A brief overview of scientific ethics was introduced early in the Summer 2000 program and the results proved quite provocative. Students commented on topics raised in that early lecture throughout the remainder of the summer session - on field trips, with guest lectures, in their final projects, during informal gatherings. In their final course evaluations, participants applauded this segment of the course, indeed requesting even greater 'after school' contact with faculty and a forum for discussion of ethical issues.
These requests led to the creation of an
evening ethics seminar for the NSF-REU Summer 2002 course, held once a
week in a setting away from the lab and the normal routines of the program.
Issues related to scientific conduct, the politics of excavation, treatment
of artifacts, and repatriation were the topics of discussion. These
seminars provided an informal atmosphere to facilitate open conversation.
This forum likewise permitted direct interaction with leading scientists
on an informal and personal level. Likewise, students began thinking
ethically by watching and listening to leading scientists model this activity
within group discussions. The evening ethics dinners have become
a highly valuable pedagogical tool, far more effective than lectures about
ethics in the normal classroom setting.
The second Ethics Evening will involve discussion of readings centered on science as a way of knowing. Again, this session is devoted to countering a dominant tendency among undergraduates to believe that science is valueless or a-ethical. Through a series of assigned readings taken from Science as a Way of Knowing (Thomas Moore), enhanced by discussion led by Dr. John Spencer of John Carroll University, we hope to make clear the values inherent in the scientific method and the contributions/limitations of these values.
A third dinner will discuss issues related to the study of human remains and their eventual disposition. In Israel/Palestine, the home of these remains, this debate is quite contentious. Aspects of this controversy and comparison to repatriation concerns in the US, will be explored. Several of our guest speakers have been directly involved in repatriation discussions. Readings from both sides of the issue will be assigned prior to the dinner. This topic has proven quite lively in past summer sessions, carrying over into discussions throughout the remainder of the course.
Another contentious issue relates to ownership of the past, a topic of particular interest in Israel/Palestine. The political use (and abuse) of archaeological findings is an emotional and immediate concern in many parts of the world. Professors Blakely and Haak are particularly well suited to facilitate this conversation. Readings assigned before the dinner will focus on questions particular to the Near East, however attention will likewise be drawn to analogous issues in the US and elsewhere.
Specific to the study of human remains, another topic which has been a valuable entree into ethical discussion has been the concept of race as a biological construct; in particular, the role that osteological studies have played in the development of the concept of race in the past. Professor Van Gerven led an eye-opening discussion on this topic last summer and is slated to do so in each of the future summer sessions.
A final area of exploration include a discussion about how groups create 'identity' in times of marked cultural change or upheaval. The Byzantine period was such a time, where pilgrimage to the "Holy Land" was a major phenomenon. Carolyn Nordstrom will lead this conversation, and bring the students to current examples of conflict as East meets West.
In all cases, the primary focus of these sessions is not that the students come to the right conclusion but that they be exposed to issues impacting their research. Com-parably important is their exposure to real scientists and scholars addressing these issues in their own work. When they witness the passion these topics raise, they will hopefully embrace these considerations in their own endeavors. The guest speakers let their values be known and challenge the students to clarify their own questions and positions.