Ethics of Research

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby doogly » Fri Nov 02, 2018 1:07 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:What I was saying is that the answer is yes by definition. Oxford defines 'dick' as a "stupid or contemptible man," and 'contemptible' is synonymous with 'villainous', so 'dick' is a word with moral meaning.

This is quite possibly the most obtuse syllogism I've seen used sincerely, and I've read Aristotle and Aquinas.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Tyndmyr » Fri Nov 02, 2018 1:26 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
One could claim that moral obligation always exists, either to do or to not do {action}, just like the real numbers on a number line, and then we simply try to ascribe a value to the intensity of the obligation (allowing negative numbers for obligations to not do), and zero for the rare cases where morality is completely irrelevant to an action.

What does an obligation of zero strength mean? If there is no moral requirement for you do fulfill an obligation, then how is it an obligation? If an action fulfills one obligation while violates another and both obligations are of equal strength, then you could say the action has not moral value, but each of those obligations independently still exist regardless of what the moral value of an action is.


Zero is effectively equivalent to "no moral obligation exists".

I'd focus on the word obligation, rather than on the moral value. Just because something is good doesn't mean one is obligated to do it. I mean, one could, in theory, sell all their possessions and donate all of the money to the poor. In doing so, they would accomplish some good. It's not reasonable to argue that everyone is obligated to do that, though. Recreation is also good. People ought to be permitted choice as to how to best pursue doing good. If a guy wants to do research, excellent. If a guy doesn't want to do research, but instead wants to be a chef, that's cool too. Both are doing good, and that individual ought to be able to determine which thing he pursues.

Anything other than that ends up being fairly obviously dystopian, and as previously mentioned, sort of a YA parody dystopian society that's so obviously bad that little effort is generally needed to explain why it is this.

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Fri Nov 02, 2018 2:30 pm UTC

doogly wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:What I was saying is that the answer is yes by definition. Oxford defines 'dick' as a "stupid or contemptible man," and 'contemptible' is synonymous with 'villainous', so 'dick' is a word with moral meaning.

This is quite possibly the most obtuse syllogism I've seen used sincerely, and I've read Aristotle and Aquinas.

Can you give a definition of "dick move" that does not draw on morality in some way?


For sure the actual application of these responsibilities/obligations would lead to bad, immoral things in society. That is a very important thing to consider. Taken in a vacuum, though, with no consideration for anything external, I would suggest that there is some moral strength (or however you want to say it) pushing that researcher to do good work, and to share that work. Obviously this hypothetical researcher is a human, which complicates things and ultimately leads to the "no" answer to both these questions, but there's a reason we can say it's a bit of a "dick move" to keep the cure to AIDS private... it's because it is immoral on some level.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Nov 02, 2018 2:32 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
Think about this; would it be wrong for a person who know the cure to HIV infection to not tell anyone about it if they are taking no action based on this information, including but not limited tom treating AIDS patients?


I believe this is known as "Holy Moving Goalposts, Batman!" because you've completely changed the question from
"Should someone capable of doing research - research that may be directly useful, may be indirectly useful by assisting research by others, or research that's a giant fuckoff waste of time and energy when it's all said and done - be ethically obligated to do research"

to
"Should someone who literally knows cures for diseases - and we're going with a presumption that the cure isn't something ethically questionable act like 'harvest the brainstem of a child between 2 years and 3 years of age' - be ethically obligated to share the cure with others or even just sell it for profit instead of sitting around with their thumb up their ass doing nothing with it, not even giving cryptic hints on lines of research delivered in a jumble every Saturday"


which is an entirely different question.

Which one you want us to answer here?
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby doogly » Fri Nov 02, 2018 2:51 pm UTC

SDK wrote:
doogly wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:What I was saying is that the answer is yes by definition. Oxford defines 'dick' as a "stupid or contemptible man," and 'contemptible' is synonymous with 'villainous', so 'dick' is a word with moral meaning.

This is quite possibly the most obtuse syllogism I've seen used sincerely, and I've read Aristotle and Aquinas.

Can you give a definition of "dick move" that does not draw on morality in some way?

