February 2021

Is there a connection between science ethics and economic ethics?

Reference article:  The relationship between economics and ethics and the light Dooyeweerd sheds on it . by Jeloost Hengstmeng

I think in the back of our minds we would consider the conspiracy of DC water crisis and Flint’s water crisis comes from questionable economic ethics. The people involve place higher value of cost over the human welfare. I think we need a deeper explanation about economic ethics based on my experience in the commercial and government arenas. In both of environment, the economics behind the technology became the deciding factor.   So, what do we really know about the political influence of economics?

We have studied science ethics without an informal connection of economic. However, the questions about ethics in science appear connected the ethics in economics. Although the following article is about economic ethics, further research could show a connection between economic and science ethics. The purpose of researching this connection comes from years of professional experience in the field of technology.

In STS, I have learned the power of science as an actor that impacts society. Traditional STS analysis researches the link between the power of science and social class, especially the low-income social class. So, if the economics separates social classes then maybe we should review the connection between science ethics and economic ethics.

An ethical challenge: should we or shouldn’t we?

I found this article about ethics: The Ethical Challenges in Farming: A Report on Conversations with Missouri Corn and Soybean Producers in the writing style like our research project.

Over the last few weeks, we discussed science ethics as something done ‘incorrectly’ or ‘not all’ by science experts. As an example, we discuss the lack of ethics by science experts that only viewed lead paint as the cause of high BLL in children. Science discarded water as a source for high BLL in children. Personally, I would analyze the science from DC and Flint as known ‘Undone Science’ or ‘Ignored’ science. One description explains ‘Undone’ or ‘Ignore’ science as a choice by scientists who chose not to respond or react to scientific problems in society. By not reacting, science purposely overlooks the problem for the benefit of science politics and at the expense of the public.

But what about the science ethics behind producing ‘food’? Yes, producing food has become an ethical challenge for farmers. The style of writing of H.S James resembles the research project for our class. He wrote the article in the voice of the farmer.

After reviewing this article, I am a little confused about the role of the farmers. Should we consider them experts or laypeople? I would consider a farmer, outside someone studying agriculture, a layperson. As farmers, they are laypeople whose science influence the public through food production.

The Lack of Listening Skills in Science

I want to compare an example of a professional soft skill course with our Learning to Listen (L2L) project. In general, soft skills help improve professional teams with social and emotional learning, i.e. diversity. After reading course outline ‘Developing Scientists “Soft” Skills’ by Wendy S. Gordon, I began evaluating the soft skill course with our L2L project. In my analysis, Gordon explained a course that helps scientists communicate and work with other scientists as a team. In my opinion, the soft skill course lacks the social interaction we learned in preparation for interacting with the public. Without learning to listen skills, the science and engineering community have learned soft skills that do not relate to interaction with the public.

The social or soft skills from our L2L has a greater value to professionals, such as scientists and engineers when interacting with the public.

Experts, Ethics, and Public Communication

After listening to Wednesday’s guest speaker began thinking about how the low-income home project relates to the DC and Flint water crisis. In comparison, I am concerned that experts are not completely open to the public until a disaster occurs. As in DC and Flint, the experts had knowledge about the hazards of lead drinking water but chose not to communicate the hazards and risks to the public. Since experts have knowledge about risks and hazardous conditions, I question the reasoning behind not informing the public. Should experts view retaining information about the scientific risks and hazards from the public a question of ethics?

If we learn anything about experts and ethics, I am not clear if expert understands the ethics of explaining hazards prior to a disaster. So if knowledge is power, then science retains power by know disclosing scientific hazards to the public.

It appears to me that scientific experts have knowledge that can prevent most scientific problems in the public domain. So, without the knowledge of scientific risks and hazards, science experts remain in power over a submissive society.

Experts viewing science through the lens of laypersons

There is an old cliché which states, doctors, make the worse patients. The movie, The Doctor, is a great illustration of the cliché. Although this is a fiction movie, the plot of the movie highlights reality when a experts lose their power.

