Ethics Classes by Dr. Bruce Glymour and Dr. Amy Lara


††††††††††††††† Dr. Glymour is a philosophy professor at KSU and focuses mainly on philosophy as it pertains to Biology. He has had papers published on evolution theory as well as natural selection.

††††††††††† Dr. Lara specializes in ethics and offers classes on moral philosophy. She has been studying ethics as it pertains to science, especially scientific communication. She is currently working on a curriculum for graduate students that will teach them the ethics of such communication.


Basic Ethics Terminology- Dr. Lara: 5/30

††††††††††† This class was to mainly introduce us to some of the basic terms we will come in contact with in the next sessions and if we continue on learning about ethics or philosophy after the program is over. We began by discussing three different ďbranchesĒ of ethics: meta-ethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. The talk was mostly over meta-ethics, which covers the question of objective values. Then, several different beliefs were introduced, along with their general definitions. The lecture ended with us going over consequentialism, believing that the best course of action maximizes pleasure, and deontology, the belief that we should act a certain was because we are supposed to and to not violate otherís rights, no matter the personal negative consequences. We were then given the APS guidelines and told to analyze which they focused on.

††††††††††† From what I can tell, the guidelines tend to go more with deontic versus consequential reasoning for behaving a certain way. Very rarely did the guidelines go through any punishment for breaking them and generally stuck with repeating that it was simply unethical to, for instance, plagiarize or fabricate data. The one consequence the paper did stress, however, was that if others, especially those outside the scientific community, were to discover these occurrences, it would greatly damage the reputation of science as a whole, and lead many to no longer trust the results gained from legitimate studies.

††††††††††† I can certainly foresee the consequences that are claimed by the APS. If people were to stop trusting scientists and their findings, nobody would have a future in this field, even though it is of key importance to the advancement of our society. Even the ramifications that are not mentioned would likely be devastating to the individual since their reputation would be ruined and if they stole others work, they could be in for extreme legal troubles. However, one issue I do foresee with the guidelines and with the overall lecture is when what I believe and what others believe are different, especially in a case where a superior believes it is alright to fabricate data and encourages it while I donít feel comfortable with it. We have not yet gone into this situation, but I look forward to it because I do believe that I have no idea what I would do if I were ever put in that situation (be insubordinate or continue with unethical behavior). †††††

Discussion of APS Guidelines and Some Instances of Dishonesty- Dr. Lara: 6/4

††††††††††† The beginning of the discussion focused on the guidelines provided by the APS regarding ethics. We went over if we found them to be more consequential or deontic in nature. I found that the main consequence mentioned was preserving the foundation science was built upon and making sure data collected is still looked at as scientific. The rest seemed to be very deontic, focusing on the fact that fabricating data or stealing otherís work is not appropriate simply based on standards we have.

††††††††††† Dr. Lara also dove into the thought that sometimes unethical behavior may actually advance science instead of hindering it, like copying ideas from lesser known scientists. I also brought up Coulomb, since it is my understanding that he did fabricate his data, or at least altered it, to obtain his famous equation. This also brought up the responsibility of when to list someone as a co-author/acknowledgement and what responsibility this placed on that individual.

††††††††††† A bulk of the talk was focused on the case at Berkeley where the person who alleged to have discovered element 118 as well as its decay was shown to have fabricated results all the way back to when he received his doctorate. It was asked why people do such things if the likelihood of getting caught is relatively high. My belief is that it is all ego; this can happen to everybody else except for me. This guy may have gotten away with small scale cheating and then thought nothing would go wrong and continued to do it. Dr. Corwin also made a good point in that he could have simply made a mistake in the beginning, was too embarrassed to acknowledge it, and then it spiraled out of control until he was caught.

