35 found
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  1. Research integrity codes of conduct in Europe: Understanding the divergences.Hugh Desmond & Kris Dierickx - 2021 - Bioethics 35 (5):414-428.
    In the past decade, policy-makers in science have been concerned with harmonizing research integrity standards across Europe. These standards are encapsulated in the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. Yet, almost every European country today has its own national-level code of conduct for research integrity. In this study we document in detail how national-level codes diverge on almost all aspects concerning research integrity – except for what constitutes egregious misconduct. Besides allowing for potentially unfair responses to joint misconduct by (...)
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  2. Professionalism in Science: Competence, Autonomy, and Service.Hugh Desmond - 2020 - Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (3):1287-1313.
    Some of the most significant policy responses to cases of fraudulent and questionable conduct by scientists have been to strengthen professionalism among scientists, whether by codes of conduct, integrity boards, or mandatory research integrity training programs. Yet there has been little systematic discussion about what professionalism in scientific research should mean. In this paper I draw on the sociology of the professions and on data comparing codes of conduct in science to those in the professions, in order to examine what (...)
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  3. Sexual Selection, Aesthetic Choice, and Agency.Hugh Desmond - forthcoming - In Elisabeth Gayon, Philippe Huneman, Victor Petit & Michel Veuille (eds.), 150 Years of the Descent of Man. New York: Routledge.
    Darwin hypothesized that some animals, when selecting sexual partners, possess a genuine “sense of beauty” that cannot be accounted for by the logic of natural selection. This hypothesis has been notoriously controversial. In this chapter I propose that the concept of agency can be useful to operationalize the “sense of beauty”, and can help identify the conditions under which one can infer that animals are acting as (aesthetic) agents. Focusing on a case study of the behavior of the Pavo cristatus, (...)
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  4. The Ontology of Organismic Agency: A Kantian Approach.Hugh Desmond & Philippe Huneman - 2020 - In Andrea Altobrando & Pierfrancesco Biasetti (eds.), Natural Born Monads: On the Metaphysics of Organisms and Human Individuals. De Gruyter. pp. 33-64.
    Biologists explain organisms’ behavior not only as having been programmed by genes and shaped by natural selection, but also as the result of an organism’s agency: the capacity to react to environmental changes in goal-driven ways. The use of such ‘agential explanations’ reopens old questions about how justified it is to ascribe agency to entities like bacteria or plants that obviously lack rationality and even a nervous system. Is organismic agency genuinely ‘real’ or is it just a useful fiction? In (...)
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  5. Expert Communication and the Self-Defeating Codes of Scientific Ethics.Hugh Desmond - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics 21 (1):24-26.
    Codes of ethics currently offer no guidance to scientists acting in capacity of expert. Yet communicating their expertise is one of the most important activities of scientists. Here I argue that expert communication has a specifically ethical dimension, and that experts must face a fundamental trade-off between "actionability" and "transparency" when communicating. Some recommendations for expert communication are suggested.
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  6. Status Distrust of Scientific Experts.Hugh Desmond - 2022 - Social Epistemology 36 (5):586-600.
    Distrust in scientific experts can be surprisingly stubborn, persisting despite evidence supporting the experts’ views, demonstrations of their competence, or displays of good will. This stubborn distrust is often viewed as a manifestation of irrationality. By contrast, this article proposes a logic of “status distrust”: low-status individuals are objectively vulnerable to collective decision-making, and can justifiably distrust high-status scientific experts if they are not confident that the experts do not have their best interests at heart. In phenomena of status distrust, (...)
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  7. Service and Status Competition May Help Explain Perceived Ethical Acceptability.Hugh Desmond - 2020 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 11 (4):258-260.
    The dominant view on the ethics of cognitive enhancement (CE) is that CE is beholden to the principle of autonomy. However, this principle does not seem to reflect commonly held ethical judgments about enhancement. Is the principle of autonomy at fault, or should common judgments be adjusted? Here I argue for the first, and show how common judgments can be justified as based on a principle of service.
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  8. The selectionist rationale for evolutionary progress.Hugh Desmond - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (3):1-26.
    The dominant view today on evolutionary progress is that it has been thoroughly debunked. Even value-neutral progress concepts are seen to lack important theoretical underpinnings: natural selection provides no rationale for progress, and natural selection need not even be invoked to explain large-scale evolutionary trends. In this paper I challenge this view by analysing how natural selection acts in heterogeneous environments. This not only undermines key debunking arguments, but also provides a selectionist rationale for a pattern of “evolutionary unfolding”, where (...)
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  9. The integrated information theory of agency.Hugh Desmond & Philippe Huneman - 2022 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 45:e45.
    We propose that measures of information integration can be more straightforwardly interpreted as measures of agency rather than of consciousness. This may be useful to the goals of consciousness research, given how agency and consciousness are “duals” in many (although not all) respects.
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  10. Precision Medicine, Data, and the Anthropology of Social Status.Hugh Desmond - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics 21 (4):80-83.
    The success of precision medicine depends on obtaining large amounts of information about at-risk populations. However, getting consent is often difficult. Why? In this commentary I point to the differentials in social status involved. These differentials are inevitable once personal information is surrendered, but are particularly intense when the studied populations are socioeconomically or socioculturally disadvantaged and/or ethnically stigmatized groups. I suggest how the deep distrust of the latter groups can be partially justified as a lack of confidence that their (...)
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  11. Reclaiming Care and Privacy in the Age of Social Media.Hugh Desmond - 2022 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 92:45-66.
    Social media has invaded our private, professional, and public lives. While corporations continue to portray social media as a celebration of self-expression and freedom, public opinion, by contrast, seems to have decidedly turned against social media. Yet we continue to use it just the same. What is social media, and how should we live with it? Is it the promise of a happier and more interconnected humanity, or a vehicle for toxic self-promotion? In this essay I examine the very structure (...)
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  12. Niche construction and teleology: organisms as agents and contributors in ecology, development, and evolution.Bendik Hellem Aaby & Hugh Desmond - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (5):1-20.
    Niche construction is a concept that captures a wide array of biological phenomena, from the environmental effects of metabolism to the creation of complex structures such as termite mounds and beaver dams. A central point in niche construction theory is that organisms do not just passively undergo developmental, ecological, or evolutionary processes, but are also active participants in them Evolution: From molecules to men, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1983; Laland KN, Odling-Smee J, Feldman MW, In: KN Laland and T Uller (...)
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  13. Adapting to Environmental Heterogeneity: Selection and Radiation.Hugh Desmond - 2021 - Biological Theory 17 (1):80-93.
    Environmental heterogeneity is invoked as a key explanatory factor in the adaptive evolution of a surprisingly wide range of phenomena. This article aims to analyze this explanatory scheme of categorizing traits or properties as adaptations to environmental heterogeneity. First it is suggested that this scheme can be understood as a reaction to how heterogeneity adaptations were discounted or ignored in the modern synthesis. Then a positive account is proposed, distinguishing between two broad categories of adaptation to environmental heterogeneity: properties selected (...)
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  14. Trust and professionalism in science: medical codes as a model for scientific negligence?Hugh Desmond & Kris Dierickx - 2021 - BMC Medical Ethics 22 (1):1-11.
    Background Professional communities such as the medical community are acutely concerned with negligence: the category of misconduct where a professional does not live up to the standards expected of a professional of similar qualifications. Since science is currently strengthening its structures of self-regulation in parallel to the professions, this raises the question to what extent the scientific community is concerned with negligence, and if not, whether it should be. By means of comparative analysis of medical and scientific codes of conduct, (...)
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  15. Incentivizing Replication Is Insufficient to Safeguard Default Trust.Hugh Desmond - 2021 - Philosophy of Science 88 (5):906-917.
    Philosophers of science and metascientists alike typically model scientists’ behavior as driven by credit maximization. In this article I argue that this modeling assumption cannot account for how scientists have a default level of trust in each other’s assertions. The normative implication of this is that science policy should not focus solely on incentive reform.
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  16. Shades of Grey: Granularity, Pragmatics, and Non-Causal Explanation.Hugh Desmond - 2019 - Perspectives on Science 27 (1):68-87.
    Implicit contextual factors mean that the boundary between causal and noncausal explanation is not as neat as one might hope: as the phenomenon to be explained is given descriptions with varying degrees of granularity, the nature of the favored explanation alternates between causal and non-causal. While it is not surprising that different descriptions of the same phenomenon should favor different explanations, it is puzzling why re-describing the phenomenon should make any difference for the causal nature of the favored explanation. I (...)
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  17. In Service to Others: A New Evolutionary Perspective on Human Enhancement.Hugh Desmond - 2021 - Hastings Center Report 51 (6):33-43.
    In enhancement ethics, evolutionary theory has been largely perceived as supporting liberal views on enhancement, where decisions to enhance are predominantly regulated by the principle of individual autonomy. In this paper I critique this perception in light of recent scientific developments. Cultural evolutionary theory suggests a picture where individual interests are entangled with community interests, and this undermines the applicability of the principle of autonomy. This is particularly relevant for enhancement ethics, given how – I argue – decisions to enhance (...)
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  18. The Varieties of Darwinism: Explanation, Logic, and Worldview.Hugh Desmond, André Ariew, Philippe Huneman & Thomas A. C. Reydon - manuscript
    Ever since its inception, the theory of evolution has been reified into an “-ism”: Darwinism. While biologists today tend to shy away from the term in their research, the term is still actively used in the broader academic and societal contexts. What exactly is Darwinism, and how precisely are its various uses and abuses related to the scientific theory of evolution? Some call for limiting the meaning of the term “Darwinism” to its scientific context; others call for its abolition; yet (...)
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  19. The Value-Free Ideal of Science: A Useful Fiction? A Review of Non-epistemic Reasons for the Research Integrity Community.Jacopo Ambrosj, Kris Dierickx & Hugh Desmond - 2023 - Science and Engineering Ethics 29 (1):1-22.
    Even if the “value-free ideal of science” (VFI) were an unattainable goal, one could ask: can it be a useful fiction, one that is beneficial for the research community and society? This question is particularly crucial for scholars and institutions concerned with research integrity (RI), as one cannot offer normative guidance to researchers without making some assumptions about what ideal scientific research looks like. Despite the insofar little interaction between scholars studying RI and those working on values in science, the (...)
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  20. Natural selection, plasticity, and the rationale for largest-scale trends.Hugh Desmond - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 68:25-33.
    Many have argued that there is no reason why natural selection should cause directional increases in measures such as body size or complexity across evolutionary history as a whole. In this paper I argue that this conclusion does not hold for selection for adaptations to environmental variability, and that, given the inevitability of environmental variability, trends in adaptations to variability are an expected feature of evolution by natural selection. As a concrete instance of this causal structure, I outline how this (...)
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  21. The ethics of expert communication.Hugh Desmond - 2023 - Bioethics 38 (1):33-43.
    Despite its public visibility and impact on policy, the activity of expert communication rarely receives more than a passing mention in codes of scientific integrity. This paper makes the case for an ethics of expert communication, introducing a framework where expert communication is represented as an intrinsically ethical activity of a deliberative agent. Ethical expert communication cannot be ensured by complying with various requirements, such as restricting communications to one's area of expertise or disclosing conflicts of interest. Expert communication involves (...)
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  22. The Generalized Selective Environment.Hugh Desmond - 2023 - In Agathe du Creste (ed.), Evolutionary Thinking Across Disciplines: Problems and Perspectives in Generalized Darwinism. Springer. pp. 2147483647-2147483647.
    As the principle of natural selection is generalized to explain (adaptive) patterns of human behavior, it becomes less clear what the selective environment empirically refers to. While the environment and individual are relatively separable in the non-human biological context, they are highly entangled in the context of moral, social, and institutional evolution. This chapter brings attention to the problem of generalizing the selective environment, and argues that it is ontologically disunified and definable only through its explanatory function. What unifies the (...)
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  23. The Deliberation Model of Organismic Agency.Hugh Desmond - manuscript
    Organismic agency is often understood as the capacity to produce goal-directed behavior. This paper proposes a new way of modelling agency, namely as a naturalized deliberation. Deliberative action is not directed towards a particular goal, but involves a process of weighing multiple goals and a choice for a particular combination of these. The underlying causal model is symmetry breaking, where the organism breaks symmetries present in the selective environment. Deliberation is illustrated though the phenomena of mate choice and bacterial chemotaxis.
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  24. Symmetry breaking and the emergence of path-dependence.Hugh Desmond - 2017 - Synthese (10):4101-4131.
    Path-dependence offers a promising way of understanding the role historicity plays in explanation, namely, how the past states of a process can matter in the explanation of a given outcome. The two main existing accounts of path-dependence have sought to present it either in terms of dynamic landscapes or branching trees. However, the notions of landscape and tree both have serious limitations and have been criticized. The framework of causal networks is both more fundamental and more general that that of (...)
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  25. Future Human Success: Beyond Techno-Libertarianism.Hugh Desmond - 2023 - In Hugh Desmond & Grant Ramsey (eds.), Human Success: Evolutionary Origins and Ethical Implications. Oxford University Press.
    In one vision of human success, future human evolution lies in enhancing our bodies and especially our minds in order to achieve new levels of cooperation, morality, and well-being. In unadulterated form, this vision combines a pessimism in the human evolutionary heritage with an optimism in what technological enhancement can offer. This chapter points to a crucial blind spot: the role the social and cultural environment has played and continues to play in human evolution. In particular, the chapter emphasizes how (...)
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  26.  21
    Gatekeeping should be conserved in the open science era.Hugh Desmond - 2024 - Synthese 203 (5):1-26.
    The elimination of gatekeepers for scientific publication has been represented as a means to promote the core moral values of open science, including democratic decision-making and inclusiveness. I argue that this framing ignores the reality that gatekeeping is a way of structuring prestige hierarchies, and that without gatekeeping, some other structuring would be needed: the flattening of prestige hierarchies is not possible given scientists’ need to navigate information overload. I consider two potential restructurings of prestige hierarchies, one based on citation (...)
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  27. Engineering Trustworthiness in the Online Environment.Hugh Desmond - 2023 - In Mark Alfano & David Collins (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Trust. Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 215-237.
    Algorithm engineering is sometimes portrayed as a new 21st century return of manipulative social engineering. Yet algorithms are necessary tools for individuals to navigate online platforms. Algorithms are like a sensory apparatus through which we perceive online platforms: this is also why individuals can be subtly but pervasively manipulated by biased algorithms. How can we better understand the nature of algorithm engineering and its proper function? In this chapter I argue that algorithm engineering can be best conceptualized as a type (...)
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  28. The Manifold Challenges to Understanding Human Success.Hugh Desmond & Grant Ramsey - 2023 - In Hugh Desmond & Grant Ramsey (eds.), Human Success: Evolutionary Origins and Ethical Implications. Oxford University Press.
    Claims that our species is an “evolutionary success” typically do not feature prominently in academic articles. However, they do seem to be a recurring trope in science popularization. Why do we seem to be attracted to viewing human evolution through the lense of “success”? In this chapter we discuss how evolutionary success has both causal-descriptive and ethical-normative components, and how its ethical status is ambiguous, with possible hints of anthropocentrism. We also place the concept of “success” in a wider context (...)
