Ethics and science: a Faustian drift danger


Ethics and science: a Faustian drift danger

en geleerde in zijn werkkamer. 208 × 160 mm. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Janusz Janeczek tells about the risks of a scientific research mainly based on the desire to be the first

To avoid the risk of scientific research going towards a post-human direction, but especially resting on  approximate ethics: these are important themes which “L’Orientale” University has focused its attention on for some years, giving them an international relevance. The goal, the only one in the Italian environment, is to create a working team composed of the greatest European and Oriental experts. On the 26th of March a lecture was given by professor Janusz Janeczek, rector of the University of Slesia, earth scientist, mineralogy scholar and member of the European Committee for the research projects evaluation.
It is true that at the beginning of science there is curiosity and also the capability to wonder at creation, as Greek philosophers taught us, but the Faustus myth shows how the way of scientists could run into dangerous deviations. In fact the whole lecture was based on the misconduct term, which indicates a wrong and deviated behaviour.
The very problem is the fact that the scientific activity is motivated not only from the desire of knowledge but also from that of being the first, and this can lead to paradoxical conclusions. For example, at the end of the 19th century there were two archaeologists, E. Cope and O. Marsh, always competing each other in order to find as many dinosaur fossils as possible, and their scientific expeditions often ended in fire collisions between the two parts.
Janeczek identified three different features of an immoral behaviour: to invent the data supporting a new theory, to falsify the experiments results and finally plagiarism. He also gave examples of some cases belonging to these categories: among these, a particular striking one is that of the scientist Hwang Woo-Suk who, from 1999 to 2005, announced the cloning of cows, dogs and human embryos but, in 2009, he was arrested for wasting the research funds and inventing all the data.
Finally, Janeczek answered the students questions and underlined the importance of the humanists community, of which “L’Orientale” is a strong representative, fundamental to show to the scientific world what the ethical principles to follow are.

Aniello Fioccola, Traduzione di Luisa Lupoli