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Teaching ethics

Dawson, V., Lock, R., Brickhouse, N.W. and Crosthwaite, J. (2005) Teaching ethics. In: Wallace, J. and Louden, W., (eds.) Dilemmas of Science Teaching: Perspectives on Problems of Practice. Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis group, pp. 175-190.

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As Michael Matthews has observed,‘philosophy is not far below the surface in any science classroom’ (1998, p. 995). Complex epistemological questions may emerge from even the most routine classroom treatments of the scientific method. What counts as evidence in a particular lesson? What is the epistemological status of the models and analogies students are expected to reproduce in tests? Similarly, metaphysical questions separate the truth claims of western science and indigenous knowledge, and evolutionary science from creationism. In addition, many students bring to class strong views about the medical and environmental issues that they cover in science. Whenever science and social policy intersect, such ethical questions arise. As the history of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the United Kingdom shows, ethical and scientific issues cannot be disentangled (United Kingdom, 2000). How soon did the scientific consensus emerge that the disease was a risk to humans? How much sooner did some suspect it? What social judgements would have been drawn if they overestimated the risk, announced it too soon, and needlessly slaughtered the British cattle herd? In a society dominated by risk (Giddens, 1999) scientists are forever caught between the possibility of panic and the fear of involvement in a cover up.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Publisher: Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis group
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