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the inhumanity of science

February 9, 2010

“The question of research for military purposes and scientific activity for military purposes is usually viewed either through the frame of professional ethics or scientific integrity. If human rights is introduced at all, it comes through the question of human subjects research with the Nuremberg Code.”

Scientists ought to consider, he argues, the broader question of human rights in work that ranges from weapons development to anthropology. As the science and potential military applications have grown more sophisticated, it follows that the ethics are now more complex, too.

Researchers, for instance, are already mulling whether beta-blockers could be used to reduce feelings of guilt in soldiers who do the unpleasant work of interrogation. Conversely, scientists wonder if oxytocin could induce trust in the interrogated. And what if neuro-imaging could help indicate what combatants are thinking? Or if brain monitoring could track how soldiers handle stress in training?

“We’re moving clearly more and more in the direction of being able to manage neural activity, manage behavior, attitudes and perception at a distance,” Moreno said. (read)

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