There is bad science and then there is bad science, that is to say there is science which does not meet with the standards of care and objectivity through lack of skill, and competence and then there is science which is rotten to the core, because either it’s practice, or it’s ends are unethical.

Which of the two is most predominant I could not say, it would require me to make up a best guess statistic, which might be bad in both senses.   However whilst the former is unethical if there is no intent to take on board the critics and corners continue to be cut, I do not regard it in anything like the same light as science which is downright unethical by any measure.

There are many ways in which scientific research can be unethical.

There are the cheats, such as Hwang Woo-suk and Cyril Burt who have fabricated data, because their career came before objectivity. 

There are those whose ideology comes first, who have pursued almost any end to prove what are generally discredited ideas. In that category I would include Arthur Jensen, an even more sadly James Watson has found his reputation diminished by coming within that category.

There are those whose experimentation has added to the sum of human knowledge but who arrived at that goal in a way which was harmful to  their subjects. I would cite Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo in this category, much though I respect their achievements and their personal integrity it cannot be denied that their classic experiments were not traumatic to some of the participants.

Then there are the ends of science, which can be unethical.  One might say in winning a war, anything is ethical, if one were to argue that since soldiers volunteer to risk  their lives on the front fighting an enemy, then is it really that different to risk their lives in an experiment into the effects of nuclear radiation, or mustard gas?

Only if you are on the side of the victors who write the history it seems. There is so much murky history there.  As  Oliver Cromwell is reputed to have said, “Every army who has ever fought has believed that God is on their side, I warrant God must wonder who is on his?”

Perhaps I can be accused of giving the most extreme examples to establish a point, but I do so to set out the general principles, before zooming in to autism research (my specialty) itself.

Ethical procedures are certainly a lot tighter than they used to be. So tight that some now claim that they are hampering the progress of empirical science, but I really wonder.

Having gone through an ethics procedure myself, I do not agree that the committee were focusing on the most important aspects as I see them as a sometime subject of research myself. Indeed even in the ethical procedure itself I have seen assumptions being made about the autistic population that diminishes our integrity.