EGMT 1540: Ethical Dilemmas and Science

Science and the technology it has spawned has radically transformed societies throughout history, at ever increasing rates.  The traditional caricature of the scientist is as a dispassionate searcher of “what is true,” who is not concerned with the ethical implications of his/her work.  It is not possible to escape ethical considerations and decisions – to ignore ethics is a choice with ethical consequences. Many think of ethics as merely a prescription against certain actions but the most interesting and vexing ethical choices involve trade-offs between options that have both positive and negative consequences. One goal of this course is to introduce you to ethical questions that face scientists and the broader society that financially supports and regulates science. Another is to consider consequences of choices to individual scientists, to institutions, to professions, and to society at different levels of organization. The three specific areas to be examined: (1) The ethics of medical research, including questions of potential conflicts between the interests of subjects and the possible benefits to the larger society. (2) The ethics of practice of science, including the influence of incentives and conflicts of interest.  (3) The responsibilities of scientists for the uses and other impacts of their research on society.  Examples for discussion will be taken from well-studied examples from the past, present controversies, and the impact of emerging transformative technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 and Artificial Intelligence.