Scientists Own Up to the Need for Ethics
The image of a scientist free to follow his quest wherever it goes is changing. In an age of international terrorism, governments are becoming more wary of the potential downsides of scientific investigations, and scientific organizations are beginning to fall in line, reluctantly but understandingly. “Biologists may soon have little option but to sign up to codes of conduct,” admitted Nature last week,1 (emphasis added in all quotes): “… however outrageous Nature readers may consider it, politicians and policy-makers are taking codes of conduct and licensing in research seriously.” (In the past, most researchers “would wonder what planet such proposals come from,” the editorial quips.)
Scientists may need to become certified, take courses in ethics, be informed about the possibilities of dual use of their findings (i.e., for civic or military purposes), and develop a “culture of responsibility” in their institutions. Maybe only a malevolent few would ever misuse scientific discoveries, but those few can wreak havoc on society and destroy the reputation of scientific institutions. Scientists had better not wait to be told what to do: “in a world threatened by terrorism, governments are taking more interest in such codes, and scientists would do well to engage in a constructive discussion about what role they might play.”
The basic idea of professional scientific ethics doesn’t have to be complicated. “Consider the phrase ‘do no harm’,” the editorial suggests. “Deceptively simple, a trite piece of motherhood and apple pie, and yet, as one medical researcher at the meeting said, this fundamental principle had provided him with significant help when faced with some critical professional decisions.”
1Editorial, “Rules of engagement,” Nature, 436, 2 (7 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436002a.
Do no harm? Well, so much for Darwinism. Evolutionists deal with evil by denying its existence, and turn righteousness into a phantom, an artifact of selfishness (for example, see this recent just-so story on EurekAlert). To a consistent Darwinist, harm can be a good thing, as long as it doesn’t happen to oneself.
Ethics cannot be derived from a philosophy that denies the actual existence of mind, soul, intelligence or freedom of choice. Here is a place where the new intelligent design paradigm, with moral motivation provided by religious principles of responsibility, unselfishness, charity, and righteousness, can really shine.