The Ethics of Teaching and Scientific Research

By Sidney Hook; Paul Kurtz et al. | Go to book overview

The Ethics of Research:
A Case History and Its Lessons

John L. Horn
University of Denver

Our history is a record of an arduous, often faltering, struggle to expand human freedoms — freedom from the wants and deprivations imposed by Nature and freedom from the subjugation of one people by another. This record is strewn with examples of restrictions of reasonable freedoms being imposed by people of one persuasion for reasons that are said to be well founded. At their base most such restrictions are limits on freedom of inquiry. In the objective light of historical perspective, restrictions on freedom of inquiry are usually found to be, in effect, power politics exercised in loyalty to one set of beliefs to the detriment of other beliefs that may hold equal, or greater, promise for improvement of the human condition. In the modern period, in such places as the U.S., beliefs that constitute a prevailing dogma in this sense are those specifying that the rights of an individual are inviolate above all else. Nothing can be done that could possibly jeopardize a particular individual even if other individuals, considered collectively, are put in jeopardy or are not advanced by failure to do something promising. Always powerful in the U.S., this dogma has gained exceptional strength since the 1960's. Today, the belief is the raison d'etre for a monstrous collection of codifications and forms, committees and agencies, one on top of the other, duplicating and communicating, each in its way intended to ensure what are called the rights of individuals. What follows is a tale about a research proposal that fell into a tiny part of this maelstrom of bureaucratic activity.

-135-

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