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The scientist and his ethics a topic for the eleven hundred eighty consecutive broadcast of The Judge Stone university radio from another in a series of educational and informative programs from Washington D.C. but Georgetown firm was founded in 1946. This is where the Spanish speaking to buy transcription from the Raymond Rice studio on the campus of George St. University historic Jesuit seat of learning in the nation's capital. Today's discussion Moby the scientist and his ethics but dissipating our Reverend Francis J Haydn Society of Jesus. Professor and chairman of the Department of Astronomy at Georgetown University Dr. Lawrence S. LEVY and field professor and chairman of the department of physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University School of Medicine. And Dr. Raymond J sigur senior staff associate per research National Science Foundation. The rest of the scientist with respect for his fellow man. That's the nub of today's discussion. That rarely
changed over the past several generations. We offer the proposition that the scientist no longer resides in the ivory tower aloof from the trials and tribulations of the everyday world but today a scientist must be part and parcel of his world. The red technology has been coined for the achievements of the scientist in our culture so that technology becomes for the scientist a matter of conscience and consequence. So today we discuss the ethics of the scientist and we ask the Haydn to open the conversation. We have to realize that probably over 95 percent of the sciences since the beginning most are alive in the world today. Hence when we speak of technology in the world we had to abandon some scientific research going on but
I was. You might say culture in the world today and with that kind of involvement the scientists cannot. Base simple person who works in a laboratory on some little bit like an atom or on something of that sort to try and find scientific principle. Very often he's working on principles and trying to develop applications and that way teams and outside the world is waiting for the results. I was investigations and this is why I say that the scientist today has to be much more conscious. Of the results of his investigation and the way in which he pursues pursues that investigation simply because of the fact that whatever he does well have on the rest of man. I don't think father that in this respect scientists today I
know any different position than anyone else. For example even the bridge builder today because of the tremendous amount of traffic for example that must pass over his bridge has a greater responsibility in the modern world so that all of us whether we be scientists or not scientists during this rapid communication and transportation and general affluence and contact with one another and effect and influence on one another all of us have a greater responsibility and almost anything we do I don't think a scientist is unique in this respect. I was actually in the case of building a bridge has a great deal of responsibility. And first of all you could have an engineer put up a bridge. Some scientist said none of the mathematical computations. The stresses and self-righteous in that page and model are even on paper. And
secondly just to discuss the materials out of which said Bridges made my speak after it had to go it was just to me something about straining metal and a guide to vibration effects in metal and I say oxidation in the metal. How long it will last. So far so good I think. Just who would recommend for example a certain type of metal from which a bridge is built a plane for that matter rich metallic for take becomes very important. He has an obligation not to recommend something I did. Suspicion investigation before such a thing is put up at a cost of maybe millions of dollars to cause the real problem I think is that technology is so complicated that no single scientist can concern himself. The details that are in
the statement I made the very beginning that every tower from which they were the new discovery like a Faraday for example but when you speak of them you're speaking of A. Team of scientists. Your television set a space program capsule so I get thousands of scientists each with a certain responsibility for his investigation. And if I can just hear a little first of all I think everybody is making the problem entirely too simple. You speak of the scientist. There are all kinds of scientists you speak of technology. There are all kinds of technology. Some of our industries are more technologically based and less scientifically based than others.
I have a feeling that in this complex of the situation I remember a cartoon that came out at the end of our work to show me a factory that had been concerned with making machines of war but is now making Mickey Mouse's. And it would be very difficult because a complex of a man is making a screw to say much that's going to be used for is it going to be a Mickey Mouse or a mammoth machine. And indeed I understand that's exactly the way the Japanese did things they parcel them out so that no individual knew nothing and this is what I think it is. We say you must speak the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I think we have to be careful that the scientist says this is the way I you see it from a very limited point of view and a further away he is from what's going to happen. The more limited his point of view. May I
make just one more thing. I do believe that we have to be careful that anything can be used for good or bad. I mean I take a knife is a knife was a bet. Well in the hands of a bad man it can stab a good heart in the hands of a good physician that can cut out a bad appendix it is not even the bridge. Of course it can be used in want to get traffic going for commerce or it can be used for exploitation of troops but it's not the nice one of the bridge that's good or bad. It's a man who uses it for good or for bad. Yes but now in this matter same comparison of a knife you have a knife a certain size and lank but you trust it to a child who doesn't have the right amount of responsibility to handle it properly. And this may be another point and the Question of the assets of the scientist that he realizes he's
got a discovery. Well I can always remember a famous meeting we had hired when I was there as a graduate student. It was back around nineteen hundred and thirty nine and the announcement was made at the meeting that a certain Dr Fermi had isolated uranium 235. And now the only scientist attending his manger was a geologist teaching a hybrid stood up and he's going I wish he had never found it. We've got too much power and energy in the world right now money is going to do a time that I was before I we ever made an atom bomb quite sweet did make an end but at the same time got through using those things and I hope we are through using them. Except maybe Kabila will come now or something of that so I now have desalination a lot or so that the deserts of the wild will become green again and other sorts of benefits come from that.
