Log in

View Full Version : Scientific Duty


sam the moderately wize
May 13th, 2009, 11:46 AM
Do scientists have a duty to tell the general public about their discoveries, even if such knowledge is likely to have undesirable consequences?

For instance, if scientists discovered that weapons as powerful as atomic bombs could be made from a random selection of easily avaliable ingredients, should they inform the public of this fact?

Tsar Phalanxia
May 13th, 2009, 01:03 PM
I think scientists have a duty to further our knowledge of science and increase the quality of life. Telling the public that you could make an atom bomb out of Coco Pops and Superglue obviously fits neither of these things.

sudikics
May 13th, 2009, 11:43 PM
I think scientists have a duty to further our knowledge of science and increase the quality of life. Telling the public that you could make an atom bomb out of Coco Pops and Superglue obviously fits neither of these things.
This. Also, the release of such knowledge would likely result in the destruction of mankind rather rapidly, thus hindering future scientific research. Therefore, it benefits science in no way.

Clark Nova
May 14th, 2009, 01:01 AM
Do scientists have a duty to tell the general public about their discoveries, even if such knowledge is likely to have undesirable consequences?

For instance, if scientists discovered that weapons as powerful as atomic bombs could be made from a random selection of easily avaliable ingredients, should they inform the public of this fact?
A scientists discoveries are his or her own to do as they please with.
Unless they are working for someone as part of a contract in which case the company generally retains the patent and generally the method in design.
Sorry to ruin the romantic notion on it.
It ALL comes back to cash and who holds the rights.

The Good Reverend Roger
May 15th, 2009, 04:25 AM
Do scientists have a duty to tell the general public about their discoveries, even if such knowledge is likely to have undesirable consequences?

For instance, if scientists discovered that weapons as powerful as atomic bombs could be made from a random selection of easily avaliable ingredients, should they inform the public of this fact?

Scientists have the same duty that electricians, plumbers, doctors, and drug dealers have.

To get paid for their work.

newharper
May 15th, 2009, 10:25 PM
I think scientists have a duty to further our knowledge of science and increase the quality of life. Telling the public that you could make an atom bomb out of Coco Pops and Superglue obviously fits neither of these things.

WTF is this drivel; if you think that a scientist has a right to censor his findings you have no understanding of the scientific method.

Godwins/-

sudikics
May 15th, 2009, 10:58 PM
WTF is this drivel; if you think that a scientist has a right to censor his findings you have no understanding of the scientific method.

Godwins/-
The scientific method does not have anything to do with whether scientists should publish their findings.

Also, as I stated, if publishing those findings could hinder further research (i.e. by killing everyone) then it's in no one's best interest to publish those findings.

Tsar Phalanxia
May 15th, 2009, 11:04 PM
WTF is this drivel; if you think that a scientist has a right to censor his findings you have no understanding of the scientific method.

Godwins/-

So, we should just give the results of our research into, say, biological and atomic weapons to every country in the world, because it's the scientific thing to do?

fomenter
May 15th, 2009, 11:23 PM
i don't see any point in hiding a discovery if it gets discovered once it will be discovered again, science tends to figure things out (that is its job you know)...

also there is no such thing as a pure evil discovery, anything discovered that can be used to do bad shit has other uses that benefit the world, the whole premise of a purely evil discovery is weak.

the idea that simple mixture of common items could be that powerful is equally unlikely if they could they would have been found and used by now complexity and expense tend to keep new stuff in the hands of the few.

Clark Nova
May 15th, 2009, 11:47 PM
Ethics have no place in science. Whoever makes the discovery should do whatever they want with it.

Dolores
May 16th, 2009, 12:20 AM
WTF is this drivel; if you think that a scientist has a right to censor his findings you have no understanding of the scientific method.

Godwins/-


Oh, for heavens' sake. :icon_rolleyes:

newharper
May 16th, 2009, 01:26 AM
So, we should just give the results of our research into, say, biological and atomic weapons to every country in the world, because it's the scientific thing to do?

Yes.

The temporary strategic advantage means nothing unless you are prepared to use it.

