Trustworthiness in explanation: The obligation to explain well

Science and Engineering Ethics 6 (3):351-364 (2000)
‘Scientific integrity’ certainly requires that data and references be beyond reproach. However, issues within the theory of scientific explanation suggest that there may be more to it than just this. While it is true that some contemporary, pragmatic analyses of explanation suffer from the ‘problem of relevance’ (an inability to ensure that explanations which are paradigmatic technically are relevant to the question being posed), it does not seem to be true that the addition of formal, metaphysical constraints is necessary to solve this problem. I argue that, when viewed as requests for help with an epistemic problem, explanation-seeking questions reveal the existence of a set of moral criteria centered in trust which, when satisfied, prevent trivial or irrelevant explanations from being offered, thereby broadening the concept of ‘scientific integrity’.
Keywords explanation  ignorance  knowledge  moral  relevance  scientific integrity  trust
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