Introduction : societal values and environmental research -- The Hormesis case -- An argument for societal values in policy-relevant research -- Lesson #1 : safeguarding science -- Lesson #2 : diagnosing deliberation -- Lesson #3 : ethics for experts -- The MCS and ED cases.
In recent papers and a book, Heather Douglas has expanded on the well-known argument from inductive risk, thereby launching an influential contemporary critique of the value-free ideal for science. This paper distills Douglas’s critique into four major claims. The first three claims provide a significant challenge to the value-free ideal for science. However, the fourth claim, which delineates her positive proposal to regulate values in science by distinguishing direct and indirect roles for values, is ambiguous between two interpretations, and both (...) have weaknesses. Fortunately, two elements of Douglas’s work that have previously received much less emphasis provide resources for developing a more promising approach for regulating values in science. (shrink)
This response addresses the excellent responses to my book provided by Heather Douglas, Janet Kourany, and Matt Brown. First, I provide some comments and clarifications concerning a few of the highlights from their essays. Second, in response to the worries of my critics, I provide more detail than I was able to provide in my book regarding my three conditions for incorporating values in science. Third, I identify some of the most promising avenues for further research that flow out of (...) this interchange. (shrink)
The role of values in scientific research has become an important topic of discussion in both scholarly and popular debates. Pundits across the political spectrum worry that research on topics like climate change, evolutionary theory, vaccine safety, and genetically modified foods has become overly politicized. At the same time, it is clear that values play an important role in science by limiting unethical forms of research and by deciding what areas of research have the greatest relevance for society. Deciding how (...) to distinguish legitimate and illegitimate influences of values in scientific research is a matter of vital importance.Recently, philosophers of science have written a great deal on this topic, but most of their work has been directed toward a scholarly audience. This book makes the contemporary philosophical literature on science and values accessible to a wide readership. It examines case studies from a variety of research areas, including climate science, anthropology, chemical risk assessment, ecology, neurobiology, biomedical research, and agriculture. These cases show that values have necessary roles to play in identifying research topics, choosing research questions, determining the aims of inquiry, responding to uncertainty, and deciding how to communicate information. Kevin Elliott focuses not just on describing roles for values but also on determining when their influences are actually appropriate. He emphasizes several conditions for incorporating values in a legitimate fashion, and highlights multiple strategies for fostering engagement between stakeholders so that value influences can be subjected to careful and critical scrutiny. (shrink)
Could low-level exposure to polluting chemicals be analogous to exercise - a beneficial source of stress that strengthens the body? Some scientists studying the phenomenon of hormesis claim that that this may be the case. Is A Little Pollution Good For You? critically examines the current evidence for hormesis.
Could low-level exposure to polluting chemicals be analogous to exercise -- a beneficial source of stress that strengthens the body? Some scientists studying the phenomenon of hormesis claim that that this may be the case.s A Little Pollution Good For You? critically examines the current evidence for hormesis.
A number of scholars have recently drawn attention to the importance of iteration in scientific research. This paper builds on these previous discussions by drawing a distinction between epistemic and methodological forms of iteration and by clarifying the relationships between them. As defined here, epistemic iteration involves progressive alterations to scientific knowledge claims, whereas methodological iteration refers to an interplay between different modes of research practice. While distinct, these two forms of iteration are related in important ways. Contemporary research on (...) the biological effects of nanomaterials illustrates that methodological iteration can help to “initiate,” “equip,” and “stimulate” epistemic iteration. (shrink)
In recent years, industry-funded research has come under fire because of concerns that it can be biased in favor of the funders. This article suggests that efforts by philosophers of science to analyze the concept of objectivity can provide important lessons for those seeking to evaluate and improve industry-funded research. It identifies three particularly relevant criteria for objectivity: transparency, reproducibility, and effective criticism. On closer examination, the criteria of transparency and reproducibility turn out to have significant limitations in this context, (...) but the criterion of effective criticism suggests some important strategies for improving the objectivity of industry-funded science. (shrink)
The potential for financial conflicts of interest to influence scientific research in problematic ways has recently become a significant topic of discussion across numerous fields. The chemical, petroleum, pharmaceutical, and tobacco industries have all been accused of suppressing evidence that their products are harmful, producing studies with questionable methodologies, generating questionable reinterpretations of studies that challenge their products, and working with public relations firms and front groups to mislead the public about relevant science. In an effort to address these influences, (...) government... (shrink)
