Moral and Ethical Philosophy in a “Value-Neutral” Social Science

I’ve got to tell you that I have a genuine problem with the concept of a “value-neutral” social science. I understand that many scientists want to divorce themselves from the concept of a God to whom they must answer, and that the idea of morals and values is often equated with religion. However, I think we must still develop and hold to a set of moral and ethical standards by which every scientist, social or otherwise, must be bound. It is not OK for scientists to do research on human subjects without their informed consent. It is not OK for scientists to mistreat at-risk populations such as children or prisoners.

I have serious problems with stem cell research as it involves the intentional termination of viable pregnancies for the purpose of research. The cost of unborn lives is too great. They say that potential cures for serious diseases may come out of such research. I contend that the aborted fetuses may have grown up to be scientists who found cures for these diseases without the need to terminate human lives in the process. To terminate a life on a prospective cure is not right. Beyond that, the abortive nature of the research is unnecessary; healthy umbilical cords can be collected for stem cell research following live births.

If the creators of the atomic bomb felt badly after the bomb was used to kill innocent people, what they felt was correct. Scientists often justify their work, telling themselves that their cause is just or that the people they work for are honest and righteous, and yet their consciences cry against them, screaming at them to stop. They know down inside that there is the chance what they are doing will be abused or fall into the wrong hands. There are some things that should not be explored. There are some inventions we should not invent. I know it is human nature to delve into the unknown and explore but I think we need to know our limits and listen to our consciences.

The problem with so much of this philosophy about morals and ethics is that it rests in the eye of the beholder. “It’s right for them, even if it’s wrong for us” is a quote Noddings uses to explain how Relativists might permit the practice of mutilation of women to continue in parts of Africa. But how can mistreatment of humans be right anywhere? It’s because it’s “Relative”.

I don’t believe that morality is really relative to anything. I believe that our moral grounding was founded on the mind of the Creator. The reason that many Christians are hypocritical and try to justify their own behavior or the behavior of their society (the practice of slavery, for instance) is because they base their morality not on what God says, but on what is expedient or normal or culturally acceptable. God’s moral code was founded on two basic principles – that we should love and honor Him above everything else and that we should love others the way we love ourselves. Based on those standards, we would never want to be slaves, so we understand it is wrong to keep a slave. We would not want to be mutilated so we understand it is wrong to mutilate another person. We desire to live and therefore understand the value of a human life.

Even Kant developed an ethical philosophy that sounds very much like the second half of God’s moral code; in fact it reads almost like the Golden Rule: “Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you.” Regardless of where you stand in your beliefs about God, that moral code works. If you wouldn’t like it being done to you, it must be wrong. We tend to be “relative” over things happening to others, but when we talk about ourselves, it becomes personal. If our ethical and moral standards for our treatment of others were personalized, I think we would be much more apt to uphold them and our responses would be far more compassionate and less hypocritical.

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