Ethics in the Sciences Essay

Pages: 3 (1262 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Ethics

¶ … ethics in the sciences has become a focus of debate during the last century. Many scientists and statisticians have deviated from the more formal view of science as only being concerned with objective results and measurement. There is a growing consensus that science and the scientist, or statistician, has an ethical and moral responsibility to the society in which they function and to humanity as a whole. This paper will explore these views with regard to ethics and statistics. This will include a personal assessment of these views. This paper will also emphasize the personal view that ethics are an important and integral part of the discipline of statistics.

Ethics and Statistics

The issue of ethics in statistics is one that has become extremely relevant in our contemporary environment. The reason for this is clearly stated in an article by Ostapski and Superville entitled Reflection Before Action: the Statistical Consultant Confronts Ethical Issues. In this article the authors state that; "Statisticians have become integral members of research and consulting teams that conduct projects for industry and government. They face a number of ethical issues that are somewhat unique to their profession" (Ostapski and Superville). This view therefore implies that the discipline of statistics is not exempt from ethical considerations. This is the view that I also adopt in this paper, both from a personal and professional standpoint

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However, the more orthodox view of the role of statistics and science in general tend to oppose this view. For example, Geertsema in a Christian View of the Foundations of Statistics refers to the more traditional stance taken by science with regard to ethics;

… because of their so-called exactness, they are often thought to be neutral from a philosophical or religious point-of-view. This tendency is strengthened by a traditional view of science as a whole, known as the standard view of science" (Geertsema, 1987).

Essay on Ethics in the Sciences Has Become a Assignment

This refers to the view that scientific objectivity and exactness takes precedence over ethical and other issues. From this perspective all scientific and mathematical disciplines are in essence exempt from social responsibility or ethical considerations. However, Geertsema and others argue against this stance and put forward the view that science and statistics in particular does have an ethical responsibility towards the society and humanity in general and therefore cannot be considered to be ethically neutral, as the statistician also has to take various ethical decisions in the course of his or her work. As Geertsema states, "The result is that the human aspect of science comes to the fore and that it becomes clear that science cannot be seen in isolation-it must be seen in context" (Geertsema, 1987).

Personal Reflections

I would tend to agree with the above assessment by Geertsema in that the actual practice of statistics should always be seen in context and in relation to the actual implications of the statistical work. To view the practice of statistics in isolation or out of context would mean that one ignores or turns a blind eye to the social and human implications of the work. In my view the scientist has be socially responsible in his work. This is a dimension that is just as important as technical expertise and accuracy. This attitude can also be linked to the ideas of professionalism, where the professional does not ignore certain implications and decisions that result from his or her work. This is the reason why there is a code of ethics in the sciences and in the field of statistics. As Ostapski and Superville emphasize, "Professionalism also may be defined appropriately by an association's ability to self-regulate through an established code of ethics"(Ostapski and Superville).

Furthermore, one must also take into account that the modern statistician usually functions as part of a team, which is often composed… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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