Plot of the Movie –  The Doctor

Dr. McKee is a self-center surgeon with equally bad bedside manner. His life is great, and he knows it until one day he comes face to face with an illness. Dr. McKee receives a diagnosis of throat cancer, and now he is a patient. Dr. McKee now undergoes cancer treatment in the same hospital where he works. Now, Dr. McKee gets an experience like any normal patient, and he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t receive any special accommodations as a doctor in the hospital. Instead, he gains the experience as norm patient without an affiliation to the hospital.

By the end of this journey, Dr. McKee personality and morals change. He understands how he and his colleagues had dehumanizing patients. with his new insight on life, Dr. McKee changed from treating illness to practicing medicine for treating human beings with illnesses.

As a subplot in the movie

Prior to becoming a patient, Dr. McKee planned to help a fellow surgeon’s defense against malpractice with a well collaborative testimony.


Relating the Plot of the Movie to our Class

When an expert is stripped of their power, the expert can view the public through a different lens. The former-expert lens changes from that of an expert to a lens of a layperson. With the lens of a layperson, the former expert can now experience scientific politics as a person without power. With the lens of a layperson, the former expert becomes armed with the knowledge of a layperson which helps establish the former expert as an influential leader of a social movement or counterpublics.

In the movie, Dr. McKee was stripped of his power as an expert while undergoing treatment as a patient. Dr. McKee felt dehumanized. During his time as a person without power, Dr. McKee began a moral transformation. He understood the life of people that were not experts.

As an example:

Dr. McKee new insight about the relationship between patients and doctors influence a change in his own behavior as a doctor and influence his position about the testimony for his fellow surgeon. Now , Dr. McKee practices medicine with a moral obligation to his patients

Science Experts and Ethics

When discussing science experts, a great example comes from Ibo van de Poel and Lamber Royakkers description of the Ford Pinto. As a political form of science and technology, the automobile industry is powerful! As in the Ford Pinto case, the science experts from Ford neglected the safety of the public by design for the location of the car’s fuel tank.   The design made the Ford Pinto susceptible to combustion during a rear-end impact. The Ford Pinto case demonstrates ethical issues when a self-governing science community releases products in the public domain.

By self-governing, science experts have the power within their own ethical boundaries. The ethics of science experts become visible as the scientific artifact intersects with the public. The intersection of scientific expertise in the public domain exposes ethical decision for public safety. As a protection of public safety, independent or third party organizing began to intervene.

Beyond our reading assignment, the outcome of the Ford Pinto case generated the need of governance outside the science experts. As an example, both government and private entities help oversee that experts and politics of car manufacturers do not supersede the ethics for public safety.

At a closer look of the governing bodies for crash testing, the contributors for overseeing the process of “crash testing” cars come from three primary organizations; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Department of Transportation and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which is an independent contributor by auto insurers. In comparison to the DC and Flint water crisis, there are three distinct differences:

  1. Part of the testing of car safety comes from an independent contributor, IIHS. The role of the IIHS removes the power car manufacturers overseeing the safety of their technology.
  2. The link between car manufacturers and the auto insurers. A great influence for car safety comes from auto insurers. The dynamics of auto insurers establish a 3rd actor which economic influence connects to the ethical safety of car owners.
  3. Today, the governance of car safety has the authority that enforces car manufacturers to comply. As an example, some state requires annual vehicle safety inspections that work independently from car manufacturers. The inspection inspects a vehicle from hazards such as CO2, brakes for stopping, the vehicle frame and suspension. Since the late 1990’s, several states require an emissions test which machine generated.

In relating this to the water crisis of DC and Flint, both federal and state governments have generated policies for public safety pertaining to automobiles. However, the detail for governance for residents drinking water lacks the same level of granularity. Why? In the case of DC and Flint water crisis, the governance of public water lacks authority and influence of the independent contributor such as the IIHS. The EPA can only report issues without enforcing mitigation.

In a comparison, the science of the IIHS works in governs the products of the automobile industry. The relationship between the IIHS and the auto industry helps balance the ethics in the design and production of car safety. Yet, the EPA remains without influential power. Theoretically, the EPA science generates policy and procedures without the power of enforcement. Without any “power for enforcement,” the EPA lacks the ability to ensure the ethics by the scientific experts.