There's one discovery of doctor from me that benefit the whole human race. So really the point is Why would going to it was viable. I think what you say is correct there that science is neither good nor bad and I think what you're saying is that the scientist is not only a scientist but he's also a citizen or a person and as such he must tell he must label the bottle poison if he knows it's poison. He was put on the cigarette package. It may not be good. I think we have two kinds of ethical systems under consideration here in this subject for discussion the scientist and his ethics. His ethics are no different to a need not to be any different than those of his other fellow man. And these to a large extent determine for example how that knife is to be used to have that hydrogen Atomic the byproduct of fission or fusion not to be used by mankind. But then there are the ethics which are the new kinds
of ethics which are related only to the systems whereby the scientist operates them perhaps less interesting to the world as a whole but as a scientist I'm just kind of tired of being expected by the non scientific community. To protect them from the evils of our society and what the Fed is called on modern civilization. I think our role as scientists and I'm separating us from our roles as individuals and as persons and as part of society but our role as scientists is to discover what we can about the way in which nature operates. That's the right we must operate. Now what mankind does with it is of course our concern. But it's as much the concern of the lawyer and of the politician and of the teacher as it is of the scientists. An example like that a paper driving a car runs over a child who is to blame. Inventor of the car or the maker or the policeman or the bystander or the driver of the car. I think
everybody is involved and to an extent everybody is to blame if they haven't pointed out the difficulties. But I believe the trial is sort of suggested that people in positions have a greater responsibility than others and certainly is not in that key position in technology I think is point out a very important aspect of this discussion the scientist and his ethics. My own beliefs are that a scientist. You must be concerned with what he is doing and how he does it is totally improper and to my way of thinking. For example a medical scientist experiment with an experiment which might inflict harm on that subject on the person without the expectation that it could have or should have or will have
great. This is totally wrong to use a method of experimentation which is painful or inflict harm on an animal. This is wrong in itself this has to do with the rally in which he operates or to get away from the medical scientists the scientist who conducts an experiment perhaps and an environment so that's to make life uncomfortable for the people in the community. These things are wrong this is the right in which he operates. And he should join an M.A. prevent it. Yes actually but in the application of the truths that he discovers he has no responsibility to my way of thinking than any other citizen in the world. Let me ask you just this question doctor. For example a fair maid which I raised. Had about. An inclination or a decision on his part to withhold the information. Ken how do you feel about that.
Well. I find it simpler as an operating principle to believe that a scientist who is pursuing his intellectual curiosity to discover a truth of nature this must neist upon making this discovery. Put it to the appropriate scientific community. Now what the world does with it after what is of course has concerned it's as much his concern as I said before as anyone else in the world and he in fact may fight actively politically and in every other way to prevent it from being used improperly. But I think it it would be putting too much responsibility in an impossible really. To put the responsibility for suppressing what comes naturally to a scientist. The discovery of a truth on his shoulders in other words what you're saying is that there's very little likelihood that a scientist would assume that responsibility making that decision himself.
