This book represents the proceedings for the conference held at the end of a three year project of intensive dialogue on science and virtue between scholars trained in philosophy, sociology, theology, history, psychology, and anthropology and those engaged in the philosophy and sociology of science, theology, history of science, psychology and ethnography of science. Since 2016, a multi-disciplinary research team at the University of Notre Dame, funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, has been exploring the relationship between virtue and scientific practice with a particular focus on laboratory research in biology. We called the project “Developing Virtues and the Practice of Science” (DVPS) to highlight our focus on how what scientists actually do both reflects and shapes their cognitive and behavioral dispositions.
Over the last several decades, virtue has attracted increased attention from philosophers, theologians, and psychologists. However, little of the research on virtue has attended to the development and function of virtue within scientific research and practice. The questions that drove DVPS, and still remain to some extent unresolved even after three years of research, relate to understanding and interpreting the dispositions of scientists as they go about their laboratory work. The specific questions that we sought to address in this work were the following:
- How can the language of virtue enrich, change, or challenge our understanding of science?
- Does the contemporary practice of scientific research require or bolster certain virtues (or vices)?
- How can ideas drawn from virtue ethics or virtue epistemology illuminate (and perhaps improve) the training and mentoring of scientists?
This e-book is an open-access work designed to allow students, researchers, and educators to have ready and easy access to the proceedings of the final DVPS conference. It is divided into five main sections which, while they overlap to some degree, can guide the reader interested in some areas more than others. The sections take the reader through historical analyses, ethnography, educational psychology, philosophy and theology. The book concludes with a section that opens a way forward, suggesting how multidisciplinary approaches to virtues in the practice of science can innovatively edge us towards thinking about future scientific research.
The first section, Scientific Virtues Through Time, has four chapters by theologians, historians, and philosophers of science. Philosopher Jennifer Baker opens the volume with “Aristotle and Ainslie: An Empirical Basis for Virtue Ethics.” Many critics of the field of virtue ethics believe that it is insufficiently rooted in empirical work. Nevertheless, most traditional versions of virtue ethics are naturalistic, so they are able to include updated scientific discoveries about human behavior. Virtue ethicists often hesitate to make connections to ancient accounts of moral psychology associated with virtue ethics. This may be because of a perception that ancient moral psychology depends on an ancient and somewhat anachronistic metaphysics. In this chapter, Baker relates virtue ethics to the most recent research in behavioral science, focusing particularly on the framework of George Ainslie. She argues that contrary to common suppositions, it is possible to make ancient assumptions about virtue fit with modern social scientific accounts of human motivation. Once the ancient and contemporary approaches are joined, it is possible to arrive at a more convincing explanation of what could justify virtue ethics theory.
Historian Matthew Stanley contributes a chapter entitled “The Virtue of Productive Uncertainty, or, What to Do When You Don’t Know Something.” He suggests that one mark of “good” scientists is their ability to address issues of the unknown in a way that allows for further research and deeper engagement—what he calls “productive uncertainty.” He argues that such an outlook is rarely explicitly discussed within science. Yet a detailed analysis of practice allows certain values and virtues that are usually submerged to surface. Stanley discusses how three important scientists—James Clerk Maxwell (1831–79), Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882–1944), and Carl Sagan (1934–96)—grappled with questions of productive uncertainty. He explores how they justified their values of productive uncertainty, and what resources they drew on for those justifications. All three drew on religious values to help articulate and support their scientific practices. Maxwell, Eddington, and Sagan came from different religious contexts (conservative, liberal, and secular, respectively) so considering them alongside each other demonstrates the variety of ways that scientific virtues can interact with and depend on wider categories.
Chapter 3, entitled “On Making the World Habitable,” by theologian Emily Dumler-Winckler, considers the significance of the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson for establishing the framework of scientific practice. Emerson declared that it is by “the religious sentiment,” and “not by science or power,” that “the universe is made safe and habitable.” He and his fellow transcendentalists embraced the insights of the second scientific revolution of the nineteenth century. At the same time, they were aware of the limitations and dangers that attend certain modern scientific practices and views of nature. Dumler-Winckler presents the argument that disenchanted views of modern science tend to alienate us from nature, God, one another, and ultimately from our own agency. They do so by celebrating our power to dominate creation and its creatures or to become impervious to nature’s perils through stoic detachment. The modern temptation is to think that it is by these forms of knowledge or power that the world is made safe and habitable. Ironically, both views—namely, that human beings are meant to conquer or to withdraw from nature—have long been attributed to Emerson. Dumler-Winckler argues that, on the contrary, Emerson was devoted, beginning to end, to expounding the virtues that modern agents would need to overcome both forms of alienation and make a home within the world. He thereby illuminates the virtues needed to perfect practitioners of religion and science in a way that remains highly relevant to contemporary concerns.