If you are sitting next to me on a train and you do a lean away from me for a fart, so that the fart goes at me, it is a total dick move. It is not at all immoral.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Ranbot » Fri Nov 02, 2018 2:52 pm UTC

jewish_scientist, It looks like you want to arrive at a binary yes or no answer that doesn't really exist for the several questions you pose, even if one ethical framework or another can support a yes or no. Anyone thinking about your questions will very quickly (like in <30 seconds) find ways to justify yes and no and that should tell you something. I suspect the purpose of your paper is to explore the gray areas in between the simple yes and no. In that regard, you must have some leads by now from this discussion. Not that I'm trying to end the discussion.... by all means, continue until people grow bored.


From the peanut gallery...
I feel as if these ethical evaluations, frameworks, rules, etc. often miss the forest for the trees; OR are an elaborate means of choice-supportive bias. People usually figure out in a matter of seconds what is ethical to them [which may be different from the next person], while ethicists labor and give long-winded explanations to arrive at the same spot. :roll: I'm no trained ethicist though, so what do I know...
Last edited by Ranbot on Fri Nov 02, 2018 10:20 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby doogly » Fri Nov 02, 2018 2:59 pm UTC

No that is absolutely a correct description of ethics. It is all just a system of elaborate storytelling about one's tastes.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Nov 02, 2018 3:02 pm UTC

Wait, hang on - you're saying with enough words not only can I make my weird porn seem morally superior, but I can call you inferior for not being in to it?

Where the fuck do I sign up?
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby doogly » Fri Nov 02, 2018 3:24 pm UTC

Picture's worth a thousand words

Pony up
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Nov 02, 2018 3:35 pm UTC

As a moderator, I cannot ethically condone further shitposting in SB.

As a poster, FaiD? FaiD.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Fri Nov 02, 2018 3:37 pm UTC

doogly wrote:If you are sitting next to me on a train and you do a lean away from me for a fart, so that the fart goes at me, it is a total dick move. It is not at all immoral.

Really? My choice is intentionally making your life worse. How is that not immoral?
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Nov 02, 2018 5:06 pm UTC

Are there only moral/immoral acts with no acts that are neither?
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Fri Nov 02, 2018 5:41 pm UTC

I'd say no. Sitting next to someone on the train is neither moral nor immoral. Walking down the street is neither as well. Eating some mac and cheese for lunch... plenty of examples.

Any intentional action (or sometimes lack of action) that leads to human suffering though? I don't think there's any example where there is at least some degree of morality involved. The act might be morally neutral even then* since things get complicated, but morality is still involved, it's just balanced.

*For example, if I had the choice to fart one way or the other and there were people on either side of me on an airplane that currently had the seatbelt sign lit up, and I suspected that fart was going to cause me some gas pains momentarily, so holding it in is not an option, so I flip a coin in my head, lean one way and let 'er rip... Sure.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Zohar » Fri Nov 02, 2018 5:51 pm UTC

You really can't separate that from context though. Not sitting next to someone because they're not white, or not vacating your seat for a visibly disabled person, can definitely have a moral value attributed to it. In Jewish ultra-orthodox neighborhoods where women are told to walk on a different side of the street (or a different street entirely) from men, choosing to walk down the street is a political act. Eating mac and cheese means you're at the very least OK with having dairy and, obviously, has moral implications.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Fri Nov 02, 2018 5:56 pm UTC

For sure! I mentioned that in my first post here too. It's a bit of a rabbit hole to start defining all the small moral implications of every action we take, but it's something we can do. I don't think it's *wrong* to approach it from that perspective, just a lot of work that might not be necessary if you've already identified a larger issue with whatever action (like forcing researchers to indentured servitude - clearly overshadows any minor moral imperative that might exist to share their work). It's a conversation we can have though, and I thought that was the point jewishscientist was trying to dig into with this thread.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby jewish_scientist » Sun Nov 04, 2018 3:07 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:
Think about this; would it be wrong for a person who know the cure to HIV infection to not tell anyone about it if they are taking no action based on this information, including but not limited tom treating AIDS patients?


I believe this is known as "Holy Moving Goalposts, Batman!" because you've completely changed the question from
"Should someone capable of doing research - research that may be directly useful, may be indirectly useful by assisting research by others, or research that's a giant fuckoff waste of time and energy when it's all said and done - be ethically obligated to do research"

to
"Should someone who literally knows cures for diseases - and we're going with a presumption that the cure isn't something ethically questionable act like 'harvest the brainstem of a child between 2 years and 3 years of age' - be ethically obligated to share the cure with others or even just sell it for profit instead of sitting around with their thumb up their ass doing nothing with it, not even giving cryptic hints on lines of research delivered in a jumble every Saturday"


which is an entirely different question.

