The Ethics of Teaching and Scientific Research

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

An Engineer's Approach
to the Ethics of Research

A. R. Hibbs
California Institute of Technology

Although I will center my discussion on scientific research, I must approach this problem from the viewpoint of an engineer, and in particular from the viewpoint of one who administers engineering projects. Although my education was in theoretical physics, my closest contact with what is usually called "pure science" today is by virtue of teaching undergraduate physics at Caltech.It is important that you should know this, because I am discussing a subject — scientific research — which I am not personally involved with, always a slightly hazardous undertaking.

In the manner of my engineering colleagues, I will try to organize my approach into subsets and further subdivisions. Lacking a blackboard to diagram it, I will hope simply that you can follow it in the abstract, perhaps imagining the diagram here in the air above my head. It is not important that you agree with my organization, it is simply a convenient way to approach the problem and a help to me in explaining my thoughts to you.

We might identify the act of speculation as a scientific research undertaking. One can visualize a person simply sitting and thinking. I presume that for the most part this does not involve any major ethical problem, certainly not enough to demand our close attention.

I realize that there have been times and social situations in which thinking might be considered unethical, depending on the nature of the

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