Some Thoughts on Scientific Responsibility. John Weckert Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics Charles Sturt University Australian National University University of Melbourne . Overview. Responsibility Six considerations: Double effect Dual use Collingridge dilemma Prediction
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Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics
Charles Sturt University
Australian National University
University of Melbourne
Researchers and research organisations should remain accountable for the social, environmental and human health impacts that their N&N research may impose on present and future generations (code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research, 2008)
(Individual v Collectivity responsibility)
consequences that are both foreseen and intentional
consequences that are foreseen and unintentional
consequences that are unforeseen
1 - responsibility
2 – alternatives?
3 -some unforeseen consequences should have been foreseen
It is an ethical dilemma since it is about promoting good in the context of the potential for also causing harm
Ethical dilemmas should be solved not by simply weighing up the potential benefits against the potential harms, but rather by finding other alternatives.
The consequences of research cannot be predicted
Therefore responsibility for consequences does not arise
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
Bill Gates, 1981
"Radio has no future."
"X-rays are clearly a hoax."
"The aeroplane is scientifically impossible."
Royal Society president William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, 1897-9.
Science is collaborative (collective)
No individual can be held responsible
BUT if what the group does is morally questionably and I accept it, I am morally tainted (May)
'In our time, scientists and engineers carry a particularly heavy burden of moral responsibility, because the development of military means of mass destruction is dependent on their work.'
believed that scientists should always be concerned with the ethical consequences of their work.
was the only physicist to leave the Manhattan Project on the grounds of conscience