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Thread: Research Ethics

  1. #1 Research Ethics 
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    Why exactly is it the case, that research aimed at investigating, the improvement of the NORMAL human body and brain of normal people isn't allowed?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    Research is being carried out to enhance the human brain in different ways. Research is being done primarily to eradicate diseases and abnormalities of the brain because that is what kills or harms people the most.

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  4. #3  
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    Don't take this the wrong way, but I thought science was an ethics neutral discipline and the focus is knowledge, not necessarily knowledge designed to help people.
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  5. #4  
    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curiosity View Post
    Don't take this the wrong way, but I thought science was an ethics neutral discipline and the focus is knowledge, not necessarily knowledge designed to help people.
    "Ethics neutral?" Research ethics are pivotal to a successful scientific community. I'm not sure what you're asking.
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  6. #5  
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    An ethics committee merely determines whether or not a proposed experiment causes harm, and is therefore unethical. I mean, I thought that science neither attempts to harm, nor to hinder, and is simply concerned with knowledge, regardless of potential application.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curiosity View Post
    An ethics committee merely determines whether or not a proposed experiment causes harm, and is therefore unethical. I mean, I thought that science neither attempts to harm, nor to hinder, and is simply concerned with knowledge, regardless of potential application.
    Ethics embodies more than simply causing harm. Can you be more specific about your issue? Is there some study that is being blocked which you think holds some validity?
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  8. #7  
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    I believe my whole gripe started with me reading in a book, that certain studies are not allowed, specifically those focused on improving bodily function or mental capacities in some way if it involves healthy people. Doesn't the entire idea of focusing so much on sick people, presuppose that the suffering alleviated by the research is greater than the benefit conferred by studies that aim to improve quality of life for healthy people? Or is it simply the case that fixing problems is easier than trying to 'go beyond nature' so to speak?
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    I don't know if it's entirely true. I see a lot of articles investigating cellular causes of aging which are not necessarily related to preventing wear and tear diseases but the natural aging part of the developmental cycle. And I would guess that some of the motivation would be enhancing or prolonging normal life processes. Of course, that all brings up the question, what is normal/natural/dysfunction. Atherosclerosis used to be seen as normal aging, but is now considered a disease process. Whether something is a disorder may depend simply how preventable or currently treatable something is.

    As far as enhancing the abilities of humans - increasing brain function, athletic ability, etc. I don't think it's a question of "is it right?" as it is the competition for limited research dollars - who would you rather help? But I'm sure there would be ample private profit motive in enhancing human abilities. How much is spent on just botox and cosmetic surgery now? Perhaps there is some reluctance and caution associated with changing healthy human beings, and inadvertently harming them - as with things like steroids. Risks are more acceptable when you are trying to alleviate pain and dysfunction.
    Last edited by DianeG; August 1st, 2014 at 10:23 PM.
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  10. #9  
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    Risks are certainly more acceptable when dealing with those who already experience what some might call 'a less than normal life', though from a financial point of view, it would probably be more profitable to focus on sick people, as they don't really have a choice of whether to get treatment/drugs for their condition or not.
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  11. #10  
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    This skirts perilously close to the dread word "eugenics". The eugenics movement promoted improving the human species through selected breeding techniques. Unfortunately, this seemingly sensible idea became associated with various crank groups who twisted the theory to promote the notion their particular subrace of humanity was superior to other versions. The very word eugenics has come to be universally reviled, associated with Nazi medical experimentation and similar unsavory practices.

    The reaction of public opinion to the demonstrable evils of past eugenics research has led to a widespread sense that any attempt to "improve" people beyond normal health is a wicked, elitist plot of some sort, perhaps aimed at subjugating "normal" people by the wealthy who can afford such techniques. A position more laden with emotion than fact, but not without a trace of real concerns at the core of it.
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  12. #11  
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    Research ethics come down to a moral dilemma of right and wrong. Some may feel that enhancing the human body beyond what is considered normal is wrong, and others may believe that enhancing the human body is just another step through self-help evolution. In the end it is up to the individual researcher to decide what is right and wrong.
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    Unfortunately, it's not so much up to the researcher, as to the people who will have to fund that researcher. I think it's unfortunate that talk like this, being aimed at enriching the lives of people, regardless of previous state of health, is somehow linked with eugenics. The fact that 'normal' is a constantly updated word, and the fact that we've gone beyond what humans considered normal health in the past, albeit without direct genetic modification, just shows how misguided such a view is. It's pretty much a sub-camp of people who think any advancement in technology that somehow affects our health or abilities, is 'unnatural' and we both know how silly that argument is.
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    You have a good point Curiosity. although, I do respect the view points of people who believe that medical advancement of humans is unnatural. I may not agree with their assertion, but none the less I respect their argument against genetic advancement of the human body.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Curiosity View Post
    Don't take this the wrong way, but I thought science was an ethics neutral discipline and the focus is knowledge, not necessarily knowledge designed to help people.
    "Ethics neutral?" Research ethics are pivotal to a successful scientific community. I'm not sure what you're asking.
    I'm not either. The sciences are strongly driven by ethics...sometimes directly in the areas where the topic comes up a lot, such as medicine, and oftentimes in other fields but having to meet regulatory guidelines when there's potential harm to people or the environment--what's left is largely made ethical by funding.
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  16. #15  
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    I thought science was ethics neutral, in that ethics only enters the picture when the science is applied to producing technology. Knowing how a virus spreads in the body, could be used either to help prevent sickness, or used for biological warfare.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Curiosity View Post
    I thought science was ethics neutral, in that ethics only enters the picture when the science is applied to producing technology. Knowing how a virus spreads in the body, could be used either to help prevent sickness, or used for biological warfare.
    I think that is a bit naive and theoretical. The fact is that science is done by people who need the acceptance of the society they are part of, in order to be allowed to do it. In this respect it is just like any other activity. That society has notions of ethics and so the scientific enterprise has to abide by them or it would not be tolerated.

    You see examples of this regularly in the papers, from animal experimentation to stem cell research to medical trials and so on. It has always been so and always will. Since the lay population is usually unaware of what goes on in research programmes until well after the event, wise scientists look for themselves to see if any ethical issues might be perceived to arise from certain lines of work, in order to avoid shocking everybody later on and losing support.

    It's just common sense, really.
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  18. #17  
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    Fair enough then. Thank you everyone for you contributions.
    Last edited by Curiosity; August 2nd, 2014 at 10:08 PM.
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    If there were no ethics then geneticists would have a field day. There are many experiments that they'd love to do but for ethical reasons can't. Imagine if you could breed two humans and then keep their offspring in completely controlled environments for 30-50 years. That'd be a fascinating and useful research study that'd help answer so many questions. But you can't keep humans captive inside a bubble, so...
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  20. #19  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko View Post
    But you can't keep humans captive inside a bubble, so...
    Or, can we?
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