Carte Blance in Scientific Experiments – No

To determine whether scientists should be allowed carte blanche in their experiments, think of scientists as detectives. A detective would never be allowed controversial methods of gathering and processing information without regard to legal, moral, and ethical standards. Scientists are not allowed carte blance in their experiments, either. They must work within legal, moral, and ethical boundaries to protect their studies, their subjects, their hypotheses and theories, and themselves.

Acquiring knowledge, especially when it is new, may sound simple enough but it is much more difficult than thought, according to university textbook authors and scientists Smith and Davis in 2007. The validity and reliability of the results of scientific experimentation must be determined. A research psychologist, for example, has choices about how he or she will gather and use scientific data. There is an array of available methods, depending on the subject to be researched and studied. Choosing the most appropriate method for a scientific study is up to the researcher, but it must be remembered that the results reached at the end of the study must be valid and reliable, or stated as inconclusive. You will read, many times, that “more research is needed.” Results must also be able to be replicated in ongoing research.

The many branches of science have increased since it became a more structured field of study. Some people may equate experiments with the torturous and horrific experiments carried out under Hitler’s ruthless dictatorship. With no concern for the subjects, what his cohorts had was carte blanche. Researchers today would not propose the same conditions for research. Even in the 1960s, Stanley Milgram’s subjects were uninformed about the reasons for his research. In his work, he was determining the degree of people’s obedience to authority, as it was a subject of intense scrutiny after World War II. Many obediently followed his instructions and were willing to inflict what they thought was severe electric shock to other human beings. This was certainly a form of psychological torture, even when the participants were not informed or were misled about how the research was actually being conducted.

There is a degree of deception allowed in scientific research, and it is sometimes difficult to determine how much is too much. But if it means getting the scientific results or doing without the outcome altogether, most scientists will use deception, such as the use of a placebo in an experiment without the participant’s knowledge.

These are basic examples of ways in which it is possible to abuse carte blanche, and certainly not anything we would want in today’s world of science and technology. Appropriate consideration for ethical issues must also be part of experimentation, as stated by Shaughnessy, Zechmeister, and Zechmeister in 2007. There are codes established by scientific groups in a formal way that guide scientists so that safety standards are adhered to and no legal, moral, or ethical standards are breached. Approval for a study is required, proposals are submitted and approved, and protocol is followed.

When human beings are used for experiments, there are preliminaries that must occur such as informed consent and identification of any potential risks. During research, even if the potential risk is small, researchers should try to minimize risk and protect participants according to Shaugnessy et al. By all means, legal, moral and ethical standards must be adhered to. The scientist must weigh the benefits and costs of the project and then decide whether to conduct it. If one of the costs is that the experimental process will place the participant (animal or human) at risk, clearly the experiment must be revised or abandoned.

Allowing carte blanche would be a doorway to extreme scientific experimentation putting participants at unnecessary risk. It would be a violation of all that has been gained in the safety and precautions used by scientists today.