Now, if you want to go around nuking defenceless people, that's your business I suppose.

newharper
May 16th, 2009, 01:33 AM
The scientific method does not have anything to do with whether scientists should publish their findings.

s.Also, as I stated, if publishing those findings could hinder further research (i.e. by killing everyone) then it's in no one's best interest to publish those finding

The scientific method does not have anything to do with whether scientists should publish their findings.
Nice editing

if you think that a scientist has a right to censor his findings you have no understanding of the scientific method.



Also, as I stated, if publishing those findings could hinder further research (i.e. by killing everyone) then it's in no one's best interest to publish those findingAh, clearly all research worldwide needs to be run by you first then.

.

newharper
May 16th, 2009, 01:46 AM
Oh, for heavens' sake. :icon_rolleyes:

What, exactly, is your problem with that statement.

Dolores
May 16th, 2009, 03:09 AM
What, exactly, is your problem with that statement.


I don't have a "problem" with that statement.

However, my meaning is that you sound hopelessly, naively disconnected from the meaning of "scientific method" and any knowledge of scientific ethics.

sudikics
May 16th, 2009, 03:42 AM
Nice editing
And that means what, exactly?
Ah, clearly all research worldwide needs to be run by you first then.
Where did I say that? I said that scientists should release information which would likely lead to the end of scientific research. That's not subjective, that's objective.

fomenter
May 16th, 2009, 04:07 AM
just to clarify we are debating whether a scientist should or shouldn't release information to the general public (something they seldom do because discoveries go to he organizations or governments that pay for the research or scientific journals in the area of study which doesn't apply in this situation) about a type of discovery (verging on the scientifically impossible, common substances being mixed are not going to have this kind of reaction if they did it would already be known) and whether it would be ethical because the humans would automatically use this to blow themselves up and end all scientific research for evermore? (even though all types of destructive information is common knowledge easily available on the Internet and we don't automatically use these smaller destructive technologies to blow every thing up or kill it?)

am i getting the gist of the debate here?

Dolores
May 16th, 2009, 05:12 AM
I have so much frustration at trying to discuss something with people who have little to no understanding of the topic. I am really wondering what the depth of knowledge about the research process is here... who do you think pays for research? Do you think that the people who fund the research and development maybe have a little say in the dispensation of the resulting knowledge?

Most independent researchers would be so thrilled at findings that were potentially publishable, AT ALL, that they would leap at the chance to publish, whether it would blow the world up or not.

Most pure research establishments DO publish their findings, if only by filing them in the university library... there are a couple hundred years of research papers available, on all manner of topics. A lot of them have never been read by anyone but the researchers and their advisor. Go knock yourself out; you never know what you might find. That's what science is all about. If you get lucky maybe something you're researching might fit, like a puzzle piece, with some finding in some obscure paper someone published in 1940, and then! You may just have an exciting or even world-changing discovery on your hands.

Fuck, look at how Luca Turin's research just happened to fit into place with Dyson's much-derided olfactory spectroscope theory, published in 1938 and pretty much debunked and abandoned until Turin picked it up. What if Turin hadn't happened to read that "ridiculous" research paper? And yet, he struggled for acceptance and nearly didn't get his findings published because the scientific community simply couldn't believe in something that radical.

Reading the opinions of people who have no experience with or knowledge of the reality of scientific research debating over whether scientists "have a duty" to release their findings to the public makes me want to scream and kick something. It's like listening to a pack of illiterate hillbillies talk about creative writing.

Dolores
May 16th, 2009, 05:56 AM
Turin's theory, by the way, despite the outstandingly superb science and scholarship of his research, and some of his groundbreaking discoveries along the way (protein conductivity!!) has still yet to achieve widespread acceptance. Nonetheless, I am pretty sure that he will end up with a Nobel for it, especially now that Linda Buck has retracted her paper.

Clark Nova
May 16th, 2009, 12:11 PM
This topic is insulting. The only person who has any grasp on how researchers or research groups work is Dolores, and she and i have been ignored so that some touchy feely debate on if someone came up with an earth splitter should they have to publish it.
There are no rules or ethics on what a person has to publish. Everyone has to make their own mistakes and science is no different.
But generally, if someone does come up with a new doomsday device, their findings are published just so that people will know what to expect if some other asshole develops it afterward.