The fourth chapter, Nathaniel A. Warne’s “Have We Forgotten about Happiness? Scientific Practice and the Contemplative and Active Life,” considers both the theological and philosophical implications of the kind of virtues sought in the practice of science. Warne recognizes that within our DVPS project, the emphasis has been on observing the development of virtues within the context of vocation, specifically regarding laboratory scientists and musicians. The arguably more important question, however, especially philosophically and theologically, is: what are the ends and goods of the virtues that we seek to know more about and understand in the practice of science? Further, what relationship do the vocations of particular scientists have with the achievement of those ends? The research team of the Developing Virtues project has been concerned, as much as possible, with thinking about the virtues within a particular historical, theological, and philosophical framework that understands virtues not as ends in themselves but as means to something greater, namely happiness. Like Barker, Warne considers in particular the work of Aristotle and his scholastic interpreters, though he is not shy about illuminating their different approach to metaphysics as compared with contemporary social scientists. Instead, he seeks to bring the discussion back into the teleological frame of thinkers like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, who thought of happiness not as an activity or practice but as contemplation (theoria, contemplatio). He also considers further how virtues, happiness, and contemplation are viewed in the work of twentieth-century philosopher Josef Pieper. Pieper drew extensively on ancient and medieval figures, along with the psychology of his day, to address philosophical and theological questions. He is also partly credited with the twentieth-century retrieval of “virtue ethics.” In a nutshell, this chapter asks: what is the relationship between vocational practices and the classical eudaimonistic conception of happiness and the good life?
The second section, Science in the Everyday, covers ethnographic, psychological and philosophical engagement with the topic of the daily practice of science in a laboratory setting. Ethnographer Fionagh Thomson begins this section with “Telescopes, Microscopes & Simulations: The Everyday Scientific Practice of Deciding ‘What is Real’?” Contemporary science, across a wide range of different disciplines, often presents knowledge as necessarily contingent rather than absolute and, increasingly, as contextually and historically specified. As such, the sciences in general promote the practice of continually critiquing, debating, and scrutinizing current knowledge through valuations and assessments that (can) lead to modification, alteration and, at times, radical change in light of new evidence. The method(ology) of deciding what is “real,” “true,” authentic,” and/or “accurate” in scientific practice therefore remains contested, even while the nature and reliability of human senses in scientific observations has been questioned throughout much of scientific history. Consequently, while scientific practice is embraced as a human endeavor, it is simultaneously framed as one that inevitably leads to personal prejudices, misapprehensions, and biases. The latter are presented as inherent weaknesses, even vices, in rigorous scientific practice—weaknesses and vices that must be overcome or mediated through repeated reproduction and verification of experimental results and, more recently, the implementation of machine learning and automated systems—all in an effort to remove human error. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with astrophysicists (including instrument scientists, astronomers, and cosmologists) and microscopists in a UK university, Thomson explores the everyday scientific practice of deciding “what is real.” She highlights the key role of practical wisdom in that practice (an inherently human endeavor) through Hans Georg Gadamer’s concept of “dialogue as play” extending beyond individual human bodies. She focuses on everyday interactions through and with technologies in an open shared dialogue, as well as the importance of “being human,” “getting it wrong,” and embracing prejudice, and she asks the question: do the sciences place too much faith in mediated visual images and/or computer simulations in deciding “what is real”?
Chapter 6, psychologist Eranda Jayawickreme’s “How Easy Is It to be Intellectually Humble in Our Daily Lives?,” considers how good thinking involves the cultivation of intellectual virtues that promote unbiased, rational thought. Recently, contemporary scientists have increasingly understood wisdom as unbiased thought, and have specifically argued that such thinking can be facilitated through the enactment of intellectual humility (IH). IH has been defined as a disposition to be alert to, admit to, and take responsibility for cognitive limitations and mistakes or, alternatively, as lacking the vices associated with pride. In this chapter, Jayawickreme discusses newly published data on the validation of a measure of IH developed by an interdisciplinary team. This measure conceptualizes IH as a disposition to be alert to, admit to, and take responsibility for cognitive limitations and mistakes. He also discusses data on situational predictors of IH in daily life, where the manifestation of intellectual humility was predicted by measures that tracked perception of interpersonal situations as disagreeable and interlocutors as moral. He also outlines preliminary results of a psychological intervention that was designed to promote IH, using a novel educational video highlighting the role of IH and intellectual virtues through real-life examples from the history of science. He concludes by discussing how these results can help us understand how IH can be fostered as part of the training of scientists.
