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Ethics in Science: Slowing human advancement?

themohawkninja
Posts: 816
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10/10/2013 6:59:50 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
This might be better in the philosophy section, but then again, maybe not.

One thing that has always bugged me about science, is that there are ethics in it. There have been countless times where I have heard scientists say how they need to be careful, as the ethical implications are great, whether it be going from hacking a mouse's brain to hacking a humans, or from cloning a sheep to cloning a human, science stops itself from advancing, because it feels morally obligated to do so. However, as I have always understood it, science is about the advancement of knowledge, and all these ethics are doing, is keeping us from advancing our knowledge. Hacking the human brain could open a huge door to neuroscience, and cloning a human could lead to major advancements in genetics, but in the end science holds itself back in the name of ethics.

So, are ethics in science really worth it?
"Morals are simply a limit to man's potential."~Myself

Political correctness is like saying you can't have a steak, because a baby can't eat one ~Unknown
Poetaster
Posts: 587
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10/10/2013 7:18:30 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
On the contrary: the contrary is not worth it.
"The book you are looking for hasn't been written yet. What you are looking for you are going to have to find yourself, it's not going to be in a book..." -Sidewalker
themohawkninja
Posts: 816
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10/10/2013 8:20:40 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 10/10/2013 7:18:30 PM, Poetaster wrote:
On the contrary: the contrary is not worth it.

So, are you saying that no ethics in science are good, or ethics in science are good?

(I just realized that my title, and my final sentence are opposites of each other, where one asks is it bad, and the other asks if it's good, so I don't know which you are responding to).
"Morals are simply a limit to man's potential."~Myself

Political correctness is like saying you can't have a steak, because a baby can't eat one ~Unknown
Poetaster
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10/10/2013 8:43:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I see no inconsistency: your title rhetorically suggests that ethics impedes science, and your closing question does the same.

You ask whether the inclusion of ethical principles in scientific practice is worth it. In my reply, I say it is their exclusion that isn't worth it. We can gain knowledge without hurting things; we don't need to reserve the right to be cruel. We can be smarter than that.
"The book you are looking for hasn't been written yet. What you are looking for you are going to have to find yourself, it's not going to be in a book..." -Sidewalker
themohawkninja
Posts: 816
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10/10/2013 8:56:20 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 10/10/2013 8:43:39 PM, Poetaster wrote:
You ask whether the inclusion of ethical principles in scientific practice is worth it. In my reply, I say it is their exclusion that isn't worth it. We can gain knowledge without hurting things; we don't need to reserve the right to be cruel. We can be smarter than that.

Well, here's a thought: One of my examples was human cloning. That doesn't require anything to be harmed, but yet many consider it to be ethically wrong, and in many U.S. states it is illegal.
"Morals are simply a limit to man's potential."~Myself

Political correctness is like saying you can't have a steak, because a baby can't eat one ~Unknown
Poetaster
Posts: 587
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10/10/2013 9:02:22 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 10/10/2013 8:56:20 PM, themohawkninja wrote:
At 10/10/2013 8:43:39 PM, Poetaster wrote:
You ask whether the inclusion of ethical principles in scientific practice is worth it. In my reply, I say it is their exclusion that isn't worth it. We can gain knowledge without hurting things; we don't need to reserve the right to be cruel. We can be smarter than that.

Well, here's a thought: One of my examples was human cloning. That doesn't require anything to be harmed, but yet many consider it to be ethically wrong, and in many U.S. states it is illegal.

Then I might point to a difficulty with your proposal: if we subtract ethical principles from scientific practice, then how will scientists defend their practice from such charges of ethical wrongdoing? How could they refute an ethical indictment when they have discarded the principles which would allow them to do so? Is this not the greater impediment? To disallow them the means of justification?
"The book you are looking for hasn't been written yet. What you are looking for you are going to have to find yourself, it's not going to be in a book..." -Sidewalker
Lordknukle
Posts: 12,788
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10/10/2013 9:54:37 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 10/10/2013 9:02:22 PM, Poetaster wrote:
At 10/10/2013 8:56:20 PM, themohawkninja wrote:
At 10/10/2013 8:43:39 PM, Poetaster wrote:
You ask whether the inclusion of ethical principles in scientific practice is worth it. In my reply, I say it is their exclusion that isn't worth it. We can gain knowledge without hurting things; we don't need to reserve the right to be cruel. We can be smarter than that.

