here. - School of Medicine

Ethics and Lightening Dark Sides to Science/Medicine: A Workshop
Wed 25th Feb 2015, 9.30 am to 1.00 pm
Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St James’s Hospital, Dublin
Science has greatly changed since the days of the gentleman scientists of the Victorian Era, and the
preceding early modern and enlightenment periods. Today science is a vast enterprise involving
government and industrial commitments, and employing huge numbers of people. It is thus an
activity immersed in society, and therefore is open to the associated benevolent and corrupting
influences. However, it has not seriously reflected on the consequences and obligations that flow
form this position.
Today, scientific hypotheses acquire a social and political function. They are prematurely released
from the laboratory, without full support from empirical evidence but with a specific task, e.g.: to
warn the world about dangerous situations, or to inform it about promising trends. And, whether in
the area of medicine, technology, ecology, or economics, in many cases, they are produced as ifthen hypotheses on political request.
When it comes to making sense of technological risk, such as in the case of nuclear energy, or in the
use of fossil fuels, or in numerous medical/pharma dilemmas, the position of science is complicated
by a specific tension. On the one hand, the pressure on science to deliver evidence in the service of
politics, medicine, society, or the market is higher than ever before. On the other hand, we realise
that science can never produce the full rationale for risk acceptance (or rejection). This dilemma
applies to numerous additional areas, for example: nanotechnology, mobile phones,
pharmaceuticals, genetically modified organisms and many others.
This makes us understand that we need a ‘broader’, more deliberative conception of science,
different from the tradition understanding. We have to realise that the main product of science
towards society is no longer empirical evidence to prove or reject a specific hypothesis, but the
hypothesis itself. The challenge of science is not any longer the production of credible proofs; it is
the production of credible hypotheses. One thing is clear: science cannot and should not do that
alone. It should be done interactively with society. It implies responsibilities for all, be it scientists,
doctors, patients, politicians, managers, citizens or activists.
This session will explore views commonly held of science. Initially three or four areas will be
explored in which problems for the creation of science and evidence, their importation into various
technologies and medicine, and their interactions with society, will be examined. Following this,
alternative views will be presented. These will enable us to better appreciate the nature of
science/evidence and how to deploy findings for the benefit of medicine and society. The latter
include the approaches to discourse most likely to be effective in achieving real engagement with
society and provide a basis for ethical judgments with regard to our activities as scientists.
The Workshop will consist of short modules and discussion to provoke and provide the basis for
experiential learning. We hope to bring experience from other fields to bear on research/practice
issues in medicine. M.Sc. students will be expected to complete one or more assignments to
consolidate this.
RSVP to: [email protected] before Monday 23rd Feb. to reserve a place.
Chair: Prof. Orla Sheils
Opening and Welcome
Dark Sides of Science
Jim Malone
Bias, Fraud and other problems in Research
Jim Malone
Balancing Risks and Benefits when Information
incomplete: Examples from different areas
The Comfort of Polarisation: An Example from Nuclear
Energy Technology
Climate Change, Energy Governance: The Politics of
Hypothesis and relevance to Medicine
Coffee and Discussion
Alternative Approaches
Jim Malone
A role for a reflective/contemplative approach in Science
and Medicine: Lessons from a painting of Schrodinger by
John Synge
Reflexivity and Engagement with Society
When Reason fails and the need for Values; Tension
between Freedom and Responsibility in Science and
Jim Malone
A widely accepted Value System: Relevance to Science and
Orla Sheils
Orla Sheils is Professor in Molecular Pathology at the Department of Histopathology and Sir Patrick
Dun Research Laboratory, St James's Hospital, Dublin. She has taken an MA in Medical Law and
Ethics (Lond), and is Director of Medical Ethics and Director of Postgraduate Teaching & Learning,
for the Trinity College School of Medicine.
Jim Malone
Jim Malone is Robert Boyle Professor (Emeritus) of Medical Physics, Trinity College Dublin, and
Consultant with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Vienna. He was Dean of the
School of Medicine and Faculty of Health Sciences at Trinity College/St James's Hospital, Dublin,
Chairman of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) committee for global standards for
medical imaging equipment, and a Professor of Medical Physics at the European School of Medical
Physics, Geneva. He is Director of the Robert Boyle Foundation. He has been an active researcher
for most of his career, has wide interests in the humanities and directed two Merriman Summer
Gaston Meskens
Gaston Meskens has built up more than fifteen years of experience in participative and
transdisciplinary research on governance related to issues such as sustainable development, energy,
climate change and radioactive waste management. This involves working in and around the agora's
and arenas of the policy processes of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC), the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), the United
Nations Non-Proliferation Treaty process (UN-NPT) and of the research-related activities of the
European Commission. He also participated as invited expert in European policy and Belgian
parliamentary and public hearings related to the ethics of risk-inherent technology governance, and
in several Technical Committees/missions of the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency and
the OECD.
He works with the Centre for Ethics and Value Inquiry of the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy of the
University of Ghent (Belgium) and the Science and Technology Studies group of the Belgian Nuclear
Research Centre SCK•CEN (Belgium). He co-founded the 'Programme of Integration of Social
Aspects into Nuclear Research' of the SCK•CEN in 1999. He is presently a lecturer, researcher and
policy adviser in several national and international programmes. He holds master degrees in
theoretical physics and nuclear physics from the University of Ghent (Belgium) and is currently PhD
researcher in Moral Philosophy at the University of Ghent. He is also an artist with an active