Which one you want us to answer here?

I asked 2 questions, the second of which was, "Do researchers have the obligation to share knowledge they gain?"
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby ucim » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:01 am UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:"Do researchers have the obligation to share knowledge they gain?"
Do researchers have the obligation to withhold knowledge that they gain, if they believe that releasing it would be harmful? Do they have an obligation to even consider the question (or perhaps, do they have an obligation to not consider the question)?

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby elasto » Sun Nov 04, 2018 6:18 am UTC

In addition, share with whom? The general public?

If the researchers were funded privately, in general no, since that might lead to less private funding in future, but there might be a public interest argument for leaking research outcomes in individual instances.

But whether public or private, the researchers have a duty to report the outcome of their work to their employers just like any employee in any job, unless they feel that overwhelming harm would be caused by doing so.

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Kit. » Mon Nov 05, 2018 12:40 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:The question is if research is a positive duty,

The branch you are looking for is called "religion".

jewish_scientist wrote:Think about this; would it be wrong for a person who know the cure to HIV infection to not tell anyone about it if they are taking no action based on this information, including but not limited tom treating AIDS patients?

Oh, sure, let's move the goalposts even further: what if not distributing this particular information about the cure prevents new godwins from appearing?

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Trebla » Tue Nov 06, 2018 12:48 pm UTC

SDK wrote:
doogly wrote:If you are sitting next to me on a train and you do a lean away from me for a fart, so that the fart goes at me, it is a total dick move. It is not at all immoral.

Really? My choice is intentionally making your life worse. How is that not immoral?


Worse? Now you have an amusing anecdote to relate to your friends, or even just to replay in your head, to give you a feeling of superiority over the person who farted on you outweighing the momentary discomfort at smelling something that probably isn't all that much worse than the regular smell of the train (this is at least plausible, if not the common case). One could certainly argue that, while it was a dick move, and also made your life better. (Tongue-in-cheek here... just more recognition of the absurdity of an absolute moral framework).

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby doogly » Tue Nov 06, 2018 1:56 pm UTC

Yeah it's extremely plausible, I very often feel superior to people's wack ass JV farts.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:16 pm UTC

Trebla wrote:(Tongue-in-cheek here... just more recognition of the absurdity of an absolute moral framework).

Ha, fair enough.

I've always thought of moral choices as a mishmash of (usually many) smaller effects, and if we could quantify the morality of each of those smaller effects, do a little math to balance the positives and the negatives, you've got your answer whether or not that choice is moral or immoral overall. Even naming the long list of smaller effects is basically impossible, let alone quantifying them, so doing this exhaustively isn't going to happen... but we should be able to identify the larger issues and work towards balancing them. I'm honestly not sure what other approach to morality is even workable if you plan on taking both short and long term effects into account. Some balancing needs to be done for the moral grey areas. Right?

As for the fart, practically speaking, no one really cares. Whatever negatives (or positives, as you say) might come out of getting farted on are minor, so I'm not going to go on a crusade to stop this evil from happening. Is that really what you guys are saying here? That there's a threshold where something goes from "minor discomfort" to "moral issue"? If so, then what is that threshold?
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:38 pm UTC

I don't know if that's what everyone else is saying, but yes, that's what I am saying. That there are neutral actions.

For example, I just drank some coffee. I do not consider that a moral or immoral act. It's just an act. One can argue on the immorality of it (worker conditions for the harvesting of the coffee beans, further destruction of the Earth for the transportation to me, waste of energy in running the coffee maker). One could also argue the morality of it (My work is enhanced by the beverage, I work on various systems that assist in public safety, so any of those systems that continue working due to my work that save lives mean I am directly contributing to saving lives, which is a moral act).

But both of those are starting to go down convoluted rabbit holes of irrelevance. If it wasn't coffee, it'd be tea which has it's own set of moral quandaries. Perhaps a soda - same deal. Even just regular tap water has moral implications if you insist on inspecting every aspect of it.

OR.....

You can just figure some acts have no moral score. They're simply acts.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:49 pm UTC

Basically, it might have some moral repercussions, but quite small ones, and going to great lengths to imagine possible effects means a possibility for error so high that the measurement is meaningless?

