Objectivity Demands Speaking Out: Scientists' Justice-Based Duties to Be Advocates for Environmental HealthPresenting person: Prof. Kristin Shrader-Frechette, Dept. of Biological Sciences / Dept. of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA Director, Center for Environmental Justice and Children's Health
Environmental-health scientists and physicians are increasingly confirming the environmental (including developmental - that is, in-utero and early post-natal) origins of much disease, dysfunction, and death. How should citizens, scientists, and society respond to these disturbing scientific findings?
Using both scientific and ethical analysis, this talk gives 5 arguments that virtually all citizens and scientists (to varying degrees and for slightly different reasons, depending on their expertise, ability, profession, etc) have justice-based duties to be advocates for environmental health. Justice demands they/we help preventing serious, pollution-induced health harms, especially "developmental toxicity" and "genomic instability." The 5 main arguments of the talk focus on 3 main case studies: air pollution from fossil fuels, pesticide/herbicide use, and waste incineration. These 5 arguments are
- (1) that none of the 4 main ethical theories can consistently defend serious, avoidable, pollution-induced health harms, as a matter of justice;
- (2) that all major political theories require leaving "as much and as good" natural/biological resources for future generations, as a matter of justice;
- (3) that scientists have greater justice-based duties, than ordinary citizens, to help stop serious, avoidable, pollution-induced health harms because they help cause such harms and have greater professional abilities/oppportunities to help stop these harms;
- (4) that scientists have greater justice-based duties, than ordinary citizens, to help stop serious, avoidable, pollution-induced health harms because they disproportionately benefit from these harms, given their better-than-average education/consumption/income; and
- (5) that all major objections to arguments (1)-(4) fail on logical, ethical, or scientific grounds.
These objections include, for instance, scientists' alleged duties to remain neutral and factual, scientists' not intending harm, scientific uncertainties about pollution harm, and allegations that more stringent pollution controls will harm the economy.