Department: History & Philosophy
University System: Montana State University - Bozeman
My areas of specialization are practical ethics (environmental ethics, research ethics, and biomedical ethics) and philosophy of science. At Montana State, I currently teach an upper-level environmental ethics course and a graduate-level seminar on research ethics. My research focuses on the ways in which ethical reasoning can enhance (rather than hinder) science in a variety of ways. Using case studies primarily from the environmental and health sciences, I show that ethical judgments are relevant to decisions throughout the research process, including the framing of research problems, selection of methodologies, choice of models, characterization, and interpretation of data, and risk analysis. Thus, ethics should play a more robust role in science, rather than merely policing the conduct of researchers. I am also interested in the role of dissent and consensus in science, and the implications these have for science-based policy (particularly in the areas of research on climate change and environmental toxins). While allowing and encouraging scientific dissent is thought to be central to the objectivity and progress of scientific research, there are some cases where dissent manufactured by think tanks or private interests is deliberately generated to confuse the public and stall regulatory policies. One of my current research projects examines how legitimate disagreements and dissenting voices can be protected in ways that do not stall public policies that are strongly supported by existing science.