Dolores
May 17th, 2009, 02:01 AM
I have so much frustration at trying to discuss something with people who have little to no understanding of the topic. I am really wondering what the depth of knowledge about the research process is here... who do you think pays for research? Do you think that the people who fund the research and development maybe have a little say in the dispensation of the resulting knowledge?

Most independent researchers would be so thrilled at findings that were potentially publishable, AT ALL, that they would leap at the chance to publish, whether it would blow the world up or not.

Most pure research establishments DO publish their findings, if only by filing them in the university library... there are a couple hundred years of research papers available, on all manner of topics. A lot of them have never been read by anyone but the researchers and their advisor. Go knock yourself out; you never know what you might find. That's what science is all about. If you get lucky maybe something you're researching might fit, like a puzzle piece, with some finding in some obscure paper someone published in 1940, and then! You may just have an exciting or even world-changing discovery on your hands.

Fuck, look at how Luca Turin's research just happened to fit into place with Dyson's much-derided olfactory spectroscope theory, published in 1938 and pretty much debunked and abandoned until Turin picked it up. What if Turin hadn't happened to read that "ridiculous" research paper? And yet, he struggled for acceptance and nearly didn't get his findings published because the scientific community simply couldn't believe in something that radical.

Reading the opinions of people who have no experience with or knowledge of the reality of scientific research debating over whether scientists "have a duty" to release their findings to the public makes me want to scream and kick something. It's like listening to a pack of illiterate hillbillies talk about creative writing.

Turin's theory, by the way, despite the outstandingly superb science and scholarship of his research, and some of his groundbreaking discoveries along the way (protein conductivity!!) has still yet to achieve widespread acceptance. Nonetheless, I am pretty sure that he will end up with a Nobel for it, especially now that Linda Buck has retracted her paper.


Just thought I'd try to bring it back around and see if anyone wanted to discuss science and the value of knowledgeable debate...

The Good Reverend Roger
May 17th, 2009, 02:02 AM
Just thought I'd try to bring it back around and see if anyone wanted to discuss science and the value of knowledgeable debate...

I'll butt out for now, out of respect for Dolores.

Every other thread in SD is toast, though.

Dolores
May 17th, 2009, 02:08 AM
I'll butt out for now, out of respect for Dolores.

Every other thread in SD is toast, though.

Thanks, TGRR, I appreciate that. I actually am a little excited at the possibility of getting to discuss science, if it gets back to that.

Dementis
May 17th, 2009, 02:11 AM
I'll try to help you with that one dolores. However, science isn't exactly my thing so I need to do some research first. Plus I have chinese homework due at midnight. Nothing constructive can be done until tomorrow. However, in a blanket statement: Science should have it's own archives, much like government files. Only scientists can view it, but way less picky than governmet archives. This way no religious zealots can get in the way with moral decisions but the information is still there for those who will use it.

The Good Reverend Roger
May 17th, 2009, 02:12 AM
I'll try to help you with that one dolores. However, science isn't exactly my thing so I need to do some research first. Plus I have chinese homework due at midnight. Nothing constructive can be done until tomorrow. However, in a blanket statement: Science should have it's own archives, much like government files. Only scientists can view it, but way less picky than governmet archives. This way no religious zealots can get in the way with moral decisions but the information is still there for those who will use it.

Define "scientist", for the purposes of who gets to look at it.

Dementis
May 17th, 2009, 02:14 AM
I suppose it would need a disclaimer. Something along the lines of "by accessing these archives, you do hereby agree that nothing can be disputed on grounds of morality or religious activity." That way no definition is needed but legally nothing can hinder the research. Granted the general public is still a problem, but I don't have the time to do major brainstorming at the moment.

Clark Nova
May 17th, 2009, 02:14 AM
As someone currently looking for a research group to join in my field of expertise, I know that any discovery I make that advances the knowledge pool will be fully publicized (with my name on it and the research group).
The scientific duty that was talked about in the OP simply doesn't exist.
Scientists don't owe the world anything and their work is their own to do with as they please.

