lead to technology with the potential to harm people the safeguards necessary to prevent abuse. As long as your ethics are based on sound methods then the moral opinion of the public isn't important.

And, for the sake of symmetry, do you think members of the public ought to take account of the interests of science or scientists when they try to make ethical decisions? Why or why not?

Only if those decisions are directly affecting the scientists. Other than deciding how to spend my tax dollars, I, and the rest of the public, have no right to interfere with science if it not directly harming anyone. It is a basic ethical principal that people, including scientists, are free to do what they want as long as they are not directly harming anyone. Only in the case of a technology that has the potential for causing widespread harm should I or any member of the public get a say in science research.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 05:08:31 UTC | #936917