The seventh chapter, by philosopher Char Brecevic, is entitled “Ethical Virtues in Scientific Representation.” Consideration of virtues in the generation of scientific representations is generally delimited to theoretical desiderata including empirical adequacy, simplicity, elegance, robustness, and predictive power. The virtues found in the domain of ethics are rarely, if ever, entertained in the philosophical context of assessing the stylistic and functional aspects of scientific representations, given that philosophers of science are often concerned with theory choice rather than moral questions. When the focus is on more popular representations of science found outside laboratory settings, often purposefully designed to capture the attention of nonexpert audiences, these ethical virtues become relevant to the discussion of what scientists ought to consider when constructing their representations. Given that many nonexperts readily grant epistemic authority to scientists and given that popular scientific representations are often the primary means by which the imaginability of scientific matters is extended or restricted, Brecevic argues that scientists have a profound impact on the ways nonexperts posit possible futures. These, in turn, influence how individuals orient themselves towards others and to the world. To demonstrate this influence, Brecevic evaluates a variety of rhetorical statements from Jennifer Doudna’s A Crack in Creation that exemplify the themes of power, control, and promise associated with CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Brecevic suggests that the consideration of ethical virtues in the construction of popular scientific representations is needed to ensure that the epistemic authority granted to scientists is used responsibly.
The third section of four chapters, Virtue Ethics and Science Education, explores aspects of education using different social science methodologies. Chapter 8, “The Role of Ethnographies in Developing Virtue Ethics for the Life Sciences,” by Louise Bezuidenhout and Dori Beeler, draws on their joint ethnographic research conducted as DVPS postdoctoral fellows at the University of Notre Dame. As the two point out, there has been a lot of recent interest in virtue ethics as an alternative to deontological framings of responsible conduct of research for the life sciences. Proponents of a virtue ethics framing contend that it offers a more holistic interpretation of responsibility, focusing on character development rather than on rule following. Moreover, virtue ethics offers a way to talk about science that does not impose unnatural boundaries between individual-as-self and individual-as-scientist. Further, by focusing on situational conduct, virtue ethics offers an important approach for discussing responsible actions within daily laboratory life. Despite the benefits to be accrued through the use of virtue ethics, opponents criticize this approach for being difficult to teach and discuss. Such objections arise from the situatedness of virtue ethics, which argues that individuals learn through doing and that actions can be understood only in context. In order to counter these objections, many proponents of virtue ethics for the life sciences are turning to textual accounts of “exemplary scientists” as a means of demonstrating virtuous behavior in context.
Bezuidenhout and Beeler take issue with the current selection of exemplars for virtue ethics discussions for two key reasons. First, the discussions tend to use the research achievements of successful scientists as a proxy for exemplarism, thereby marginalizing exemplary individuals who embody other key components of virtuous science, such as mentorship, teaching, and community building. Second, the narratives currently used tend to be auto/biographies of scientists that do not systematically present the socio-historical context in detail. Nor do the narratives explicitly foreground the position of the author in the text. As an alternative to these problematic texts, Bezuidenhout and Beeler suggest that the rising number of ethnographic accounts of laboratory practices should be recognized as important tools for virtue ethics teaching and discussion. These texts differ from auto/biographies and popular texts as they are methodologically rigorous and present detailed descriptions of daily laboratory life. The authors demonstrate these differences using two texts focusing on the invention of polymerase chain reaction (PCR): the ethnography Making PCR and the autobiography Dancing Naked in the Mind Field. They demonstrate how students and teachers can use a secondary data analysis of these texts in order to unpack aspects of virtue ethics in relation to daily conduct as well as more broadly in relation to misconduct. They conclude by suggesting types of ethnographic studies that could be very beneficial for developing a robust virtue ethics account of scientific practice.
