Appendix C Science and Ethics
Reza Davari Ardakani
How is science related to ethics? It seems that science and ethics have two completely separate domains so that they are in no way related to each other. In the case of science following its methods, it is necessary to concede the validity and appropriateness of research; there is no need to consider ethics at all. However, if one says that the researcher should honestly follow the rules of the scientific method, which is an ethical constraint per se, and then conclude that it is impossible to have science without ethics, the original argument is somehow misleading.
It is clear that any possible universe is based on its own principles without which it would be impossible for it to exist. The principles form the foundation of a universe so that rejection of the principles leads to the destruction of the universe. Modern science was created after certain principles were adopted and followed. Should not this be considered an ethical deed? The term “ethics” may have different meanings for different people. People who obey social disciplines and general principles are respectable, yet their behaviors and deeds may not be characterized as ethical.
A driver who observes the driving rules and regulations is more respectable than the one who ignores them, but these rules and regulations are not necessarily ethical and someone who does not follow them is not an immoral person. Similarly, a scientist’s observance of scientific principles is not a moral deed. In other words, there is a system in every universe that people adapt themselves to mostly out of habit. Should we consider habitual deeds moral? Ethical codes are so general and universal that their implementation varies in different situations. That is, a moral person does a moral deed only in particular situations when she/he is
aware of his/her commitments, and then decides accordingly. Therefore, a moral deed calls for the recognition of a moral commitment and taking measures for its implementation. But realizing a commitment does not necessarily imply positive or negative consequences. If the implementer of an action is aware of the outcome of his deed and the reason why he does it, he is then out of the domain of ethics and freedom.
It seems as if science and ethics cannot unite, or it is better to say that ethics begins where science ends. Yet how is it possible to make a decision in the darkness of ignorance? Decision making based on certainty is impossible in ethics. One should choose a way, and this option may begin with deciding if it is moral. How is it possible to make a decision when one is uncertain? At least in our age, morality appears as a paradox where one must make a decision when decision making is impossible. And such decision making is a negative deed. That is, one does not make a moral decision. One does not choose one of the existing options. Rather one avoids certain options and may confront a deadlock, or one may find the one option that has been left for her/ him. In such conditions ethics is not founded on science but its domain is beyond that of science.
With respect to this introductory part, discussions about science and ethics as two independent realms will not be fruitful. It may be appropriate to look at a problem from a different view and raise these questions: What status do science and ethics have in the modern world? Is there any match between science and ethics in the world of modernity?
One cannot think of the modern world without technological science. In this world, science and technology are present everywhere, and almost everything and everybody depends on them. In this world neither science nor politics depends on ethics, and each has its own origins and fundamentals. But this is not the end of the story. Science and politics do not need ethics, and in today’s technical-political system, there is usually no need for making moral decisions, simply because decision making is required to correspond to the universal system.
Until recent decades, the values of the modern world were considered absolute. It is believed that as people gradually enter the modern scientific and intellectual system, they will accept and realize its values universally. Still, while most people of the world, including those of the under-developed nations, have the same opinion, it seems that this universal perspective has gradually dimmed. When economy, commerce, living traditions, and production and consumption patterns are globalized, the fulfillment of those universalistic values is less probable, and even their validity is doubted.
This skepticism is also manifest in practice and politics. Such manifestation may be considered undesirable, particularly when it contrasts with western values. In some cases, it may turn out to be violent, inde
cent, unpleasant, and indefensible. Until 50 years ago such manifestation did not exist. Now as we study the past, even anti-colonization movements are considered efforts in adopting the values of the modern world.
Now, however, the situation is somewhat different. There are signs of hopelessness about the future, and efforts made in westernization and modernization have not achieved their stated aims. The West strives to fulfill its values at any cost, and does not tolerate any resistance and objection. The West concedes that the objections are no longer to the policies and oppressiveness, but contends they are for the denial and destruction of the basis of Western civilization and policies. In this dispute technological science is versatile, and ethics has yet to find a place in it.
In a sense, it is acceptable to say that defending human values is ethics, but it is noteworthy that common beliefs and moral habits should not be mistaken for the true ethical rules. Common beliefs and ethical habits are important, but as soon as these values are to be defended by immoral means, their moral force vanishes. The West has established political and technical systems by moral force. If there is now a demand for defending these moral principles and traditions by policies and technology, there must be deficiencies in those principles and traditions.
Ethics calls for patience and confidence. The moral characteristics modeled by the pioneers of knowledge (wisdom, bravery, self-control, and justice) were ethics, not their outcome. These may not be created or maintained by immoral means. Ethics in its true sense precedes science, technique, and people’s relations. The ethics that was to be formulated in Kant’s thinking was founded on the basis of the West’s science, technology, and politics.
If ethics has lost its power and influence, one cannot revive it by external means. Certainly, peace and freedom may not be achieved by war and violence, nor do revenge and enmity result in kindness and friendship. Is it possible to get along with avengers by kindness? No, they dislike unanimity and companionship. Yet they have not deprived the world of unanimity, rather they belong to the world in which everybody must obey something that is dictated. They have no language for communicating with others, nor are they prepared to listen to what others say.
Freedom is a great value; it requires not only the ability to speak, but also tolerance to hear. Ethics necessitates the acceptance of the other’s existence. The words of Jean Paul Sartre, who wrote the play Hell and called “the other” hell, had Kafkaian implications. That is, he was also worried about situations in which man had no privacy. He may have absolutely denied “the other’s” existence by being aware of knowing “the other,” and as a consequence, dismissed ethics altogether.
Raising the problem of “I” without “the other” does not make sense. From the beginning, the West has made for itself “the other.” This “other”
is unsuitable for dialog and unanimity unless it becomes aware of its condition and exits from its artificial identity and begins unanimity. Freedom makes sense if “the other” is realized, and with the acceptance and tolerating of “the other,” it is stabilized and preserved. Violence, wherever it is, from whatever side it emanates, and with whatever justification, destroys freedom and justice and demolishes ethics. Marquis De Sade and Denis Diderot, the two great French authors, were right to say that whenever wisdom and science are separated from ethics and ethical ends they act against themselves and turn to violence and savagery. Wisdom, science, and truth must be saved. This is the most genuine ethical principle in the present world.