The Good Reverend Roger
May 17th, 2009, 02:16 AM
I suppose it would need a disclaimer. Something along the lines of "by accessing these archives, you do hereby agree that nothing can be disputed on grounds of morality or religious activity." That way no definition is needed but legally nothing can hinder the research. Granted the general public is still a problem, but I don't have the time to do major brainstorming at the moment.

Isn't that in itself a violation of academic freedom?

Just because you and I know "Intelligent Design" is a joke, for example, doesn't mean people can't talk about it, or debate its scientific "merits".

Dementis
May 17th, 2009, 02:17 AM
Scientists should certainly have the option to publish their work(s). It should just be those that wish to have it available to others without hindering their research that would go in my suggested archives. It would be completely up to the Scientists.

fomenter
May 17th, 2009, 02:18 AM
often their work is the property of those they work for, in cases where there was a unexpected military use the military (not 100% on details of this) can come along and classify it and keep it secret..

Dementis
May 17th, 2009, 02:19 AM
Isn't that in itself a violation of academic freedom?

Just because you and I know "Intelligent Design" is a joke, for example, doesn't mean people can't talk about it, or debate its scientific "merits".
Hmm... I suppose it is. I will need to think much harder to find a remedy for that one though. Good point however, I had not thought of that.

Clark Nova
May 17th, 2009, 02:19 AM
Scientists should certainly have the option to publish their work(s). It should just be those that wish to have it available to others without hindering their research that would go in my suggested archives. It would be completely up to the Scientists.
Already exists.
college work goes to college archives. These form an information sharing network that often then expands and works with industry such as pharmachems or medicines or anything really creating a huge linked information pool.
Government doesn't regulate it, its cool.

The Good Reverend Roger
May 17th, 2009, 02:20 AM
Hmm... I suppose it is. I will need to think much harder to find a remedy for that one though. Good point however, I had not thought of that.


Yep. Once you "know" what "real science" is, or what "doesn't qualify" as science, you can pretty much assume your culture's science has become a baroque institution.

Dementis
May 17th, 2009, 02:22 AM
Well, it appears my blanket statement has done more or less what I expected: Failed under closer inspection. Oh well, at least this thread is back on topic.

The Good Reverend Roger
May 17th, 2009, 02:27 AM
Well, it appears my blanket statement has done more or less what I expected: Failed under closer inspection. Oh well, at least this thread is back on topic.

Trying to "fix" social behavior is one of the funnier things domesticated primates keep attempting.

Dementis
May 17th, 2009, 02:31 AM
Trying to "fix" social behavior is one of the funnier things domesticated primates keep attempting.
Human flaw, power trip, ego machine, call it what you will. People will always do it until there is complete conformity.... which is never. However, I have 4 hours of chinese to do and less than 3 to do it in. I must be off or I will never get it done. Night all.

Dolores
May 17th, 2009, 02:34 AM
I'll try to help you with that one dolores. However, science isn't exactly my thing so I need to do some research first. Plus I have chinese homework due at midnight. Nothing constructive can be done until tomorrow. However, in a blanket statement: Science should have it's own archives, much like government files. Only scientists can view it, but way less picky than governmet archives. This way no religious zealots can get in the way with moral decisions but the information is still there for those who will use it.


Academic science already does have its own archives in the form of a vast inter-university database, and for the most part access is restricted to students and faculty. Access is further restricted by the sheer, incredible volume of information and the technical knowledge necessary to both find and understand it.

There is also the knowledge published in journals, which are wonderful fonts of information, but which can be very expensive to subscribe to. I don't have subscriptions to most of them because I can't afford it right now, but my housemate has access to a few so I use her login. When people talk about "studies" or "research", they are almost always talking about articles published in one of these journals. Some are more prestigious, and therefore the articles published in them considered more credible, than others... however, just because a research paper is published, even in the most prestigious journal, does not automatically grant it acceptance in the scientific community. In fact, from time to time papers are retracted, either due to the scandal of fraud, due to the discovery of flawed methodology, or, most rarely, due to the original research team discovering a mistake which renders the research invalid. For instance, as I referenced in an earlier post, last year Nobel Laureate Linda Buck withdrew her own 2004 paper from Nature (the most prestigious biology journal) due to her inability to reproduce the results cited in the paper. Horrifying, unprecendented, yet extremely graceful and professional of her.