In Chapter 9, “Maintaining Virtue in Modern Scientific Practice: Providing a Foundation to Move Forward,” biologist Daniel Kuebler delves further into the examination and practice of virtue in science. The communal practice of science has long been associated with a specific set of scientific virtues. However, the modern landscape of scientific research, with its increasing competition for government funds and growing ties between industry and academia, has made the maintenance of these virtues more challenging. Two troubling examples of the problem include the increasing number of academic fraud cases as well as the documented difficulties of reproducing published results. The scientific community has attempted to address these issues, but the remedies tend to focus on legalistic and policing solutions rather than on examining how best to cultivate virtuous habits. While training that stresses normative rules and accountability can influence behavior, it has its limits. If survey results of scientists are correct, the vast majority of fraud and data manipulation cases go undetected. As a result, the risks associated with unethical behavior appear low relative to the perceived benefits that individual scientists can acquire in terms of money and career advancement. In such an environment, explaining how to be ethical in research does not necessarily help develop the requisite internal rationale for why one should behave in a virtuous manner. Kuebler argues that without an appreciation of the intrinsic value of virtuous behavior, the temptation to cut corners can prove too alluring in the current environment. It seems that new systems are needed to address these challenges. In particular, there is a need to develop curriculum that focuses on the intrinsic value of living a virtuous life and implement it long before individuals embark upon a scientific career. In addition, he suggests that there is a need to explore different financial models to alleviate the considerable pressure on practicing scientists to act unethically.
Philosopher Kristján Kristjánsson’s chapter suggests a different aspect of what could be called a new approach to scientific education and is entitled “Scientific Practice, Wonder, and Awe.” He argues for and elaborates upon two different conclusions: first, that scientific practice can, and ideally should, cultivate moral virtues in its practitioners (in addition to more obvious intellectual virtues such as wonder), specifically the moral virtue of awe; and second, that science education can, and ideally should, inspire in students love of transcendent ideals, such as truth, and introduce them to morally relevant awe experiences. This is true for both budding scientists and budding interested laypeople who will be future friends rather than foes of scientific inquiry. He further examines the importance of the subtle differences between wonder and awe. Although his arguments may seem a rehearsal of the time-honoured view that all good education should help students see the world anew, what is radical and controversial is his claim that such aims cannot be accomplished through the elicitation of mere wonder as an intellectual virtue. Even education in the apparently down-to-earth subject matter of the natural sciences should aim higher than that. He suggests that seeing the world anew is not only about seeing external reality anew—this flower, that galaxy—but also about seeing ourselves anew in light of, and as part of, that reality, and allowing ourselves to become lost in rapture as we grapple with the existential and moral ramifications of our being in the world.
The eleventh chapter, by developmental psychologist Darcia Narvaez, is a response to Kristján Kristjánsson’s chapter and is entitled “Reclaiming Awe for the Right Things.” She suggests that, in searching for awe today, we can see the traditional awe of truth, beauty, and goodness, but also some twisted sisters. In Donald Trump’s America, awe of untruth and the meaning of “truthiness” comes into the question. She believes that awe of beauty often runs skin deep and awe of goodness often presents as egoistic or ethnocentric self-aggrandizement. The awe of technology and the awe of power over others also seem widely present today. Thus, in discussing awe, we need to attend to better and worse kinds of awe. She argues that the best kinds of awe rely on connections or relationships that raise communal sensibility. Such capacities require cultivation, especially in childhood when related brain areas are rapidly establishing themselves through experience. Western science too often emphasizes awe of power, detachment, and control rather than a holistic relational awe fostered in alternative world views, such as Indigenous science, and the natural world may be the worse for it because of such attitudes of domination. She argues that an Indigenous approach to science restores rightful relationships with the other-than-human and lubricates the path to sustainable lifeways.
The fourth section, with five chapters, engages philosophical, theological, computer science, and psychological perspectives and looks into the different possible Frameworks for Practicing Scientific Virtues. Philosopher Jordan Droira opens this section with “Caring to Ask: A New Picture of Inquisitiveness.” Droira argues that scientists ought to cultivate the intellectual character virtue of care—characterized primarily as a virtue of inquisitiveness. He borrows from Vrinda Dalmiya’s 2002 work “Caring to Know” and Lani Watson’s “What is Inquisitiveness,” reaching his conclusion in four parts. He outlines how epistemologies of ignorance distort scientific inquiry, primarily employing the ideas of Linda Martin Alcoff. He then offers a brief picture of Dalmiya’s intellectual virtue of care and Watson’s intellectual virtue of inquisitiveness. He then proposes a hybridization of Dalmiya and Watson’s proposals, characterizing how agents should be held accountable in the context of epistemologies of ignorance. This synthesis can be summarized as: we hold them accountable for the character virtue of “caring inquisitiveness.” Finally, he concludes that this new paradigm of caring to ask enriches the way we look at research generally, since it includes the benefits that accompany virtue ethical theories more generally.