Yeah, I can get behind that. If I have coffee or not, nobody is likely to notice any positive or negative effect. You can argue for an industry scale effect, but my personal cup isn't going to be noticed by the industry. For all practical purposes, it has no moral value.

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:53 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:You can just figure some acts have no moral score. They're simply acts.

How do you figure that out, though? At what point does a simple act become a moral act?

Like, I'm game for you not caring to evaluate the morality of drinking your coffee. There are thousands of choices you make every day, and I certainly don't expect people to give a damn about minor moral issues. But you listed off some good examples there which is exactly what I'm talking about. I'm not saying you should necessarily care about the morality of your coffee, just that you theoretically can evaluate it.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:58 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:For all practical purposes, it has no moral value.

Yeah, practically speaking, I think we are arriving at the same endpoint. I just view it as a sliding scale where the things that edge high enough are things I should care about, but that doesn't stop the minor choices from having some moral implications.

You make a good point about the error though. At the low end of the scale, making your choice as likely to be positive as it is to be negative, with no real way of determining which is the case. Is that what you were getting at, ST? Is the ability to "measure" accurately the cutoff point where something becomes a question of morality?
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:16 pm UTC

While I know that Intent Isn't Magic, I'd honestly say that Intention can be helpful here.

While driving down the road, a car pulls in front of yours more than a safe distance ahead and then brakes, causing you to slow down. Was this a Moral, Immoral, or Neutral act? It depends on the intention of the driver who pulled out in front of you.

If they were intending to just sort of show their power on the world, a kind of "I can make this car slow/stop! Muah hah hah!" thing, then it's an immoral act. They were deliberately fucking with you.

If they did it because they saw a deer crossing the road and believed you did not see it, a sort of "I'm going to help this person not wreck their car and help this deer not die today" it would be a moral act.

If they braked on accident, it's a neutral act. There's no morality to find in it. They made a mistake. It simply is. This isn't absolving all mistakes, but it's stating that in this instance, there's no greater meaning or purpose, no malice intended, no danger anyone was really put in.

None of these reasons are apparent to you. You simply have a car pull in front of you, apply brakes and, after a moment, resume the normal rate of speed causing you a minor inconvenience. From your perspective, you have an asshole in front of you and you might want to consider it an immoral act, either from malice or carelessness. From the driver in front of you's perspective, they potentially are believing to be a savior of sorts to you and to a random deer and consider their act moral.

Both of you are operating on completely different sets of information. Both of you have different immediate goals (Continue travelling at the same rate of speed | Not get in or allow another to be involved in a collision with a deer).

Perhaps you are a good enough driver to have dodged the deer. Perhaps you were aware of it this whole time and planning your actions before they were disrupted by this new driver. Perhaps the deer is in a safe position and the other driver is mistaken. Is it even a moral act to "protect" someone from something that may not have occurred in the first place when they were never in any danger?

Combining them, the person pulling in front of you and braking is doing it because they're an asshole and after the fact both you and the asshole see the deer and realize the asshole's self-satisfying actions stopped you from colliding with the animal. Is the act now suddenly moral because it had a good outcome even though the intentions were bad?

The answer to all those questions is "Beats the shit out of me".

But when you start tracing actions not just from the immediate instance and start digging down in to everything else - (Car pulls in front of mine and brakes, preventing me from hitting a deer and thus saving the deer's life and my car from needing repairs, possibly my own life - Good. However, the wear and tear on my car from the more abrupt than expected braking, the waste of gas in accelerating back up to speed, the costs both financially and environmentally of creating and transporting the now worn parts and fuel from the point of manufacture to me - bad) - you can easily get out of hand and start arriving at conclusions like "It is the moral choice to stab this child through the eye with this long metal spike as it causes the greatest amount of harm reduction, both immediately as it's the fastest renewable way to end this child's life and in the long term as this child will not grow up to consumer more resources and produce children that will consume resources, etc" as reasonable options.

I mean, chasing the Most Moral Act and Least Harm Done is how you get things like Skynet, Ultron, Braniac, or other fictional villains who just want to make the world better (by killing everything on it).

SDK wrote: Is that what you were getting at, ST? Is the ability to "measure" accurately the cutoff point where something becomes a question of morality?
More or less, I guess.

Basically an act has causes and effects (for lack of better terminology), and those causes have causes and those effects have effects. And a lot of what j_s has been proposing seems to rely on following the chains out until their ultimate conclusion or at least more than ten steps out.

