Posts Tagged ‘Guatemala Syphilis Experiment’

Science and Religion Vs. Run-of-the-Mill Hedonism

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Another outtake from my run-of-the-mill hedonism essay–

It is sometimes useful to turn the “What are we doing instead” question back on the atheism that claims to live by science, since good science, like religion, is very often ignored as the guiding driver of human activity. Those who claim to follow science rarely successfully apply it both in public policy and in personal life (e.g., diet and exercise). There is more scientific knowledge available in our era than any other, yet bandwidth, and consequently brain-width, flows instead to violent games and to pornography.

Science, like religion, is constantly being ignored and betrayed. For example, research shows that educating prisoners reduces recidivism. But legislatures continue to discount these findings for the sake of “throw-away-the-key” populism, and rarely adequately fund prisoner education. Consider betrayals like the Tuskegee and Guatemala experiments, where rogue scientists infected many poor people with disease without their informed consent, or Alfred Kinsey’s shielding of active pedophiles during his research, or the numerous annual ethical infractions unearthed worldwide by thousands of scientific ethics panels and institutional review boards. (See, for example, the many Determination Letters issued by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).) Ethical scientists bear a heavily-tangled bureaucratic self-reporting burden due to infamous “mad scientist” rogues who prompted such regulatory intervention.

True religion and true science potentially share a common animus to run-of-the-mill hedonism. Both science and religion share common ethical foundations. From what particular moral source do we learn scientific infractions are wrong, other than the Biblical commandments not to lie, not to steal, and not to kill?

© Copyright 2013, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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The US 1946-48 Guatemala Syphilis Experiment

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

Thousands of news articles and blogs worldwide are covering the shocking discovery by Wellesley College researcher Prof. Susan M. Reverby that US scientists engaged in a Tuskegee-style syphilis experiment from 1946-48 in Guatemala, during which persons were similarly and purposely infected with disease and left untreated without their informed consent.

Those who hold the naive Enlightenment idea that science automatically supports human rights against ideology, religion, and ignorance have now thus been in for another corrective shock.

It is not generally known what an immense ethical apparatus exists within governments and universities worldwide to prevent scientists from violating the rights of research subjects, from cheating on or misrepresenting scientific results, from appropriating the work of others, and from exploiting of the work of students and junior scientists, among other lapses, for the simple reason that scientists are human. The general public also has no idea of the number of scientific ethical breaches quietly disposed of annually worldwide within this government and academic ethical apparatus. This ethical apparatus grew in part after the shocking story of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. With the Guatemala Syphilis Experiment, the saga continues.

Science does not guarantee health or virtue or truth. Science only informs and corrects, and can make physical health more likely with the proper practice of medicine. Ethical and moral behavior, informed by science, help reveal and protect the truth. But the practice of informed virtue itself advances virtue.

Our compliments to Prof. Reverby for her discovery, which advances the cause of human rights and the protection of research subjects, and demonstrates the value of research.

Please see my earlier post also addressing the topic of the protection of research subjects.

© Copyright 2010, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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