The Ethics of Inquiry and Engagement: The Case of Science in Public

Public Affairs Quarterly 24 (2):155-168 (2010)

Scott Aikin
Vanderbilt University
There has been a promising discussion brewing recently about whether there is an ethics of inquiry—that is, a unique set of ethical rules that constrains inquirers specifically in their role as inquirers. Most prominently, Philip Kitcher has proposed that there is indeed an ethics of inquiry. He argues that, given the intellectual climate of many modern societies, certain research programs are likely to encourage further social injustice against members of already disadvantaged groups; in such cases, inquirers are obligated to refrain from that research, regardless of its expected or likely results. Kitcher has in mind scientific research regarding the natural capacities of members of traditionally underprivileged social groups; he thinks that, given the degree of prejudice and discrimination that obtains in many societies, research into the possibility of a biological basis for differences in accomplishment among different races and sexes should be prohibited, even where the proposed research promises to debunk racist and sexist views
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