Chapter 13, entitled “Mapping the Language of Hope within Empirical Research onto Virtue Theory,” by theologian Michelle A. Marvin, explores the question of whether or not hope is a moral virtue—an issue of recent debate in the field of moral philosophy. Scholars such as Luc Bovens and Adam Kadlac argue that hope is valuable for leading a good life, whereas others, such as Christopher Bobier and Barbro Fröding, assert that hope is not an intrinsically good disposition of character. Research in this area frequently associates hope with situations of medical illness, particularly for individuals close to death. However, current virtue ethics scholarship does not account for the multiplicity of contemporary meanings given to hope within empirical research, such as optimism and expectation. Marvin’s chapter addresses the issue of the polysemous language of hope by mapping various uses of hope language within empirical research onto virtue theory. Specifically, she considers the equivocal uses of hope throughout psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s seminal 1969 work On Death and Dying, and how these discrete meanings of hope contribute to a conclusion that all terminally ill patients “…[maintain] some form of hope until the last moment.” To assist with mapping these different meanings of hope onto virtue theory, she discusses how medical ethics and virtue theory underwent corresponding transformations during the twentieth century, and brings contemporary research on optimism and expectations to bear on the medical hope language of the late twentieth century. By examining the language of hope in Kübler-Ross, this chapter provides insight into a dimension of hope underlying current debates over hope’s status as a moral virtue.
Psychologists Timothy S. Reilly and Darcia Narvaez contribute Chapter 14, “Virtue Ideals and the Scientific Researcher: Morality, Wisdom and Climate,” based on field research from the DVPS project. Although interest in virtue has increased sharply in psychology since the turn of the twenty-first century, virtue as contextualized by practices and traditions remains understudied. Reilly and Narvaez consider how features of individuals and their contexts may correspond with virtue in science. The DVPS project team developed a list of virtues with an interdisciplinary group from psychology, ethics, philosophy of science, history of science, and anthropology. The list was presented to scientists (n=259) who rated their importance in two ways (facets): personal ideals (PI) and ideals for the domain of science (DI). Prior work with Darcia Narvaez established that each rating method fit a three-factor structure: (1) relational, (2) role, and (3) intellectual virtue. They examine and report on regression models for each virtue facet and factor, using scores on moral reasoning, wisdom, and moral imagination as predictors. They then examine regression models to predict moral behavior, specifically counterproductive work behavior (CWB) and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), using as predictors virtue rating methods (PI and DI), while considering workplace ethical climate and social support. Their data shows that measures of wisdom—especially insight (for intellectual and role virtue); tolerance (for intellectual and relational virtue); and moral imagination (for relational virtue)—predicted ratings of virtue as PI and DI, while PI virtue ratings predicted moral behavior. Further, PI virtue was most related to workplace behavior. They consider both the research implications and future directions that these results imply.
Computer scientist Mark Graves’s chapter is entitled “Semantic Analysis of Moral Values in Semi-Structured Interviews” and uses Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) to study interview results from DVPS. LSA uses computational tools to extract implicit meaning from text and makes it possible to quantify the level that a moral value occurs implicitly within interview text by comparing it with meaning representations of theory-derived value descriptors. Statistical methods are then used to compare participant groups on their interviews’ quantified semantic similarity to moral value descriptors, which yields a characterization of the groups’ differences in implicit moral values. Graves describes a semantic analysis investigation that uses DVPS data (27 laboratory scientists and 44 ensemble musicians) who each completed a one-hour, semi-structured interview. The scientists ranged in experience from undergraduate research assistants to tenured professors, and the musicians ranged from music directors to amateur instrumentalists. Graves found that the text of interviews with scientists showed higher latent value for honesty and integrity, while interviews with musicians showed higher latent value for religious value. Comparing transcript latent values across location found higher latent values for religious value in the US when compared with the UK.