The potential for financial conflicts of interest (COIs) to damage the credibility of scientific research has become a significant social concern, especially in the wake of high-profile incidents involving the pharmaceutical, tobacco, fossil-fuel, and chemical industries. Scientists and policy makers have debated whether the presence of financial COIs should count as a reason for treating research with suspicion or whether research should instead be evaluated solely based on its scientific quality. This paper examines a recent proposal to develop criteria for (...) evaluating the credibility of research without considering its source of funding. It concludes that proposals of this sort are likely to be either ineffective or impractical in many cases. Nevertheless, this does not imply that all research funded by those with an interest in the outcome must be placed under a cloud of suspicion; there are conditions under which research is at much more serious risk of being corrupted than in other cases, and attention to these conditions can guide productive responses to financial COIs. (shrink)
Environmental ethicists have devoted considerable attention to discussing whether anthropocentric or nonanthropocentric arguments provide more appropriate means for defending environmental protection. This paper argues that philosophers, scientists, and policy makers should pay more attention to a particular type of anthropocentric argument. These anthropocentric indirect arguments defend actions or policies that benefit the environment, but they justify the policies based on beneficial effects on humans that are not caused by their environmental benefits. AIAs appear to have numerous appealing characteristics, and their (...) weaknesses do not provide compelling reasons to avoid them. Elucidating these arguments should inspire social scientists and philosophers to study the range of situations in which AIAs can be ethically and effectively employed and the extent to which they increase or diminish public support for environmentalism. (shrink)
The discovery and ongoing investigation of microRNAs suggest important conceptual and methodological lessons for philosophers and historians of biology. This paper provides an account of miRNA research and the shift from viewing these tiny regulatory entities as minor curiosities to seeing them as major players in the post-transcriptional regulation of genes. Conceptually, the study of miRNAs is part of a broader change in understandings of genetic regulation, in which simple switch-like mechanisms were reinterpreted as aspects of complex cellular and genome-wide (...) processes. Among them are the activities of small RNAs, previously regarded as non-functional. Methodologically, the miRNA story suggests new ways of characterizing biological research that should prove helpful to philosophers of science who seek to develop more pluralistic, pragmatic models of scientific inquiry. miRNA research displays iterative movements between multiple modes of investigation that include not only the proposal and testing of hypotheses but also exploratory, technology-oriented and question-driven modes of research. As an exemplary story of scientific discovery and development, the miRNA case illustrates transitions from genetics to genomics and systems biology, and it shows how diverse configurations of research practice are related to major scientific advances. (shrink)
_Current Controversies in Values and Science_ asks ten philosophers to debate five questions that are driving contemporary work in this important area of philosophy of science. The book is perfect for the advanced student, building up her knowledge of the foundations of the field while also engaging its most cutting-edge questions. Introductions and annotated bibliographies for each debate, preliminary descriptions of each chapter, study questions, and a supplemental guide to further controversies involving values in science help provide clearer and richer (...) snapshots of active controversies for all readers._ _. (shrink)
Ethicists widely accept the notion that scientists have moral responsibilities to benefit society at large. The dissemination of scientific information to the public and its political representatives is central to many of the ways in which scientists serve society. Unfortunately, the task of providing information can often give rise to moral quandaries when scientific experts participate in politically charged debates over issues that are fraught with uncertainty. This paper develops a theoretical framework for an “ethics of expertise” (EOE) based on (...) the notion that scientists have responsibilities to provide information in a way that promotes autonomous decision-making on the part of the public and its representatives. Moreover, insofar as the principle of informed consent has developed in biomedical ethics as a way for physicians to promote autonomous decision-making on the part of their patients, this paper suggests that the informed-consent concept may suggest a set of criteria and guidelines that can help scientists to fulfill their similar ethical responsibilities to the public. In order to illustrate how the resulting EOE could provide practical guidance for scientific experts, the paper examines a case study involving the dissemination of information about the low-dose biological effects of toxic chemicals and carcinogens. (shrink)
This book brings together eleven case studies of inductive risk-the chance that scientific inference is incorrect-that range over a wide variety of scientific contexts and fields. The chapters are designed to illustrate the pervasiveness of inductive risk, assist scientists and policymakers in responding to it, and productively move theoretical discussions of the topic forward.