I think there is little likelihood he wouldn't be in science he has to be concerned with finding the truths of nature to the best of his ability by applying the knowledge and information that he has available and when he makes these discoveries he has an ethical responsibility to report it in the appropriate way to the scientific community for evaluation. What happens with it after that is no longer his concern as a scientist but may very well be his concern as a human being. Now it could be that his discovery may be of such importance and significance in his interpretation that his own conscience may in fact prevent him from providing this to the world. If he does we would never know about it and the chances are some other scientist would make this discovery in the future anyway so that I'm not sure that in the long run any great good would be accomplished by suppressing truth. I think it's very important that there is no way to whatsoever things are true. And life is not that simple. Just because you want to be good the same time
you can't be true. And in other words you don't have someone sign good on the other side to trances mingled with the good. They follow the law they follow the rules so they may be defending a person whose character and personality who's crying and going back to a famous thing back in 1955. I doubt very much of anybody going into the 1930s when Eunice rather Barry who is mentioned as one of the examples and see peace now as two cultures as an example the scientific culture rather said you not be able to apply atomic energy. And that was before the actual application in 1939 and the field couldn't foresee what was going to happen what do you think the average scientist that has a little thing that he's working on. I think it's much more important as Dr. Phil says
that he should try to ideals of truth and not to some other social ideals which may not be true. But talking like issue to work in the world today that is the issue of classified research. Certainly we have scientists just really classify it not only that but even as for security he has security I guess we have the scientists who are concerned about society today as they call themselves. And they would like to close down laboratories and watch this kind of classified research or any kind of research that would lead to possibly doing where are these done. But what we say is that when the government wants to release that information
why that's up to the government the scientists are saying that it's not and cannot be used in war time I mean even the currency. Are you are they not even the ambulance driver. He's not engaged yet is participating. That's his job and I don't see I think that you are either a member of society or you are not a member of society and I would propose the following that there is a kind of every man for a living with other people and that in so far as I am a member of a society and accept the goods of that society I must abide by the rules of that society. Secondly there's a cream for every man living with other people in so far as I have ideals for our society I must strive to have the society achieve those ideals. When I get out of society any time I want. But I can't have my cake and eat at the same time. And these were the people that are demonstrating one way or another. And good intentions are the same
people that are benefiting from the classified be sorry for centuries of people. I agree with you on that and the attitude of people that you mention reminds me of an instance in my life when I was a student in my declared himself a conscientious objector because he objected to killing people anyone. He worked on the Manhattan project during the war. That's exactly what I had in mind. Can I have the same situation. I was exempt from the draft because I took physics why did the government exempt me because teaching was very essential to the referee and the real question as far as I could say was not. How can I escape the war. But being in it how can I do my best job as a citizen scientist. Doctor. Well I agree completely with Doc to say that I think the scientist has a responsibility and the one that we have been focusing on is his
responsibility as a citizen and he has this responsibility no less nor no more as a citizen than any other member of society. This means the responsibility to correct the evils and ills of society in the best way he can in the way he knows. But this does not mean that this should in any way interfere with with his professional activities which are concerned with discovering the truths of nature and I think that if he if he tries to mix the two up then he's going to confuse himself and I think in the long run failed to make the contributions that science have in fact been making in the past to the progress in humanity but it's not a Buell situation. No father would you have stopped making them abuse or would you stop making bridges and we remember the story of the bridge over the River Kwai. This was exactly what was criticized the man was trying to make a good bridge. We stopped bridges just because they
might potentially be misused. You could say 500 lives a weekend if you stopped at a manufacturing shop more than what's killed in the harbor. I am in favor of the can make a better wheel but it will be carrying cannons. Let me ask you this let me take it a step further for you and ask your reaction to the continued manufacture of napalm. There's a product which is a product of science. Scientists no longer scientists may have made discoveries which enable napalm to be manufactured but he's no longer involved in that at all that's all that is being made. Me the people of the United States through Congress and through our appropriations who are responsible I think we forget that in the atomic bomb it was not a scientist they could have made out by themselves. It was
renamed the people of the United States who did something and with all due respect to Mr. Truman I don't know what I would have done if I had been in his position because he became the key man to make a decision as to what to do with that by next Tuesday I was saying that the buck stops here and now what I'm saying is the buck starts there too. And you couldn't have all this classified research being done if somebody didn't order the right example and everybody who pays a tax is already involved in napalm. Doctor listening to you all said that. The decision was not that of the scientist but he overlooks as earlier remarks that the scientist was a citizen and it was a crisis and then how do you regard Dr Levy and feel if I may ask you think of scientists combined in order that they may make statements of protest against I
regard them no differently than any other group of people I may have ate some kind of a political axe to grind they have a wrong that they say which they want right. They have a method of approach but there is nothing unique in their being scientists however which meet which make their political judgment any better than the political judgment of non-scientists they can if they feel that the use of napalm is not appropriate and not correct in a long long. They have every right to try to oppose that but not it. Not necessarily because they're scientists but because they have this particular feeling about the politics of the situation. Testimony on the anti-ballistic missile. You can see one scientists or scientists as I believe that and that is their privilege and their duty. But after all they are doing not as citizens and not test scientists. That's true because no scientists are scientists I know I suppose.