Chapter 16, “Value in Virtuous Community: Insights about Valuing the Self and Other from Computational Cognitive and Brain Sciences,” by psychologist Michael Spezio, presents work in progress. The moral philosopher Robert C. Roberts suggests that the study of virtue needs the support of a virtuous community. In other words, to understand what virtue is and how it flows in practice, it helps to be in that flow oneself. How can one hope to recognize virtuous formation without entering it oneself, in hope and in the company of others? Spezio suggests that those seeking a deeper understanding of virtue more broadly, and virtue in the sciences in particular, would benefit from scientific inquiry into the cognitive affections and the affective cognitions of those committed to virtuous community, and of actions modeled after their practices. He considers a series of different questions, including the following:
- How do people with long-lived commitments in such communities value one another and themselves?
- How do they remember and describe their formation and transformation? How do they remember their past selves?
- How do they describe their hope for the future?
- How important are empathy, theory of mind, and humility in managing the daily challenges of life in community?
- Can computational models of cognitive and neural systems shed light on the transformations of mind and brain that happen?
Drawing on work with several communities of L’Arche in the US and in France, and with the community of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, he relates computational models of mind and brain to narrative accounts of how the self and other are valued within communities dedicated to virtuous formation.
The final section consists of five chapters, again drawing on a multidisciplinary approach to the focal topic, but concerned more broadly with where to go next, and is entitled The Future of Scientific Virtues. Psychologist Markus Christen’s Chapter 17 asks: “Does the Digitalization of Science Affect Scientific Virtues?” Information and communication technology has penetrated almost all spheres of life and influences our way of thinking, our interactions with others and our roles as citizens, workers and consumers. Science is affected by this development as well. Whereas the use of computers has been commonplace for many years, big data analytics and artificial intelligence applications will increasingly be applied in many scientific disciplines. Such technologies will not only provide novel tools for gaining insights in complex data, but are also likely to become “digital assistants” for researchers, suggesting to scientists what to read, which hypotheses to pursue, and how to navigate through an increasingly complex landscape of ethical and legal obligations. They even generate genuine scientific knowledge.
Christen’s chapter aims to explore the consequences of such a development for scientific virtue. He asks: What does it mean for the virtue of curiosity when “smart software agents” suggest research questions? How does accountability change in networked science, where humans and machines interact? Can AI that accompanies a researcher through his or her studies and “learns” his or her work patterns affect collegiality among researchers? How will the skill of reasoning be affected when it is partially outsourced to algorithms? Will big data analytics allow for a new level of objectivity? By addressing such questions, Christen aims to outline the possible impact of digitalized science on six scientific virtues: curiosity, intellectual honesty, skepticism, objectivity, perseverance, and meticulousness. He provides further practical suggestions of how to ensure that those virtues are not undermined when using digital tools.
Philosopher Emanuele Ratti’s chapter “Machine Learning, Automated Science, and Virtues” also deals with the automation of science and in some respects follows up on Christen’s contribution. This chapter is presented as a long abstract with a link to a published work that will become live on publication. He suggests that the applications of machine learning (ML) and deep learning to biology have fostered the idea that the automated nature of algorithmic analysis will gradually dispense human beings from scientific work. In his contribution, he shows that this view is not necessarily problematic, at least when ML is applied to biology. In particular, he claims that ML is not independent of human beings and cannot form the basis of automated science.
Braden Molhoek contributes Chapter 19, “Student Mental Health, Job Concerns, and Issues in Academic Publishing: The Perpetuation of Injustice in the Pursuit of Science,” and explores the practical aspects of mental health and other issues in the course of science practice. Molhoek examines how the academic pursuit of science is inhibiting the acquisition of virtue among undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and contingent faculty. His argument starts by examining the mental health of students, and the underlying causes of mental distress. He then turns to issues of employment for graduate students, postdocs, and contingent faculty. He argues that employment concerns continue to create mental distress and interfere with the conditions necessary for the acquisition of virtue. The final part of the chapter explores what Molhoek considers as the unjust practices of academic journal publishers. He concludes with some preliminary suggestions on the steps necessary to address these concerns.
