On Morality and Chemistry
Science Direct Working Paper No S1574-0331(04)70924-8
19 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2017 Last revised: 27 Jan 2018
Date Written: December 2002
Based on an interpretation of science to be a social construct and the observation that moral criteria are the results of a social process the paper tackles the problem whether synthetic chemistry is an elite end in itself and as such is free from obligation to moral criteria. By the examples of Aspirin and Heroin the paper demonstrates that synthesis and application of a chemical can not be equated with each other, nor can the scientific discipline chemistry be equated with the chemical industry. The conversion of scientific findings into practical applications is a social and political process, which is shaped by interests and skills of individuals and institutions but not by phenomena and regularities, that science deals with. This process is illustrated by the example of DDT. The paper concludes that the responsibility of a scientist, which arises from his professional expertise, is limited to the available knowledge of his discipline. The moral responsibility, which he carries beyond that as responsible acting human, derives from the cultural identity and the normative values under which his action is carried out.
Keywords: science, morality, responsibility, normative values, synthetic chemistry, knowledge, chemical industry, DDT, Aspirin, Heroin
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