The boundaries between ethics and science are very controversial. Many scientists have the attitude that they are willing to do anything if it provides for a gain in knowledge. Others have tried to impose a set of ethical values over the gaining of knowledge. They have attempted to make prior judgments as to what science should or should not do based on attempts to project into the future what the outcome and implications a given of scientific investigation will have for society. Can science function over these constraints? Can negative results that some scientific investigation has on society be avoided by exercising this restraint?
Or does science to be conducted properly have to be free to seek knowledge freely, leaving society to deal with consequences only after the fact? Can science be honest and ethical and objective all at the same time? In the film Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie, Dr. Edward Teller says of the Hydrogen bomb: “… others didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t care. I was interested in knowledge, knowledge, and more knowledge. ” With this, Teller didn’t care about the affects of the H-bomb; he only cared about the knowledge that he gains from this experimentation.
Why is he so apt to gaining knowledge? What usually motivates people to desire the gain of knowledge? Is it all for one’s self-achievement? I surely would think not. What would be the point in gaining knowledge only for you? The objective of science is to further the knowledge of mankind; to understand more how the world works? Why would someone be so apt to gain knowledge about the H-bomb, with the goal of advancing the knowledge of mankind, and at the same time not care about the affects it has on mankind?
By the result of some people becoming more knowledgeable, other people are killed and/or suffer severe chronic side affects. Growing up, I have always been taught to think about the consequences before I act. Should not this be applied to the aspect of science also? It seems to me that for something that has the goal of bettering and advancing mankind’s understanding and their relationship with the world, that knowingly conducting experiments that may destroy and/or cause severe alterations to mankind is completely hypocritical.
It seems to undermine the purpose of science. Can science function as it should under restraints made by ethical values? Can we avoid a potential plethora of Pandora’s boxes that may open up by exercising prior restraint, or does science, in order to function properly, have to be free to seek knowledge freely, leaving society to deal with the consequences only after the fact? I think that ethical values should come first in everything. Ethical values are the structure of this world that distinguishes between good and evil.
Without ethics, how would one differentiate between right and wrong: people need a certain code of standards to live by. Although ethical values are different for different people, most people share the same undermining principles. Why should these standards be abandoned just for the purpose of science, for the purpose of knowledge? In the bible, it is commanded “Thou shall not kill. ” It isn’t thou shall not kill unless it is for the gaining of knowledge. I do not believe that there is any justification for knowingly bringing harm onto people; it is wrong any way that you look at it.
True that everyone does not believe in the exact standards of the bible, but it is accepted principles that killing people is wrong and that harming people is wrong. Thus, there should be an ethical code when dealing with science just as there is in the rest of the world. In C;E News of February 14, 1994, it was said: “The scientific community must face the issue of scientific misconduct head on. It must work actively to prevent misconduct and not brush it under the rug when it occurs. ” Many people try to ignore misconduct that occurs in science.
That only leaves open a window for it to happen again. To prevent this sort of thing of reoccurring, society must not ignore the facts. Teller’s excuse he made for the H-bomb: “If I hadn’t done it someone else would and the Russians did! ” does not provide as a proper excuse. Each person is responsible for his own actions. “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it? ” We’ve all heard this a thousand times when we were a child. Has the scientists completely forgotten what their mom taught them? Maybe the world just needs to look back and think.
Gain of knowledge can still take place even with ethical values in place. There is no excuse for disregarding moral standards just for the ultimate goal of more knowledge. Can science be honest and objective and ethical at the same time? Yes it can; there are numerous fields of study that do not undermine ethical values. Also, there are ways that certain controversial fields of study can be conducted without neglecting ethical values. People just need to think about consequences and results before actions take place, just as I was taught as a child.