Dolores
May 17th, 2009, 02:39 AM
often their work is the property of those they work for, in cases where there was a unexpected military use the military (not 100% on details of this) can come along and classify it and keep it secret..


Not legally, unless the information is privately owned (privately funded research) and the military buys it. Legally, they CAN classify research that they deem a threat to national security, and they do abuse the shit out of that power, but it's not always legal or proper.

Dolores
May 17th, 2009, 02:44 AM
Already exists.
college work goes to college archives. These form an information sharing network that often then expands and works with industry such as pharmachems or medicines or anything really creating a huge linked information pool.
Government doesn't regulate it, its cool.


OK, yeah, this! :icon_lol: Only you said it faster, and in fewer words.

sam the moderately wize
May 20th, 2009, 10:45 AM
Forgive me if this has already come up (firewalls/the questionable word limit are preventing me from seeing the whole thread) but as I understand it, all scientific research can potentially lead to more developments, so that refusing to publish important but dangerous results could mean cutting off a whole area of possible research, along with areas that could eventually open up, and so on ad infinitum, making it hard to justify not sharing some results - regardless of how dangerous these results are. (I think Dolores has already said something of the kind, although without a statement of the dilemma)

The question is essentially whether scientists should publish such results in case they lead to wonderful new developments in other areas, or if they should hide them, just in case someone decides to use them.

At the extreme [I'm aware this is never actually going to be an issue], what about an experiment that could lead to the cure for all disease if published but also gives an explanation for making biological weapons out of chestnuts?

Saying that it should only be released to other scientists or that only scientists would be able to understand/access the research is not a dodge, as it could still be released to the general public in the future...

Dolores
May 20th, 2009, 03:43 PM
Forgive me if this has already come up (firewalls/the questionable word limit are preventing me from seeing the whole thread) but as I understand it, all scientific research can potentially lead to more developments, so that refusing to publish important but dangerous results could mean cutting off a whole area of possible research, along with areas that could eventually open up, and so on ad infinitum, making it hard to justify not sharing some results - regardless of how dangerous these results are. (I think Dolores has already said something of the kind, although without a statement of the dilemma)

The question is essentially whether scientists should publish such results in case they lead to wonderful new developments in other areas, or if they should hide them, just in case someone decides to use them.

At the extreme [I'm aware this is never actually going to be an issue], what about an experiment that could lead to the cure for all disease if published but also gives an explanation for making biological weapons out of chestnuts?

Saying that it should only be released to other scientists or that only scientists would be able to understand/access the research is not a dodge, as it could still be released to the general public in the future...

I will forgive you because of your inability to view the whole thread, but I am not inclined to repost information already contained within the thread due to your technical issues and the likelihood that you simply still won't be able to view it.

sam the moderately wize
May 22nd, 2009, 05:24 PM
Taken a risk and accessed this thread from school

Kudos to Dolores for what she has already said, but as far as I can tell nobody has attempted to tackle what I see as the central issue head on - it's essentially a yes/no question..

Clark Nova
May 22nd, 2009, 06:20 PM
Do scientists have a duty to tell the general public about their discoveries, even if such knowledge is likely to have undesirable consequences?
no

For instance, if scientists discovered that weapons as powerful as atomic bombs could be made from a random selection of easily avaliable ingredients, should they inform the public of this fact?Yes or no, depends on if they want to, and if they have the privilege to, as I said sometimes you don't when working for companies or in research groups.

Dolores
May 22nd, 2009, 06:48 PM
Taken a risk and accessed this thread from school

Kudos to Dolores for what she has already said, but as far as I can tell nobody has attempted to tackle what I see as the central issue head on - it's essentially a yes/no question..


Oh, is that all you wanted? A yes or no, rather than a discussion about scientific ethics and practice?

Oh. Well then, no.

Nosferatu
May 22nd, 2009, 10:23 PM
If it is a weapon that will kill many, than yes, the public should be warned prior to nuking them. Here we come...and..."see the bright light..."

Yea, that's acceptable...

Sasqiuch
May 26th, 2009, 08:32 AM
It really does depend on what the discovery is if it is a new species of animal then the public should know but more dangerous discoveries should be kept a secret from the public.