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The Results of Immoral Research?

  1. Aug 30, 2007 #1
    Do you think that the results of immoral research can or should be used? Take the research taken place at the Nazi concentration camp Dachau for example. They did some pretty brutal hypothermia experiments and found that people who had their Medulla oblongata shielded gave them an edge in survival.

    Should these results be used in the modification of life jackets? Is it inappropriate to, say, refer to the results of immoral research in a professional scientific journal article?
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  3. Aug 30, 2007 #2


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    I now have better techniques for reviving hypothermia victims because of this data. Should I not use them and kill the victim? Should I repeat the experiments to get the data again?

    In the same sense should I not fly because most of the advances in aircraft, engines, radar etc were for military use?
  4. Aug 30, 2007 #3


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    I don't see why there's a question here. If research has been done, and the results are there and indisputable, then it would be ridiculous to say "you cannot use this research" for future good.
  5. Sep 17, 2007 #4
    Inaction is not an adequate means to distance yourself. In your example, you're withholding something that could save lives because you feel uneasy about it - valuing your emotional qualms over multiple lives. Seems like a pretty unethical value assignment.

    Turning it around, i.e. "is it unethical not to perform such research" is something you'll need an 11 foot pole for, even in "1 vs. many" cases.
  6. Sep 20, 2007 #5


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    I guess an analogy would be something like "we don't negotiate with terrorists because if we do it once, future terrorists will know they can get something out of us and be more likely to try". The idea here being if we refuse to use the results of such experiments, people will be less inclined to perform them in the future. I think the difference here is that the reward for experimenters is not just in the knowledge their results will be used in the future, but also in the knowledge about the world that they gain themselves (as well as things like money and not getting shot by Nazis), and this is probably enough to offset any deterring effect such a pledge of refusal would have. Also, it's pretty rare nowadays for such experiments to be performed, there being plenty of immediate deterrents, like prison.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2007
  7. Dec 3, 2007 #6
    'immoral' is a realtive term. what may be immoral to me, may not be immoral to you, and vice versa. due to this, i cannot answer it correctly. suffice to say, as long as a death is painless, i have no problem with it. you might consider this 'immoral', but i do not. i consider willingly causing pain to another living creature immoral. when i kill ants, i make sure the poison either kills instantly, or has a sedative. i don't care about plant life, as it does not have nerves to carry feelings. i understand it's importance, but it is obviously not immoral to simply remove parts of a tree. why? the tree does not feel pain. if it wouldn't hurt a human and they were killed soon afterwards, i would have no problem with removing a limb or two.
  8. Dec 5, 2007 #7


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    Status, I don't think the Nazis did their experiments thinking it would help future generations. More likely, it was for immediate benefit with respect to the war effort. I'd bet you'd be hard pressed to find someone who killed people for the sake of experimentation that would be deterred by the knowledge that other people would refuse to use the results
  9. Dec 6, 2007 #8
    Personally, I think we should use the genuniely benefical results so the victims at least didn't die in vain. I'm pretty sure we've gotten better stuff by less morally dubious means today anyway, but still.
  10. Dec 6, 2007 #9
    Exactly. There really isn't anything to debate here.
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