Well, here's a thought: One of my examples was human cloning. That doesn't require anything to be harmed, but yet many consider it to be ethically wrong, and in many U.S. states it is illegal.

Then I might point to a difficulty with your proposal: if we subtract ethical principles from scientific practice, then how will scientists defend their practice from such charges of ethical wrongdoing? How could they refute an ethical indictment when they have discarded the principles which would allow them to do so? Is this not the greater impediment? To disallow them the means of justification?

The problem lies first and foremost in the ethical questioning of scientists.
"Easy is the descent to Avernus, for the door to the Underworld lies upon both day and night. But to retrace your steps and return to the breezes above- that's the task, that's the toil."
Disquisition
Posts: 391
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10/10/2013 10:00:57 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 10/10/2013 6:59:50 PM, themohawkninja wrote:
This might be better in the philosophy section, but then again, maybe not.

One thing that has always bugged me about science, is that there are ethics in it. There have been countless times where I have heard scientists say how they need to be careful, as the ethical implications are great, whether it be going from hacking a mouse's brain to hacking a humans, or from cloning a sheep to cloning a human, science stops itself from advancing, because it feels morally obligated to do so. However, as I have always understood it, science is about the advancement of knowledge, and all these ethics are doing, is keeping us from advancing our knowledge. Hacking the human brain could open a huge door to neuroscience, and cloning a human could lead to major advancements in genetics, but in the end science holds itself back in the name of ethics.

So, are ethics in science really worth it?

Well ethics is generally associated with moral practices and the formal rules of a profession, I assume were talking about the former.

I think that science should adhere to the ethical principles in a society, but that shouldn't stop them from breaking such rules if their discoveries are truly groundbreaking. Which is somewhat subjective to an extent, needing empirical evidence to prove that it is truly beneficial. Certain ethical guidelines need to be set in place that can be agreed upon and amended by the governing authorities and the scientific community. So no, ethics really isn't slowing human advancement, rather it posits science in the general moral perspective of a society.

At times however, the society is completely irrational and refutes genuine scientific discoveries that have been proven to be true. In this case, as in the case of Galileo, the rules need to be broken for advancement of human knowledge.
Poetaster
Posts: 587
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10/10/2013 11:53:00 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 10/10/2013 9:54:37 PM, Lordknukle wrote:
At 10/10/2013 9:02:22 PM, Poetaster wrote:
At 10/10/2013 8:56:20 PM, themohawkninja wrote:
At 10/10/2013 8:43:39 PM, Poetaster wrote:
You ask whether the inclusion of ethical principles in scientific practice is worth it. In my reply, I say it is their exclusion that isn't worth it. We can gain knowledge without hurting things; we don't need to reserve the right to be cruel. We can be smarter than that.

Well, here's a thought: One of my examples was human cloning. That doesn't require anything to be harmed, but yet many consider it to be ethically wrong, and in many U.S. states it is illegal.

Then I might point to a difficulty with your proposal: if we subtract ethical principles from scientific practice, then how will scientists defend their practice from such charges of ethical wrongdoing? How could they refute an ethical indictment when they have discarded the principles which would allow them to do so? Is this not the greater impediment? To disallow them the means of justification?

The problem lies first and foremost in the ethical questioning of scientists.

It makes little sense to say that a scientist should not be answerable to the terms "should" and "should not", unless the issue isn't really with normativity at all, but rather with the content of one rule and a preference for another. In other words, it is special pleading.

Moreover, if scientists are not answerable to ethical inquiry, why would you not allow the same exemption for politicians? For religious officials, soldiers, stock brokers, or food manufacturers? Why should only one sector be professionally exempt from questioning, when the argument given in the OP can be naturally adapted to fit any of them?

As for the example objections given by the OP, it does nothing to settle them by simply excusing the scientist from the table of ethical discourse. (Why not the doctor and the lawyer, too?) And, in fact, the OP supplied a fine answer to the concerns over human cloning: the techniques used don't hurt anything, at least in principle. It's not so hard; it doesn't have to be a problem of any kind.
"The book you are looking for hasn't been written yet. What you are looking for you are going to have to find yourself, it's not going to be in a book..." -Sidewalker