September 14, 2007

Intellectual Integrity

Bridge of Sighs IIIThe BBC mentions that Sir David King has proposed a scientific profession ethics code (via Adventures in Ethics and Science). The code has seven principles:

  • Act with skill and care, keep skills up to date
  • Prevent corrupt practice and declare conflicts of interest
  • Respect and acknowledge the work of other scientists
  • Ensure that research is justified and lawful
  • Minimise impacts on people, animals and the environment
  • Discuss issues science raises for society
  • Do not mislead; present evidence honestly

Nice, but how is that different from the normal values of science?

Maybe the mistake is to claim this ought to be a professional code. Maybe we should instead declare this to be a universal human code of conduct for intellectual integrity. Media ought to follow it. These are values the public should try to act according to, when discussing science and what it ought to do. All these points are points about intellectual honesty we ought to tell children about.

Man's unfailing capacity to believe what he prefers to be true rather than what the evidence shows to be likely and possible has always astounded me. We long for a caring Universe which will save us from our childish mistakes, and in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary we will pin all our hopes on the slimmest of doubts. God has not been proven not to exist, therefore he must exist.
-- Academician Prokhor Zakharov, "For I Have Tasted The Fruit"
Posted by Anders3 at September 14, 2007 04:00 PM