The ability of powerful and well-funded interest groups to steer scientific research in directions that advance their goals has become a significant social concern. This ability is increasingly being recognized in the peer-reviewed literature and in the findings of deliberative expert consensus committees. For example, there is increasing recognition that efforts to address climate change have been stymied in part by a powerful network of conservative foundations, which fund think tanks and other organizations that constitute a “climate change counter movement”. (...) Sociologist Robert Brulle recently found that the total annual income for 91 powerful.. (shrink)
It is widely recognized that endocrine disrupting compounds, such as Bisphenol A, pose challenges for traditional paradigms in toxicology, insofar as these substances appear to have a wider range of low-dose effects than previously recognized. These compounds also pose challenges for ethics and policymaking. When a chemical does not have significant low-dose effects, regulators can allow it to be introduced into commerce or the environment, provided that procedures and rules are in place to keep exposures below an acceptable level. This (...) option allows society to maximize the benefits from the use of the chemical while minimizing risks to human health or the environment, and it represents a compromise between competing values. When it is not possible to establish acceptable exposure levels for chemicals that pose significant health or environmental risks, the most reasonable options for risk management may be to enact either partial or complete bans on their use. These options create greater moral conflict than other risk management strategies, leaving policymakers difficult choices between competing values. (shrink)
This paper examines how ethically significant assumptions and values are embedded not only in environmental policies but also in the language of the environmental sciences. It shows, based on three case studies associated with contemporary pollution research, how the choice of scientific categories and terms can have at least four ethically significant effects: influencing the future course of scientific research; altering public awareness or attention to environmental phenomena; affecting the attitudes or behavior of key decision makers; and changing the burdens (...) of proof required for taking action in response to environmental concerns. The paper argues that deliberative forums, research-ethics training, and conceptual work by environmental philosophers could all promote more ethically sensitive responses to these features of scientific language. (shrink)
Economist Frank Knight drew a distinction between decisions under risk and decisions under uncertainty. Despite the significance of this distinction for decision theory, we argue that there has been inadequate attention to the difficulties involved in classifying decision situations into these categories. Using the risk assessment of carbon nanotubes as an example, we show that it is often unclear whether there is adequate information to classify a decision situation as being under risk as opposed to uncertainty. We conclude by providing (...) two suggestions for responding to these difficulties: treating decisions as real-world experiments; and promoting broadly based deliberation about quantitative information. (shrink)
The biological effects of low doses of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are currently a matter of significant scientific controversy. This paper argues that philosophers of science can contribute to alleviating this controversy by examining it with the aid of a novel account of scientific anomaly. Specifically, analysis of contemporary research on chemical hormesis (i.e., alleged beneficial biological effects produced by low doses of substances that are harmful at higher doses) suggests that scientists may initially describe anomalous phenomena in terms of (...) multiple distinct "characterizations," each of which is compatible with current empirical evidence. By focusing attention on this feature of scientific anomalies, philosophers of science can alleviate the controversy over low-dose chemical effects in at least two ways: (1) they can pinpoint the significant ways in which particular characterizations frame the controversy, and (2) they can identify the methodological value judgments at stake in researchers' choice of characterizations. (shrink)
We argue that environmental aesthetics, and specifically the concept of aesthetic integrity, should play a central role in a public environmental philosophy designed to communicate about environmental problems in an effective manner. After developing the concept of the ?aesthetic integrity? of the environment, we appeal to empirical research to show that it contributes significantly to people?s sense of place, which is, in turn, central to their well-being and motivational state. As a result, appealing to aesthetic integrity in policy contexts is (...) both strategically and morally advisable. To provide a concrete illustration of the ways in which such appeals can play a role in policy making, we examine a specific case study in which attention to aesthetic integrity contributed to blocking a proposed development. The case yields at least four lessons: (1) aesthetic integrity can be a practically effective framing device; (2) local deliberative settings are particularly conducive for addressing it; (3) it can serve as an umbrella under which multiple other issues can be brought to the fore; and (4) judgments about aesthetic integrity need not be entirely objective in order for them to play a productive role in the policy sphere. (shrink)
Researchers have used drones to track wildlife populations, monitor forest fires, map glaciers, and measure air pollution but have only begun to consider how to use these unmanned aerial vehicles to study human beings. The potential use of drones to study public gatherings or other human activities raises novel issues of privacy, confidentiality, and consent, which this article explores in depth. It argues that drone research could fall into several different categories: non-human subjects research, exempt HSR, or non-exempt HSR. In (...) the case of non-exempt HSR, it will be difficult for institutional review boards to approve studies unless they are designed so that informed consent can be waived. Whether drone research is non-HSR, exempt HSR, or non-exempt HSR, it is important for investigators to consult communities which could be affected by the research. (shrink)
Relatively few thinkers have attempted to develop a systematic ‘ethics of expertise’ (EOE) that can guide scientists and other technical experts in providing information to the public. This paper argues that the prima facie duty to disseminate information in a manner that does not damage the self-determination of decision makers could fruitfully serve as one of the core principles of an EOE. Moreover, this duty can be fleshed out in promising ways by drawing on the concept of informed consent, which (...) guides medical clinicians in preserving the self-determination of their patients. The paper applies the resulting ethical framework to recent policy discussions about hydrogen fuel-cell (HFC) vehicles, both because they have received a good deal of research funding and because their merits have been hotly debated. It concludes that technical experts providing information about HFC vehicles should be especially cognizant of three issues: (1) important alternatives to hydrogen technology that need to be addressed, (2) major false beliefs that should be prevented or corrected, and (3) significant framing effects that could influence the recipients of information. (shrink)