Theologian and peace studies scholar Michael Yankoski’s chapter, “Justice on the Blockchain? What Might ‘Smart Contracts’ Mean for Virtuous Action?,” also raises the issue of justice, but from the perspective of the application of new technologies. Advocates of distributed ledger technologies (“blockchains”) argue that this new category of technological innovation will prove as positively disruptive to human societies as the Internet. The argument is that blockchains render centralized guarantors of trust—banks, courts, and governments—obsolete (or at least much less necessary) for monetary exchange, contractual justice, and historical record keeping. As such, blockchains are believed to provide the rails for frictionless international monetary exchange, “smart contracts” promise to execute themselves with incorruptible precision, and every transaction conducted will be immutably recorded on publicly visible ledgers. Put simply, blockchains are purported to be nothing short of a revolution in trust between humans. This chapter seeks to place the claims of blockchain proponents in conversation with the virtue of justice as traditionally construed in the work of medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas. In particular, Yankoski asks whether blockchain technologies and “smart contracts” should be considered a help or a hindrance to the practice of justice. He suggests that while aspects of blockchain technologies may well aid the practice of certain limited forms of contractual justice, we should be wary of anything that purports to make “rendering to each their due” automatic and effortless.
Philosopher Gregory R. Peterson presents the final chapter in this volume, “Scientific Practice and Democratic Virtues.” Peterson takes the discussion of scientific futures to the broadest sociological scale by considering it in terms of political relationships. His chapter proposes a model for thinking about how scientific practice may contribute to the formation of democratic virtues. Democratic virtues are those virtues necessarily present in a polity (in whole or part) for the proper functioning of liberal (as opposed to illiberal) democratic regimes. Democratic virtues overlap with but are distinct from traditional civic virtues, which are not always democratically oriented. A longstanding argument supports the claim that scientific practice supports or even requires the possession or development of moral character. Less direct attention has been given to the relation of scientific practice and democratic virtues. Peterson argues that scientific and democratic virtues are intersecting sets and that virtues formed in the context of scientific practice contribute to the formation of democratic virtues, especially intellectual virtues, that support democratic governance and contribute to the wisdom of the crowd.
CELIA DEANE-DRUMMOND is currently Professor in Theology and Director of the Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing at Notre Dame. She is lead PI on the project Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science, supported by a grant from the Templeton Religion Trust. She is also visiting Professor in Theology and Science at the University of Durham, UK and will be Director of the Laudato Si’ Research Institute, Campion Hall, University of Oxford from July 2019. Her most recent publications include The Wisdom of the Liminal: Human Nature, Evolution and Other Animals (2014); Technofutures, Nature and the Sacred(edited with Sigurd Bergmann and Bronislaw Szerszynski) (2015); Ecology in Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology, 2nd edition, (2016);Religion in the Anthropocene (edited with Sigurd Bergmann and Markus Vogt) (2017); Theology and Ecology Across the Disciplines: On Care for Our Common Home (edited with Rebecca Artinian-Kaiser) (2018); and The Evolution of Wisdom Volume I: Theological Ethics Through a Multispecies Lens (2019).
THOMAS A. STAPLEFORD is Associate Professor and Chairperson of the Program of Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is co-PI on the project Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science, supported by a grant from the Templeton Religion Trust. Stapleford’s research examines the human sciences, especially economics, where his work intersects American political history and the history of capitalism. He also has strong interests in virtue ethics, historical epistemology (the joint historical and philosophical study of ways of reasoning), and historiography (how one writes history). He is the author of The Cost of Living in America: A Political History of Economic Statistics (Cambridge, 2009) and co-editor of Building Chicago Economics: New Perspectives on the History of America’s Most Powerful Economics Program (Cambridge, 2011). He has published articles in a diverse set of journals including the Journal of American History, Isis: Journal of the History of Science Society, History of Political Economy, and Labor History. Stapleford is currently writing a book that uses virtue ethics to think about how to integrate expertise with democratic governance.
DARCIA NARVAEZ is Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame; she focuses on moral development and flourishing from an interdisciplinary perspective. She is co-PI on the project Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science, supported by a grant from the Templeton Religion Trust. Dr. Narvaez’s current research explores how early life experience and societal culture interact to influence virtuous character in children and adults. She integrates neurobiological, clinical, developmental and education sciences in her theories and research about moral development. She publishes extensively on moral development, parenting and education. She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and the American Educational Research Association. Her dozens of books and articles include Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First Nation Know-how for Global Flourishing (with Four Arrows, E. Halton, B. Collier, and G. Enderle); Embodied Morality: Protectionism, Engagement and Imagination; and Basic Needs, Wellbeing and Morality: Fulfilling Human Potential. Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom won the 2015 William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association and the 2017 Expanded Reason Award. She is on the boards of Attachment Parenting International and the Journal of Human Lactation. She writes a popular blog for Psychology Today (“Moral Landscapes”).