Stories with ethical implications are popping up everywhere, in many fields. I’m running hard to keep up; if you want to join the race, here are some recent developments and notes:
- A prominent Harvard professor and respected researcher just retracted a major paper and has been put on leave, as an investigation showed irregularities in his methods and results. “This retraction creates a quandary for those of us in the field about whether other results are to be trusted as well, especially since there are other papers currently being reconsidered by other journals as well,’’ wrote one scientist. “If scientists can’t trust published papers, the whole process breaks down.’’
- A Wisconsin lawyer bought a farm from his own client in a bankruptcy matter, a classic conflict of interest. The lawyer’s defense was amusing: since his license had been suspended, he no longer had a fiduciary duty to his now former client. The court canceled the sale. The story is on the Legal Profession Blog.
- The excellent Sunlight Foundation has strong commentary regarding the lack of genuine ethics oversight at the White House.
- LeBron James, who has been getting slammed by almost everybody for his shoddy treatment of Cleveland, his teasing of other suitors for his services, and his egomaniacal celebration of his own greatness on the ESPN “special,” “The Decision.” Is he apologizing? No. Does he understand what people objected too? No. What is he doing, then? Why, taking names and plotting vengeance, apparently. Just one more unethical value to pass on to the kids…
- The Washington Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote about the new problem of “unpublishing”—changing or removing news items on the internet that subsequent facts prove misleading, incomplete, or wrong. He says his has no firm policy on this, which suggest few others do either. They should. Misleading or incorrect stories need to be united with their corrections and updates in a consistent manner.
- An interview with a committed 13-year-old vegan shows, once again, that both ethical and unethical conduct among the young is infinitely assisted by a willingness to accept half-baked arguments and dubious analogies on faith. Key quote: “…it takes a lot for [other kids] to realize, ‘wow, drinking cow or other animal milk is kind of like taking something from an animal that’s been raped…so I can have their milk.’”
- In a short post, Steve Johnson makes an observation about the Hewlett-Packard approach to ethics, which focuses on whether a discovered unethical act could be explained, altered or fixed, rather than its essential unethical nature. He is probably right, and not just about H.P.
- Finally, more proof that “The Ethicist,” Randy Cohen, has exorcised some of those pesky demons who were making him endorse various forms of dishonesty earlier in the year.