I'm saying that - once you get a couple of steps away, it's no longer a question of an individual person or an individual act's morality. You're now dealing with societal systems and that's well outside the scope of what one person can be expected to cover with their own decisions.

Whether or not I choose to drink coffee today does in no way shape the coffee industry. I'd need thousands to meaningfully shape it in an area, I'd need tens if not hundreds of thousands to shape it nationally, and I'd need millions of me to shape it globally. Assigning the immorality of low pay to coffee farmers to my choice to drink a cup of coffee today is absurd. The ethics of the various systems that led to that coffee's existence are too great for that single cup to matter. The ethics of the various systems in play of research are too vast for a single researcher's participation to matter.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:25 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:Basically an act has causes and effects (for lack of better terminology), and those causes have causes and those effects have effects. And a lot of what j_s has been proposing seems to rely on following the chains out until their ultimate conclusion or at least more than ten steps out.


Additionally, at that length of causality chaining, choosing to stop and assign the morality at you seems arbitrary. Why not the person before or after you in the chain? Or we just blame everything on the first humans. Basically, it stops being useful.

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:58 pm UTC

I liked your deer story, and yeah, "beats the shit out of me" seems like the rational stance in such cases. I don't think that precludes the possibility of saying it's theoretically possible, but given that morality is a man-made invention, perhaps you're right to just dismiss entirely anything that's not measurable. If determining the morality of a situation isn't useful, maybe it's not a moral question at all. Morality serves humanity, not the other way around.

SecondTalon wrote:...you can easily get out of hand and start arriving at conclusions like "It is the moral choice to stab this child through the eye with this long metal spike as it causes the greatest amount of harm reduction, both immediately as it's the fastest renewable way to end this child's life and in the long term as this child will not grow up to consumer more resources and produce children that will consume resources, etc" as reasonable options.

I mean, chasing the Most Moral Act and Least Harm Done is how you get things like Skynet, Ultron, Braniac, or other fictional villains who just want to make the world better (by killing everything on it).

I don't think this is relevant though. Yeah, utilitarianism and the like have a lot of problems, but I think those problems primarily stem from certain moral frameworks not putting enough value into human life, self-determination, practicality, etc. In my opinion, if your moral framework devolves into Ultron, you've chosen poorly and need to reevaluate where you place your value.

Anyway, thanks for the conversation. I guarantee I'm going to be thinking of this anytime I see a "dick move" going forward, followed by trying to decide if that dick has crossed the line.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby ucim » Tue Nov 06, 2018 4:59 pm UTC

So, what's the difference between an immoral act and a dick move?

Consider the case of an Orthodox Jew on the Sabbath. They, by dint of their religion, are not permitted to work. "Work" is very broadly defined; to wit, they may not turn a light on or off, they may not open or close a water tap, they may not open or close a door... In any case, some Orthodox Jews, in preparation for the Sabbath, will open any doors they need to go through, will leave water running in the bathroom all day so that they can wash up afterwards without "doing work", stuff like that.

So, Rabinowitz is in the dorm on the Sabbath and needs to go to the bathroom. Bobby (who does not subscribe to Rabinowitz's superstitions) is in there. If the water is not running, it would be kind for Bobby to open the tap. If the water is running, it would be a dick move for him to close the tap. Is it a dick move for Rabinowitz to impose his deeply held religious beliefs on Bobby, expecting Bobby to open the tap? Suppose there is a water shortage - is it a dick move on Bobby's part to not wait for Rabinowitz to finish, so that he could continue as Rabinowitz's servant and close the tap?

Does it matter whether Rabiniowitz's {superstitions | beliefs} are correct?

Now, to get back to the OP (an obligation to report one's research), suppose Susan's research shows that Rabinowitz is in the dorm and needs to go to the bathroom. Does she have an obligation to report this to the dorm, so that they can be more on the lookout for ways to help him (or to be a dick to him)? Does it matter if the dorm is full of Jew sympathizers or of anti-Semites?

The example isn't actually silly - a version of this is being played out right now in Israel regarding air travel.

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:06 pm UTC

aka "How many moral acts does it take to make an immoral act moral?"

SDK wrote:Anyway, thanks for the conversation. I guarantee I'm going to be thinking of this anytime I see a "dick move" going forward, followed by trying to decide if that dick has crossed the line.

