T Nation

Ethics or Breakthrough


Lets have a discussion on Ethics and Morals within Science.

You are a scientist trying to test a hypothesis through an experiment.

If confirmed, it could mean a great breakthrough in your field of knowledge. If dismissed, valuable resources and personnel working on this hypothesis may be allocated somewhere else, possibly leading to other developments.

However, the experiment requires the use of human test subjects. Under the laws of your country, you are required to ask for written consent for this kind of experiment.

Said experiment can be carried out without the knowledge of the test subjects. In fact, knowledge of being part of this experiment might alter the test results, rendering the experiment useless.

You are faced with a decision: You choose to...

a) Fake the consents and carry out the experiment, breaking the law and disregarding ethics, but arriving at a correct conclusion and contributing greatly to science.

b) Get the consents and carry out the experiment, knowing that your data may be off, possibly leading to a wrong conclusion, that is bad either ways. But your conscience is clean, and you don't have to worry about being indicted or arrested.

c) Not carry out the experiment. You are convinced that it's best to wait until someone, maybe yourself, comes up with a better experiment.

d) Other (tell us)


I bet the two rats to the right would make great kebobs


did you have a particular experiment in mind? I dont see why consent would render your results unreliable unless there was no placebo or control group used. theres plenty of ways to eliminate bias in exeperiments, even for the scientists running the test.

An animal behavior professor of mind did an intresting "study" on his students each year. He would have 1 half of the class watch a video of a vole with bad parenting technique and do an etholog on it, and the other half of the class watch a vide of a vole with good parenting technique. the only thing was the videos were the same, yet people who thought they had the bad parent ranked the parent poorely and people who thought they had the good parent ranked it much higher. not really sure how relavant that was to this but it was an interesting way of showing how experimenter bias can ruin data as well, not just participants in the study with knowledge of whats going on


You can still obtain informed consent without necessarily telling your subjects precisely what you're doing. It's tricky but isn't necessarily unethical so long as you still inform them of possible issues. That's the basic principle of blinding. Relentless touched on it.

For reference: most of the useful stuff the Nazis came up with through their experiments (that violated the shit out of human rights and walked all over informed consent[it wasn't really a thing back then for the US either {Tuskegee}...but still]) were locked away never to be used.

Additionally, you're always free to experiment on yourself as a researcher. If I recall, you can go for it with almost no oversight at the get go.


This is what bothers me the most. The fact that were willing to throw away years of research because it was unethical in the first place is down right...wrong. It was sad what happened but theres no reason that it should all go to waste. Should we have used the studies and experiments performed by Mengle,who knows how far we could have gone with the Human Genome Project.


Design the study to measure something other than the desired effect, then "discover" this awesome and unanticipated side effect.

Like Viagra.


The problem with Mengele's research was that it was not serious scientific work. It was the monstrous and systematic torture and killing of innocent people. There was nothing of value to preserve.

Ethics are important, but I completely reject religious belief and I think ancient holy books are irrelevant in determining what scientists should be allowed to do. If someone says, for example, that the Bible or Qur'an forbids some treatment that could potentially save thousands or millions of lives, they should be ignored like the fools they are. There should be open debate about controversial research, informing and educating people.


B or C.


So, you're assuming that religious people are not informed or educated people? A little uninformed and uneducated yourself because Jews and Catholics are some of the largest benefactors to science. As well this is equivalent to saying well if they are communist we should ignore them like the fools they are.

Utterly ignorant and bigoted.


My great uncle was at Auschwitz and his wife at Birkenau. She interacted with Mengele, he would flirt with the women apparently.

Read this if you have a strong stomach. Or just take my word for it that there was nothing of any scientific merit being performed there.

fucking bastard.


Does Communism have a position on the use of human embryos? No. Go away, you utter simpleton.

I am fully aware of the contribution that people with religious belief have made to science. There are also many brilliant people who have made great scientific discoveries who suffered from serious mental health problems. If I prove the Riemann Hypothesis tomorrow, and I believe that a race of unicorns communicate to me from their home planet using my dreams, should my beliefs be taken seriously?


This is all news to me. I read a long time ago that the nazis did a lot for human biology because they weren't worried about the whole ethics thing.

Sincere thanks for showing me the truth. Thinking that concentration camps had anything benefical kinda disturbed me.


So, only because we hold an opinion on morals (including abortion) we're simpletons. Very bigoted of you.


I work next to a lab who developed sildenafil :slight_smile: and it was truly an unanticipated side effect.

Most big pharma companies dont do human studies in 'developed' countries. They go to the "third world" to do the studies that are largely successful or have no negative impact. However, the moral problem I have with this is that the drugs are never launched in that country because it doesnt have the infrastructure to afford/distribute.

So ethically, as a scientist, I say it's okay to do human studies (only with the subject's consent) if the drug, for example, has passed the animal phases (obviously).


I thought that they made the most contributions in the fields of surgery and anesthesia...I guess I could actually visit some of these places while I'm over here, but I kind of dont want to.


Reality check: you're not the only people with opinions on morals.


So, you only those that disagree with you are simpletons?


this is totally psycho. I'm sorry for your relatives.


Isn't it a much more important (than consent) question, what harm will come to the "subjects"? Not that one can judge what's "real" harm and what's "negligible" harm... I mean, some experiments could be (almost) completely harmless.

Say someone wants to experiment with dumping ascorbic acid in the water supply to see what happens when everyone gets 1000 mg /day. That's one experiment.

And another one, like the vole/parenting/ethology experiment mentioned above.

Now another experiment which implies giving pregnant women a potential abortifacient...

And another looking to see how perfectly healthy people could cope with a sudden amputation or blindness...

But it comes down to theology. If you believe human life is sacred, and harming someone (ok, a slap on the face might not count; at least if it's not intended to break his neck etc.) is strictly forbidden, than it's wrong. Truly, why would you give a rat's ass on what some people think is right or wrong? What makes their opinion hold any value?


Really? Which Lab? Sildenafil was not an unanticpated side effect. The original "erection hypothesis" was postulated in research on the PDE5 enyzme system. Sildenafil was developed as a result of this.