The Ethics of Teaching and Scientific Research

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

The Fallout of the
Legal Mind in Research

L. G. Humphreys
University of Illinois

I will discuss two main issues in somewhat general terms and describe a second example similar to the one described by Dr. Horn. My theme is a quotation from Thomas Jefferson that is inscribed on the inner circumference of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. "I have sworn eternal hostility to all forms of tyranny over the mind of man."

The two problems that I wish to discuss are these: first, the absurd decisions that are being made on the basis of legal reasoning, concerning the central role of free and informed consent of human subjects; and second, what I consider to be essentially the "fascistic" criteria being used to define sociological or social risk. I am not calling the people who use these criteria Fascists, but fascistic actions can be taken by people from the Left, the Right, or the center of the political spectrum.

First, with respect to free and informed consent, consider the following. Attorneys concerned with civil liberties have argued on the basis of seemingly impeccable logic that prisoners cannot possibly give free consent because of the constraints imposed by their imprisonment; therefore, one cannot do research on prisoners. And please bear in mind that by research I mean the full gamut of social science research, behavioral science research (I myself am a psychologist), and biological-biomedical research. Legal reasoning has led other attorneys to reach similar conclusions about research on children. Their logic runs like this. Children lack sufficient maturity to give informed consent. Therefore, one cannot do research on children. To my knowledge,

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