And all the applications of anything that has been discovered in the field of science are lucky in some way as scientists we can pass the buck if we wish for scientific discoveries to society at large. However we must pick up some of this then as citizens of that society to go back to the only obligation a scientist has to pass to geisha is to try to show just exactly how this thing is harmful why it is harmful and you can't just go on sentimentalism in a matter of this kind. Going back to your original suggestion about the ivory tower I think that's exactly the point. Scientists today can live in our ivory tower he has first of all a man and secondly as scientists and as a man he does have social responsibilities. Which is to say what he knows and what he believes and what he doesn't. And I believe this idea of going to the other extreme father that your two points so the role of the scientist are interrelated. You cannot be
the one without the other. In a modern age you have to be of the social man and the individual scientist. You cannot live one day on Sundays go to church on Mondays go to wherever people go on Mondays. There are some scientists I suppose who live in ivory towers and who simply work on their own on their own particular research interests and who are not concerned as citizens. But this is true not only of scientists it's true I'm sure people in all fields and on the other hand I think it's equally true that there are scientists today are concerned about social problems. Absolutely no question but rather whether this is disproportionate in the population is another question because I think. People are more concerned about world affairs than they ever have been and primarily I think as a result of communication rapid communication. Everyone is immediately what's happening everywhere in the world everyone's problems in every
part of the world become a problem for us on the other hand there are a lot of individual selfishness in the world where people are trying to manipulate things for themselves and I think this is our real concern is that people are trying to do this should not get away with it. That's perfectly true and this is the type of scientists if you want to calm a scientist who's simply out of money they can make an impact. She doesn't care whether the product is just like the butcher the baker the candlestick maker. But we should probably distinguish at this point between the scientists who are searching for troops in nature and perhaps applied scientist a technician who may be applying some of the truths that have already been found in a variety of ways both good and evil and I think there's a distinction here that's important that the poor scientists can test it to the man who is the applied scientist I understand then and I think that even the pure scientist you know doesn't really care what he's
finding. But he still has an obligation in his own conscience to make sure that he does not make any pronouncement on a finding and I see as investigated as to as the focus of his power of the possible results of that discovery. So they are saying is that there is a humanistic aspect of science which cannot be avoided That's right. Thank you very much gentlemen for your discussion of the scientist and his ethics. Thanks to the Reverend Frank just a Haydn Society of Jesus a professor and chairman of the Department of Astronomy at Georgetown University. To Dr. Lawrence S. Logan field professor and chairman of the department of physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University School of Medicine and to Dr. Raymond J sigur senior staff associate for research the National Science Foundation. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
Georgetown forum
The scientist and ethics
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Georgetown University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program features a discussion with Rev. Frances J. Heiden, Georgetown University; Dr. Lawrence S. Williamfield, Georgetown University; and Dr. Raymond Seger, National Science Foundation.
Series Description
Moderated by Wallace Fanning, this series presents a panel of guests discussing a variety of topics. The radio series launched in 1946. It also later aired on WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C. These programs aired 1968-69.
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Guest: Heiden, Frances J.
Guest: Williamfield, Lawrence S.
Guest: Seger, Raymond
Moderator: Fanning, Wallace
Producing Organization: Georgetown University
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-51-667 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:05
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Chicago: “Georgetown forum; The scientist and ethics,” 1969-06-28, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “Georgetown forum; The scientist and ethics.” 1969-06-28. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: Georgetown forum; The scientist and ethics. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from