Ethics and Science

Over at Cafe Hayek, Don Boudreaux responds to an email correspondent on data-driven science.  Here is my take:

Having followed Don for several years now and had the good fortune to meet and converse with him in person on several occasions, I can say with absolute conviction that his writings, teachings, and opinions are driven not just by data (I invite M. Wheeler to do a search of Cafe Hayek and he will find many posts, some as recently as today, that are chock full of data), but also ethical considerations. And ethics are key.

Science and data without ethics is highly dangerous. The “Progressives” of the early 20th Century believed they were just following the science when they passed eugenics laws, forced steralization, and Jim Crow. The Nazis believed they were just following the science when they executed millions and performed horrific tests.

People like Don and myself staunchly oppose MW and other market controls not because we are ideologues but because we believe it is wrong to experiment on people without their consent (see more of my thoughts here:

Asking the question “is this outcome worth it?” is hardly dogmatic, but rather quite reasonable. It’s far more dogmatic to hide behind figures and avoid thinking about the consequences.

5 thoughts on “Ethics and Science

  1. Tall words coming from you. Ethics isn’t the “key” it’s the consideration that goes with the usage of data, but the premise lies on the individual to how they’re moral, amoral, or immoral. In any case it’s different to different people. Or in the case of the hard sciences, it comes down to your peers and the retestability of the data, which is often lacking in economics and other social “sciences”.

    No Jon, just no. The use of science in those laws wasn’t science, but pseudoscience. Lysenkoism to any other movements around the time of the implementation wasn’t based on anything that is respectable to be considered anything, the data used, was often fabricated. You can sit upon all the data one can think of, or want. Just with that, if you have no idea how the data can be used or implemented it’s as good as not having data. As with your consequences, it takes a amoral look upon the world. It really isn’t a matter of how it should be used, though with many hard sciences, there’s often science bodies in place for just that. The same can’t be said for economics.

    What I get from this is “read to believe, read to believe”.


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