Wednesday, January 05, 2005

On misinterpretation of dangerous ideas

Here are some interesting notes at a coffee talk session at Emory I wish I'd been at.
Some of the more interesting points (Italics are my comments)
  • Communication is a key issue in all situations involving "dangerous ideas"
  • An ethical argument can be made: Scientists should not be held responsible for other people misusing their research. There are moral objections, however, to scientists carrying out research, and NOT CARING how this research is used. Note that there can also be made an argument, one that I think is stronger, that Scientists ought to be held responsible for other people misusing their research in foreseeable manners. See the next major point for more on this.
    • Even innocent, curiosity-based research can stumble into areas that can be misconstrued or misused
    • All people should be able to think through decisions ethically
  • Scientists should be trained to think about ethical implications of research - Before they partake in the research itself. Ignorance of ethical obligations is no excuse for shirking them off. This goes together with scientists foreseeing the misuse of their research. Training ought to begin in basic ethics and how it relates to science before the undergraduate level. And ought to intensify as the scientist progresses.

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