Should scientists be free to research whatever they want, assuming it does not harm/hurt anyone or animals.

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    This is opinion based. I am not convinced it is even a philosophical question. It should be closed. – Guy Inchbald Oct 14 '20 at 15:40
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    Yes, but you have to consider that most of modern science is "funded" by institutions... Thus, if the research needs money it must accept some sort of conditioning. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Oct 14 '20 at 17:14
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    @AleksandrA.Adamov "What do you guys think?" is not inviting ethical discussion, it is inviting opinion. – Guy Inchbald Oct 14 '20 at 17:54
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    @GuyInchbald you are being pedantic. The question the OP wants answered is very clear, the fact that they used a phrase which is associated with giving opinions is inessential. – Alex Oct 14 '20 at 18:20
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    @AleksandrA.Adamov Unfortunately, it is not clear at all. "Should" according to whom? The question is missing any context, so the only way to answer it as is is by offering personal opinions. Questions here are expected to be narrow, motivated, and answerable based on published literature, one-liners are strongly discouraged. The OP is a new user so some leniency is in order, but it would be nice to at least indicate on what considerations the "should" is supposed to be based. – Conifold Oct 14 '20 at 21:54

No. Science is a community with rules and an ethos of consensus and coherence. The choice of research topics is a choice with an ethical dimension and, practically speaking, impinges on limited resources. While the range of viable research topics may be very broad, it will be limited in some sense if the coherence and effectiveness of "science" as a practice is to be maintained.

If a lone "mad scientist" retreats to his castle to research something that is nonsensical, ignores the current state of the field, or is somehow evidently despicable, it is questionable whether we still call that person a "scientist." Many actual research projects can and do harm people and animals, with arguably some greater good in view. That is a different issue.The more relevant limitation is that of meaning and coherence within the discipline.

  • What does "it will be limited in some sense if the coherence and effectiveness of "science" as a practice is to be maintained." mean? Are you saying that if I wanted to spend some no-questions-asked grant money to investigate the soil biodiversity in North America that I should have to get permission from some authoritative science research body first? – Cell Oct 14 '20 at 21:14
  • I mean the whole system of graduate degrees, publishing, peer review, independent confirmation of results, institutional governance, and the other gatekeeping features that separate "science" from nonscientific claims. In more practical terms, yes, you are unlikely to get that grant unless you already embedded in those institutions and do have some sort of authorization from some scientific body. Science is, among other things, a method of arriving at agreements. And if you know of any grant money with no questions attached, please let me know. – Nelson Alexander Oct 14 '20 at 21:45
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    Yes I do agree with you! Though, I feel that Scientists should have LIMITED liberty, as they should focus more on real science. Pseudoscience and non-science should not be prioritized. Although non-science may not harm society, sometimes, it does not benefit society either. Thus, it might be a waste of resources researching in these branches of science. Additionally, some amount of freedom should still be given, as a scientist do have their own interest topics after all, but they should prioritize real science first, and focus on falsifying. – Qwerty Oct 15 '20 at 12:27
  • a) The question is not if scientists should use funding ethically (that doesn't depend on them, and if so, ITS THEIR MONEY). The question is if they can investigate anything. b) Many remarkable scientists in history could be considered "mad scientists". c) "Many actual research projects can and do harm people and animals"... that precise fact is excluded in the question. – RodolfoAP Oct 16 '20 at 7:08
  • @Qwerty: "Pseudoscience and non-science should not be prioritized": that's not your call, it's the funding party's decision. If you would impose such position to all the scientific community, you should make a list of what to do and what not. That would be a dictatorship and a censorship. – RodolfoAP Oct 16 '20 at 7:11

This is an opinion-based question, so I'm addressing facts that should be considered in any possible answer.

  1. Investigation is the task of gathering knowledge. Any negative answer would imply that some knowledge is forbidden (personally, I don't agree with this perspective, so I personally find @NelsonAlexander's position incorrect).

  2. Investigation is not related with the scientific method, which might relate investigation with experimentation. Experimentation do has ethical rules. Not investigation.

  3. The goal of investigation is to get knowledge. Knowledge is used for survival. Any possible knowledge is useful: that's why this can't be forbidden. Knowing if drinking water allows survival, is as valid as knowing that drinking poison causes death.

  4. Investigating anything, including pseudosciences is just producing knowledge, should not be prevented. Knowing that there are no scientific proof that tarot causes earning more money is useful

  5. Any prohibition would imply a subjective position of what to forbid and what not. A corporation might implement that, given that the subjective position is determined by the owners, but if a society would do this the result would be a "Bureau of investigation rights". Quite like Cuba or Laos, in other words: a dictatorship, a censorship.

  6. Multiple remarkable scientists in history have investigated weird things, and that can't be considered improper. They just found information that is still useful for society nowadays.

  • See my comments above. Science is not simply somebody investigating something. If an "investigator" is hired to follow a man's wife at night and gather evidence, that might be useful knowledge but we don't call it science. If a cigarette company gathers research showing that cigarettes are good for your health, as some did, that is "pseudoscience" and is not simply a beneficial addition to our knowledge. Science evaluates knowledge, not just collect it. There may have been people who "investigated weird things" but it was not "science" until peer reviewed and validated, etc. – Nelson Alexander Oct 16 '20 at 16:43
  • @NelsonAlexander again, the question is not about science. Is about people being free of doing any research without harm. You will probably disagree about "people". If so, define exactly and precisely what defines a scientist in order to include them in the group with limitations to research. That would be quite subjective. For example: "a scientist is anyone who has at least one paper peer-reviewed and published". So, those people should be prevented from researching about witchcraft. Ridiculous. – RodolfoAP Oct 16 '20 at 20:33

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