05 September 2013

Do scientists have special obligations to society?

The subject line comes from Janet Stemwedel, who asks the question.  There are two spots to answer, one if you are a scientist, and one if you're not.  'scientist' is defined in the articles.
If you're a scientist

Nonscientists' comments

I think it's a worthwhile and interesting question, and encourage you all to go answer.  Feel free to leave a copy of your answer here.  Or do some free-range commenting on the question here if there's a reason not to post it over on Janet's blogs.

Something which hasn't been brought up (yet) at Janet's blogs is this:
It is illegal to practice law without a license, to pretend to be a medical doctor, or in many states to claim to be an engineer if you don't have appropriate certification.  There's no such licensing or certification process for 'scientist'. 

Does that mean scientists have more, or fewer, or different, obligations to society than doctors, lawyers, or engineers?


EliRabett said...

With learning comes responsibility.

To muddy the waters a bit that;s what pisses Eli off about the Roger and Fred Singer types.

Robert Grumbine said...

I'd add that one has a responsibility to do some learning as well, scientist or no. For the original question, I agree that the Fred and Roger types have responsibility to be honest and learn what they're talking about.

But I don't think that's a responsibility unique to scientists. That also applies to politicians, entertainers who pretend to know science, the Heartland Institute, and so forth.