Contrary to those comments, I don’t think that a problem for my case arose out of a focus on Mengele specifically and not on more ambiguous cases of immorality in science. The problem, I think, lies in the ambiguity of the phrase “in the name of”, so I’m going to try to make my case again without using it at all.
In my introductory paragraph, I framed the question at hand, and that question was not whether scientists can behave immorally while doing science. I fully conceded that. The question was whether science can cause scientists to behave immorally while doing science. Remember that this question arose in response to a tu quoque that not infrequently pops up whenever faith-based religion is criticized for causing immoral behaviour. That tu quoque entails the claim that science causes immoral behaviour, too. Moreover, the question of causality is the important one if we are interested in curbing that immoral behavior by criticizing or condemning the underlying cause. Accordingly, I’m going to try to make the case that it is incoherent to claim that science causes scientists to behave immorally while doing science. (On the other hand, the coherence and truth of the claim that faith-based religions can - and regularly do - cause people to behave immorally during their practice is not even contested.)
Consider a cancer researcher who is experimenting on and therefore killing mice. Such a program is indisputably a "legitimate" scientific enterprise even though the researcher knows full well that mice will be harmed by the process*.
If the lives of mice are not well valued, we should not be surprised that the lives of mice will be lost whether they are the victims of scientific experimentation or of mouse traps behind the furniture. If we find it morally abhorrent that mice are dying, criticizing science won’t save their lives, but addressing why the well-being of mice is undervalued by mouse-killers may.
I rest my case.
A deepity is a phrase that balances precariously between two interpretations. On one reading, the phrase is true, but trivially so. On the second reading, the phrase would be profound if it were true, but that second interpretation is actually false. Somehow, the truth of the first reading seems to rub off on the second one, making it seem profound and true. Deepities are common and beguiling, but fallacious.
It's trivially true that the Nazi researchers did some things that were motivated by science and could, in that sense, have been done "in the name of science". But those things are standard scientific moves like choosing objective outcome measures, repeating experiments to understand the influence of normal biologic variability on outcomes, etc. But when people hear that the Nazis acted "in the name of science", the second interpretation that takes hold of the imagination is that the heinous evils they committed during their experiments were motivated by science. That would be profound if it were true, but alas, it is false. Somehow, the truth of the first interpretation rubs off on the second one, making it seem profound and true. As I've shown, though, that second reading is incoherent and misleading.
|A Hitler Youth Book Burning|
Once again, I'd like to thank my thoughtful commenter for the opportunity to clarify my thoughts. I hope that this does indeed clear things up.
*Notice that the legitimacy of mouse based scientific research actually refers to the moral legitimacy of experimenting on mice. The scientific legitimacy is assumed.