††††††††††† We then went into the concept of cognitive bias, or trying to look for certain patterns in data that donít exist or perhaps changing it to get the results wanted. This was a key point when we discussed Milken and his Oil Drop experiment, which was a part of one of the articles we read. Many are now arguing that he had faulty practices and that he lied about it by claiming that the data he eventually used represented all the drops he collected and there was no selective sampling. Personally, I agreed with Dr. Corwinís view on the case, in that when he performed the experiment, and when he did admit to omitting certain data points, the policies were much more relaxed and they were not seen as faulty or misleading. However, when the times started to change and he could possibly be discredited, he thought it best to alter his wording on the data. Overall, I also donít see what the big deal with it is. It is accepted that he did his experiment during a time when views on data collection were shifting and was caught in the middle. We currently abide by different standards and donít need to dwell so much on things that really donít matter.

Speaking to the Public-Dr. Glymour: 6/11

††††††††††† Most of the class was spent discussing our views on what scientists owe to the public and possible consequences for/against giving our results to them through the press. We also went into what information should be discussed to the public if that time comes, i.e. what do they really want to hear or what will they understand.

††††††††††† The professor went into the positives that can come out of disclosing findings. He mentioned that more funding could be gained and that any type of support is a good thing. Other aspects were investigated, such as the possibility that explanation is owed to them since we would be using funds to do research or possible other social/scientific obligations we may have to uphold. We also talked about who should actually do the speaking, since some people may not have time to do so if they are immersed with work or if their communication skills are lacking. The biggest issue though seemed to be how in depth people should go when trying to explain findings with people not in the scientific community.

††††††††††† In my opinion, what we tell to the public should be stripped down to methods we used, results found, and what conclusions WE drew from it. That should be it. Some brought up if we should try and convince people that are conclusions are correct, and possible ways that people should change the finding implies we, as a society, are doing something wrong. I donít believe this is a good way to go about things. People involved with science realize that findings almost always need to be refined, corrected, or even refuted. However, the public usually believe that scientific findings are absolute and that the conclusions should be believed wholeheartedly, and if scientists try to play into this, disaster will occur. When the public finds out about said refinements, corrections, or refutations, they tend to believe the scientists made mistakes or are corrupt in some way, and start losing faith in other findings that may be true. The best I think we can do is offer our beliefs and give them the evidence to draw their own conclusions.

Frames-Dr. Glymour: 6/18

††††††††††† Scientists can be viewed in many different ways, according to todayís lecture. These different views, as showed during the class, range from an anti-establishment thinker, to a quack, or a lone genius versus a large group. The benefits and expectations of each view given to the views, or frames, was analyzed.

††††††††††† The case used for the lone genius was that of Galileo, the ďheroĒ of the fight for heliocentrism. We discussed how he embodied part of the anti-establishment thought and went through the virtues he had in order to generalize this view. The main attributes were courage, audacity, actually being correct, etc. This also brought up how people are not always these things we categorize them as, since Galileo himself recanted his belief of a heliocentric galaxy when threatened by the church. It was also brought up that he could be great a disagreeable person when it came to intrapersonal interactions, such as those with his daughter.

††††††††††† To explain the large group, we began talking about the Manhattan Project. Even though this was a collaboration, credit is either given to the group or a chunk of it is given to the person in charge, Oppenheimer. This is understandable, as they would also most likely take the blame if the project failed. The key virtue given to people that work in this time of environment would be cooperation. The benefits found from this type of project could also be classified as social, since really no one person could take full responsibility for its success.

††††††††††† Towards the end of the discussion, the idea of if scientists should give advice or partisanship towards a view was also brought up, ending with the same given answer: maybe.

††††††††††† To me, the idea of frames is the same as putting a spin on something or cleverly using euphemisms. Itís all about how ideas are presented and interpreted instead of how they actually are. Sometimes everything can be on the same page, but usually the frame is added to try and push the beliefs of the person applying the frame. I think that people should always look at these topics with skepticism since most do add personal opinions to whatever they present. My views are still the same as far as giving our opinions to the public: express but donít try to convince.

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