Grappling with the Gray

Grappling with the Gray #62: Anything in a good cause?

September 13, 2023 Yonason Goldson Episode 62
Grappling with the Gray
Grappling with the Gray #62: Anything in a good cause?
Show Notes

Does anything go for a good cause?  Do the ends justify the means?

These are the questions that arise on this episode of Grappling with the Gray when Kimberly Davis, Diane Helbig, and Annette Taylor join the ethics panel.

Here is our topic:

For years, I’ve been an avid fan of behavioral economics professor Dan Ariely. I’ve often referenced his work on ethics and morals in my articles and discussions.

However, he is now under fire, accused of falsifying his research for a paper about how to make people more honest, on which he collaborated with Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino. Professor Ariely insists that he did not manipulate the data in developing his thesis. Hartford Insurance, which provided the data, asserts that he did just that.

As the story unfolds, an investigative committee found Professor Gino guilty of misconduct. She has been placed on leave and faces the unprecedented possibility of being stripped of tenure. She has responded by launching a lawsuit against the three researchers who exposed her manipulated data, as well as against the Dean of HBS, all of whom now face paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, even if they are exonerated.

This sad story raises a variety of issues. Presumably, ethics scholars should demonstrate a higher standard of ethical behavior. So why does research indicate virtually no difference between ethicists and anyone else?

If researchers are accused of misconduct, shouldn’t they demonstrate the integrity of their research before their colleagues rather than resort to civil litigation? In general, haven’t lawsuits and legal expenses become a weapon to coerce legitimate claimants to keep silent?

Finally, should colleges reconsider the institution of tenure, considering how difficult it is to dislodge professors who are no longer worthy of their positions?

Perhaps most important of all, we’ve begun to expect these kinds of stories and scandals. Can a society survive when we lose trust in our institutions and in one another? And what can we do to reverse the trend?

#ethics #education #research #integrity #grappling