The Ethics of Teaching and Scientific Research

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

An Ethical Approach
To Bio-Medical Research

Seymour Seigal
Jewish Theological Seminary

"Utter helplessness demands utter protection" — Hans Jonas.

The application of moral principles to dilemmas raised by scientific research and experimentation requires knowledge of the scientific principles involved. Moralists who are ignorant of the details and procedures of scientific research can hardly be expected to make relevant judgments about such thorny issues as experimentations on humans; fetal research; genetic engineering, or any other types of research that arouse public controversy. This is equally true about other areas of public concern where moralists attempt to make relevant judgments, such as politics and international affairs.

There is a long tradition of ethical analysis embodied in the great religious and philosophical systems of our civilization. Methods of ethical reasoning have been developed over many centuries of experience and study. Just as one rightfully demands of those who render ethical judgments about science, to know something about science — one should also demand that they also know something about the ethical tradition.

Observation of discussions about the ethical dimension of scientific research often yields the melancholy conclusion that frequently ethicists are ignorant of science and that scientists are equally ignorant of ethical reasoning. Obviously, therefore, if one is to make sound judgments in this vital area, a creative partnership should exist between the disciplines of science and the traditions of ethics. This partnership

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