Moral Concern for the Objects of Scientific Research
The past decades have seen a shift in the general perception of scientific research from value-neutral towards value-laden. This paper focuses on the moral concern that scientists may feel for the objects of their research, as opposed to the pursuit of ulterior benefits or self-serving aims. There is little consensus as to whether such a concern might be at all desirable in scientists. It is not even clear whether the scientific process benefits from it, or whether moral concern injects undue bias into scientific inquiry. The answers to those questions are important because they determine whether educational institutions ought to either promote or discourage such moral concern. I will present a framework of considerations that allows for a conceptual analysis of the problem, suggesting that the benefits of moral concern for the objects of scientific study tend to outweigh the harms, particularly in specific areas such as ecology. I will then discuss that conclusion in the light of empirical findings about the values of scientists and suggest that the ways we do science education need to be reconsidered.
Keywords: scientific method, value education, ethics in science
Dr. Alexander K. Lautensach
Senior Tutor, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland