Seminars and Panels

Ethical Paradoxes of Control: Science, Engineering, and the Expansion of Moral Responsibility.

Dr. Rachelle Hollander

Mar 3, 2014
11:00 A.M. - 12:30 P.M.
232 Philip G. Hoffman Hall

People value increased control. Science and engineering do increase control and their marketing emphasizes that potential. Historically, support for science and engineering rests on the view that they will improve human well being and enabling control is part of that. Unfortunately or fortunately, increased control brings with it both untoward effects (which can be interpreted as diminished control), and human demands for higher levels of both control and moral responsibility. This cycle may be vicious or virtuous - sometimes both. An example of a virtuous cycle is the increasing demands for humanitarian assistance - control over the technologies that can move goods such as food and water make this assistance possible. An example of a vicious cycle is the diminishing societal control over drone and biosynthetic technologies that are part and parcel of what can be called scientific and technological advances. The fundamental ethical paradox being referred to here is created by the disparity between a natural (hoped for) assumption that science and engineering control would diminish the need for moral responsibility, and the actual result, which is always to augment that need.

About Dr. Rachelle Hollander

Rachelle Hollander directs the Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES) at the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which manages the NAE Online Ethics Center (, a widely used resource for engineering and research ethics education. She is currently principal investigator on several National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded projects and subcontracts. For many years Dr. Hollander directed science and engineering ethics activities at NSF where she was instrumental in the development of the fields of research ethics and professional responsibility, engineering ethics, and ethics and risk management. She has written articles on applied ethics in numerous fields, and on science policy and citizen participation. Dr. Hollander is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and a member of the Governing Board of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE). In 2006, Dr. Hollander received the Olmsted Award “for innovative contributions to the liberal arts within engineering education” from the American Society of Engineering Education’s Liberal Education Division. She received her doctorate in philosophy in 1979 from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Selective Comments

"Very interesting seminar providing ethical solutions in parallel with those which define the problems and challenges."

"Really enjoyed the explanation upon the involvement of the state in spurring advancements."