“Noble cause” corruption: It’s okay to lie, even in science … ?
|February 29, 2012||Posted by News under Ethics, Intelligent Design, News, Science|
For example, some say it was okay to lie in the “fake but accurate” memo scandal the Darwin lobby got caught up in, when it decided to join forces with the greenhouse gas lobby.
Some interesting observations from Robert Tracinski on the general acceptance of fakery in science (on behalf of a “good” cause) here. For example,
Consider a post published at Scientific American by John Horgan, an award-winning science journalist and a booster of the “green” cause, who purports to explore the deep ethics of the question, “Should global-warming activists lie to defend their cause?” His answer is: yes.
He draws first on the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, then on John Stuart Mill.
Kant said that when judging the morality of an act, we must weigh the intentions of the actor. Was he acting selfishly, to benefit himself, or selflessly, to help others? By this criterion, Gleick’s lie was clearly moral, because he was defending a cause that he passionately views as righteous….
But another philosopher my students and I are reading, the utilitarian John Stuart Mill, said that judging acts according to intentions is not enough. We also have to look at consequences. And if Gleick’s deception has any consequences, they will probably be harmful. His exposure of the Heartland Institute’s plans, far from convincing skeptics to reconsider their position, will probably just confirm their suspicions about environmentalists. Even if Gleick’s lie was morally right, it was strategically wrong.
That such an article would be permitted under the name of a journal that is supposed to be a public standard-bearer for science is appalling.
Interestingly, as Tracinski notes, the plod on yer local street corner could set some PhD scientists straight. Cops have a term for this sort of thing: Noble cause corruption.
It’s a term that originated in law-enforcement to describe a dirty cop who plants evidence on a suspect because he “really knows” that the guy is guilty, so he’s doing the world a favor by making sure he gets locked up. It’s the same rationalization: it’s OK to lie, because you’re acting in a “noble cause.” The corruption, of course, is: how do you really know the suspect is guilty, if you have to fake the evidence against him? How do you know your cause is noble, if you keep having to lie to defend it?
And all that the rest of us know is that we are dealing with liars, forgers, and frauds, whose word we are supposed to accept because they supposedly represent the common good.
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