That's pretty much how I've started thinking about the actions of myself and others. "What was the purpose of the action, and how did it affect everyone else around?"

In some cases, it genuinely is the person causing the inconvenience is a dick. In many other cases, it's simply that they didn't have the same information you did and thus didn't realize their act was a dick move until it was too late.

But people who mosey down dead center of the aisles of grocery stores are always in the wrong. 100% fact. If this grandma in her walker can walk on one side of the aisle to let other people pass, so can you.

....

I'm not touching the religious angle.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:21 pm UTC

SecondTalon wrote:"What was the purpose of the action, and how did it affect everyone else around?"

For the record, I am going to continue thinking a hypothetical researcher hiding the cure for AIDS is acting morally wrong to some degree (whether or not doogly wants to call it a dick move). That is pretty clearly defined damage to humanity. Despite that, it's still wrong to force that researcher to do so, even if that maximizes human happiness or some such thing. Self-determination should be pretty highly enshrined in any workable approach to morality.

ucim wrote:Does it matter whether Rabiniowitz's {superstitions | beliefs} are correct?

Yes. I'm under no moral obligation to avoid stepping on someone's invisible friend when walking down the street.

I'm game to accommodate their beliefs where practical in order to maintain a more civil society, but as soon as that's in conflict with something in real life, real life wins.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Nov 06, 2018 5:54 pm UTC

SDK wrote:
SecondTalon wrote:"What was the purpose of the action, and how did it affect everyone else around?"

After I posted that, I left where I was and voted and realized it's actually longer.

"What was the purpose of the action, how much information does the person doing the action have, how much information should the person have, and how did it affect everyone else around?"
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Trebla » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:13 pm UTC

SDK wrote:For the record, I am going to continue thinking a hypothetical researcher hiding the cure for AIDS is acting morally wrong to some degree (whether or not doogly wants to call it a dick move). That is pretty clearly defined damage to humanity.


Perhaps the researcher is under the impression (either rightly or wrongly) that the cure is worse than the disease? Maybe it causes sterilization or worse? Is it still morally wrong to hide that cure? Is it ever morally not-wrong (neutral or better) to hide ANY private knowledge that has potential benefit regardless of potential harm?

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Tue Nov 06, 2018 6:24 pm UTC

Trebla wrote:Is it ever morally not-wrong (neutral or better) to hide ANY private knowledge that has potential benefit regardless of potential harm?

Of course not, because of your addition there, "regardless of potential harm". Everything is a balance. If there are other considerations that balance the goodness of an act against the badness, it may not be immoral to hide the cure for AIDS on the whole. Taking that action out of context and looking at it in a vacuum, however, I still think that I can say that one aspect of that act was immoral, it was just balanced by a bunch of other important moral factors.

For example, it is my belief that the act of killing another human is morally wrong, *including in self-defense*. However, that is more than balanced by your (very important) right to life and freedom, meaning that killing an attacker can be the morally correct choice overall. You're killing someone who's trying to kill you? Great. You're killing someone who is trying to steal your wallet? Maybe not so justified. In both cases, I think we can separate out the "killing" portion and give that an immoral label. What justifies it is the context on balance.
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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby Trebla » Tue Nov 06, 2018 7:34 pm UTC

SDK wrote:
Trebla wrote:Is it ever morally not-wrong (neutral or better) to hide ANY private knowledge that has potential benefit regardless of potential harm?

Of course not, because of your addition there, "regardless of potential harm". Everything is a balance. If there are other considerations that balance the goodness of an act against the badness, it may not be immoral to hide the cure for AIDS on the whole. Taking that action out of context and looking at it in a vacuum, however, I still think that I can say that one aspect of that act was immoral, it was just balanced by a bunch of other important moral factors.


I don't think you can separate the other factors any more than you can separate the the individual causes and consequences of any of our scenarios, though. The cure (or knowledge thereof) doesn't exist in a vacuum. Maybe it couldn't exist in a vacuum. It feels like we're on the same page here. I don't think anyone would disagree that the contextless act is immoral (or "bad" or "wrong" or whatever word you're most comfortable with), but that's just not reality.

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Re: Ethics of Research

Postby SDK » Tue Nov 06, 2018 7:36 pm UTC

Trebla wrote:...but that's just not reality.

I agree it's not reality. I still think it can be a useful approach to morality to better understand the grey areas.
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