Do Scientists Have Any Special Moral Obligations? Essay
Do Scientists Have Any Special Moral Obligations?
1. Topic: Consider the extent to which knowledge issues in ethics are similar to those in at least one other area of knowledge
Do scientists have any ‘special’ moral obligations? Or should science seek to be free from any values and morals? This has been a popular topic that has been discussed throughout not only this century but also, centuries previous to us. While looking at natural sciences and ethics we can see that these two areas of knowledge are quite similar, specifically when looking at theories of ethics and how it can be implemented towards natural sciences. Using reason we can identify this and emotion in order to determine that scientist do not have a moral obligation and should not seek to be free from any values and morals.
This will be proven by comparing scientist that have used moral obligations such as the Arabs during the Islamic Golden Age and this is proof that science can prosper when scientists have a moral obligation. But there are also different perspectives of this issue with some people arguing that we are in a different century when the backbone of society has shifted towards science and that we must give science freedom in order to prosper more in the future.
This is evident in real life from an article in the Daily Mail, which stated that a scientist took a sapling from Norway, which was infected with a disease in order to accomplish a science experiment. The result was that the disease has spread throughout England killing around 200,000 trees in the process. This article is evident about the theory that scientists need to have a moral obligation such as everyone else in society has to oblige to. The reason being that if scientist get to avoid obligations then this will go against the ethical approach of Kant which states that no individual should be given preferential treatment.
This is demonstrated in the given example by showing how a scientist got a sapling into a country with a disease in order to accomplish an experiment and did not care what would happen to other people in society. This demonstrates that to a certain extent ethics does relate to natural sciences because scientists must consider ethics when doing a science experiment. By using different approaches to ethics such as Kant and utilitarianism, which both agree on the fact that no person is above everyone else, which to a certain extent is evident from some scientists such as the one from the example above.
The example about the scientist getting a disease for trees into England for an experiment may seem obvious that scientist should have a moral obligation to a certain extent. But the fact is that this data is from one scientist or organization and that the whole science community should not be judged for the mistake of one of its sectors. This goes with Kant’s approach to ethics to a certain extent because Kant theory states that the moral value of an act is determined by the motive and not the consequences of the act. This can relate to the article to a certain extent because the scientist may have been trying to find something that would benefit society more then it would impact it negatively.
Another issue that would go against the belief that scientists need moral obligation is the fact that scientists believe they have the duty to explore the world and try to find answers to their questions. This works with the belief of duty ethics, which states that for a scientist, science is a matter of doing your duty and fulfilling your obligations. The only issue to this argument is that all of the scientists should not be blamed is the fact that this has given a bad image towards scientists to many people not only in England but the world. This illustrates that to a certain extent their should be a rule that will place a moral obligation over the heads of scientist all over the globe, like everyone else in society.
Can science co exist when they are under moral obligations that relate to religion. Well many people in society would disagree with this theory, but when looking at history it is evident that religion and science have existed together and have prospered together in history. An example of this would be the Islamic Golden Age, where many important areas of science were studied quite meticulously, such as astronomy where Muslims used their moral obligation, which was the Quran in order to further their studies of astronomy and chemistry.
This displays that despite popular claims science and religion can work together to a certain extent and this is displayed through scientists using a moral obligation or following their ethical beliefs before doing an experiment. This can relate to the example about the scientist who brought the diseased tree to England because that maybe if scientist were in forced to follow a moral obligation that is followed by people in society, he might have not brought that plant. The reasons being is the scientist might have considered the utilitarianism approach to ethics (which was also used by the Muslims during the Golden Age) and consider the fact that he might not believe that this decision would seek the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
The only issue with this belief is that we are now in a new century where science unlike in the past is firmly the backbone of society. Because if this we must to a certain extent break the shackles of scientist and free them of values or morals. This is firmly stated in the ted video starring Michael Specter, who states that we are in current situation that has not been seen before in society. The reason being that we are able to do so much for society by using science, but the only issue is the fact that people do not want to believe the results obtained by scientist because it is morally wrong to alter food in order to have more of it. In the video Michael Specter argues that scientist should not have a moral obligation in order to do an experiment, which may help society more, than hurt it.
Such as the use of genetically enhanced food which to some people would seem morally incorrect because this is altering natures food. But on the other hand if we continue with genetically enhancing food we could end world hunger in the next decade, since we would be able to send food to countries that could not grow a big amount of food like the countries in Africa. This would become ironic because if we do not believe this then we are going against the utilitarianism approach of ethics, which states that we must try to exert the most happiness from any given situation. For this situation it can be argued that Michael Specter is right to a certain extent that in some occasions maybe scientists should be allowed to ignore their moral obligations in order to pursue their goals in science.
The significance of this argument is that scientists are holding a major hand in the future of society as we know it, and as we can see in many events in society we are already learning that maybe science needs to have a moral obligation like the rest of society. The reason why this would be true is that scientist could affect the world in a negative aspect such as the scientist in England who killed nearly 200,000 trees in order to accomplish a single experiment. This could lead to a problem that maybe science and religion cannot work together and one of them must conquer the other, but to me this is false because we have seen that throughout history we have used religion in order to accomplish science.
This is evident in the Islamic Golden Age, which gives hope that people in this century do not need to fight which one is right, but work together in order to prosper in the future. But the other side of this argument would be the fact that scientist cannot have a moral obligation because if this occurs then they would not be able to do their experiment in order to benefit society. Also the fact that science is slowly becoming the backbone of our society and that in order to progress further in the future we must remove the chains off scientists and release them in to the wild in order to have the most success out of science.
From the evidence presented in this essay we can see that this questions has many different perspectives that we must take into account. But the fact is that the major evidence in this essay states that science must have a moral obligation because it is evident that science can co exist with ethics, values and morals and that scientists even if they do not like it need to have a moral obligation in order to exert the most happiness in society.
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 2 October 2016
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