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  29. Selection in a Complex World: Deriving Causality from Stable Equilibrium.Hugh Desmond - 2018 - Erkenntnis 83 (2):265-286.
    It is an ongoing controversy whether natural selection is a cause of population change, or a mere statistical description of how individual births and deaths accumulate. In this paper I restate the problem in terms of the reference class problem, and propose how the structure of stable equilibrium can provide a solution in continuity with biological practice. Insofar natural selection can be understood as a tendency towards equilibrium, key statisticalist criticisms are avoided. Further, in a modification of the Newtonian-force analogy, (...)
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  30. Clinical equipoise: Why still the gold standard for randomized clinical trials?Charlemagne Asonganyi Folefac & Hugh Desmond - 2024 - Clinical Ethics 19 (1):1-11.
    The principle of clinical equipoise has been variously characterized by ethicists and clinicians as fundamentally flawed, a myth, and even a moral balm. Yet, the principle continues to be treated as the de facto gold standard for conducting randomized control trials in an ethical manner. Why do we hold on to clinical equipoise, despite its shortcomings being widely known and well-advertised? This paper reviews the most important arguments criticizing clinical equipoise as well as what the most prominent proposed alternatives are. (...)
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  31. Personhood, Welfare, and Enhancement.Hugh Desmond - 2022 - American Journal of Bioethics 22 (9):37-39.
    The debate on enhancement ethics cannot escape some of the deeper questions troubling the concept of personhood. That is, in a sentence, my reading of Robert Sparrow’s target article (Sparrow 2022)...
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  32. De Mythe van het Tanende Vertrouwen.Hugh Desmond - 2022 - Streven 2022 (December):28-36.
    De indruk overheerst dat het vertrouwen in instellingen tanende is. Toch wordt deze indruk niet altijd ondersteund door bevragingen en statistieken. Als die indruk een mythe is, dan is de echte vraag: waarom worden we dan tot deze mythe aangetrokken? In dit essay wil ik ons verlangen naar vertrouwen plaatsen in een cultuur en in een denkkader waarin vrijheid en zelfbeschikking blijven primeren, en kijken naar hoe er vandaag theoretisch wordt nagedacht over vertrouwen en publiek beleid. Het valt te betwijfelen (...)
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  33. Weerbarstige Ervaringen bij Niet-Biologisch Ouderschap.Hugh Desmond - 2020 - Podium Voor Bioethiek 27 (2):15-17.
    Dankzij nieuwe reproductieve technologieën worden de keuzemogelijkheden van wensouders steeds vergroot. Echter, bij deze toegenomen maakbaarheid stuiten we ook op een onvermogen om onze ervaringen aan te passen aan het veranderende culturele en morele landschap, vooral met betrekking tot de waarde van de genetische connectie. In deze bijdrage wil ik stilstaan bij zulke ‘weerbarstige ervaringen’ en de implicaties ervan voor het beleid en de ethiek van ouderschap.
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  34. Purpose is Dead, Long Live Purpose! [REVIEW]Hugh Desmond - 2022 - Science & Education 31 (2):551-554.
    Thinking in terms of purposes is inevitable in daily life. We make to-do lists and we go to the store “in order to” stock up on necessities. We enroll in education and training courses, buy or rent property, and commit to a romantic partner. Our religions, albeit controversially, identify “ultimate purposes.” Purpose thinking seems deeply engrained in our cognition. Even so, purpose thinking has never sat easily with post-Cartesian modern science. When the world is modeled as a structure of efficient (...)
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  35. The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall. [REVIEW]Hugh Desmond - 2020 - Quarterly Review of Biology 95:341-341.
    The rise and fall of societies has traditionally been subject matter for history and sociology, but with The Human Swarm, the author establishes the human society as a legitimate object of study for evolutionary biologists. Societies are different from groups of cooperating individuals in that they have a social identity that sets the terms for group membership. In ant colonies, identity is manifested by a unique scent; in whale pods, by unique sounds; and in human groups, by a wide range (...)
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