Perspectives: Lost in a shopping Mall: An experience with controversial research

Ethics and Behavior 7 (3):271 – 284 (1997)
In the 16th century Bruno asserted that the earth revolves around the sun. This notion violated the Catholic Church's teaching that the earth was the center of the universe, and his suggestion proved he was a heretic. He was promptly burned at the stake. One hundred years later Galileo said the same thing, and provided evidence. He was forced to recant his views, but he gave the world telescopes so that people could learn for themselves. Today, his assertion is held to be fact with little excitement. Many academics live with a myth of protection; that the pursuit of science, conducted ethically and with methodological rigor, is protected from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Jim Coan's perspective on his experience while an undergraduate student at the University of Washington is important because it sheds light on an unsettling reality; Scientists pursuing unpopular science are no more shielded from attack from scientists and academicians than anyone else. It is particularly worth noting how unpopular science can be attacked in the name of ethics. Although we may be no more enthusiastic about the specific content of the findings than others, ethical academicians and scientists defend unpopular scientific endeavors from attacks leveled on ethical grounds.
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