Have evils been performed in the name of science?

May 28, 2011

The Facts

From the 18th century up to the late 20th century, doctors and scientists were repeatedly responsible for numerous inhumane acts carried out on both humans and animals in the name of science.[1] [2] [3]

This does not discredit science as a body of knowledge and method of investigation, but it is a reminder that the special privileges[4] and authority[5] [6] enjoyed by scientists are easily abused and require external restraint.[7] [8]

In the 19th and 20th centuries scientists were responsible for racist social and political policies.[9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] Nazi medical atrocities prompted formulation of the ‘Nuremberg Code’, intended to restrain scientists and doctors.[17]

However, atrocities in the name of science continued despite the Code, which was disregarded by many medical scientists, [18] [19] [20] and it became clear researchers could not be trusted to act humanely without coercion by the state.[21] The Code has had little impact in practice.[22] [23] [24]

The Authority of Science

A 1961 experiment proved the average person will obey an authority figure even to the extent of inflicting extreme physical pain and risk of death. The experiment also proved people are conditioned to obey scientists even if ordered to act inhumanely.[25] [26]

Some scientists have acknowledged the role of science in past atrocities.[27] Others have warned against characterizing scientific atrocities as mere ‘pseudo-science’ unconnected to genuine scientific research,[28] or as the acts of the mentally unstable.[29] [30] [31]

[1] ‘ln fact, history is littered with examples of human abuse in the name of ‘science’.’, Cardwell & Flanagan, ‘Psychology AS: The Complete Companion’, p. 189 (2005).

[2] ‘”In the name of science,” innumerable animals have been vivisected, decerebrated, and tortured in order to produce “objective” data.’, Stenbers, ‘The Invention of Modern Science’, p. 22.3 (2000).

[3] Shannon, ‘Bioethics’, (4th ed. 1993), Annas & Grodin, ‘he Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation’ (1995), Hornblum, ‘Acres of Skin: Human Experiments at Holmesburg Prison‘ (1999), Moreno, ‘Undue Risk: Secret State Experiments on Humans‘ (2000), Guerrini, ‘Experimenting With Humans and Animals: From Galen to animal rights’ (2003), Weyers, ‘The Abuse of Man: An illustrated history of dubious medical experimentation’ (2003), Goliszek, ‘In the Name of Science: A History of Secret Programs, Medical Research, and Human Experimentation’ (2003), Washington, ‘Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present ‘ (2008), Cina & Perper, ‘When Doctors Kill’ (2010), Chadwick, Have & Meslin, ‘The SAGE Handbook of Health Care Ethics’ (2011); many protests were also made by doctors and scientists against such atrocities.

[4] ‘But the privilege I would like to emphasize is that which is granted by the courts of law and which establishes the inviobility of the researcher’s right to withhold knowledge from public scrutiny.’, Huff, ‘The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West’, pp. 9-10 (2003).

[5] ‘The bland and righteous belief among American academics that any degree of invasion of privacy, any degree of public exposure of the human psyche, is justified so long as it is in the name of science rather than, say, the TV industry,’, Nisbet, ‘Project Camelot’ (1966), in Smith & Bender, ‘American Higher Education Transformed, 1940-2005: Documenting the National Discourse’, p. 408 (2008).

[6]Scientists make authoritative decisions in the name of others, such as on behalf of organizations or collective bodies, or in the name of science itself, and have such decisions made about them. Many of these are ‘gatekeeping’ decisions, and indeed the business of gatekeeping is perhaps the primary means of exercising authority in science.’, Turner, ‘Liberal Democracy 3.0: civil society in an age of experts’, p. 85 (2003).

[7] ‘industrialized science, tied as it is to the structure of the state, carries with it dangerous potential.’, Rosenberg & Marcus, ‘The Holocaust as a Test of Philosophy’, in Rosenberg & Myers (eds.), ‘Echoes from the Holocaust: Philosophical Reflections on a Dark Time’, p. 211 (1990).

[8] ‘The state and its various arms can kill, maim or exploit in the name of science.’, Nandy, ‘Science as a Reason of State’, in Abbas & Emi (eds.), ‘Internationalizing Cultural Studies: an anthology’, p. 27 (2005).

[9] ‘The change of perception was largely, if not soley, due to Darwin’s own work on evolution and published in The Origin of the Species (1859), and The Descent of Man (1871). A host of followers applied evolutionary theory to society and to the Aborigines, who were viewed as primitive, stone-age people who were earlier and less evolved than were Europeans.’, Reynolds, ‘An Indelible Stain?’, p. 146 (2001).

[10]The Australian colonists deeply influenced by Social Darwinism had come to accept that, as a consequence of settlement, the indigenous people were dying out and the process would probably continue until it was complete.’, ibid., p. 146.

[11]Scientific theories and arguments were used to support the inferiority of other races, thereby legitimising crimes committed throughout history and all over the world.’, Weigmann, ‘In the name of science’, EMBO reports (2.10. 871). 2001.

[12]Even under social democratic governments, atrocities took place. In Sweden, for example, 63 000 people—including most resident gypsies—were legally sterilised between 1934 and 1975, mainly because of ‘antisocial behaviour’.’, ibid., p. 872.

[13] ‘Along with the methods of mass killing, science also legitimized the ideological basis, or the motivating cause, for mass murder.’, Rosenberg & Marcus, ‘The Holocaust as a Test of Philosophy’, in Rosenberg & Myers (eds.), ‘Echoes from the Holocaust: Philosophical Reflections on a Dark Time’, p. 210 (1990).

[14] ‘The fact that these claims were advanced and even believed in the name of science, and were expounded by scientific authorities, lent a high degree of credence to popular prejudices and made the acceptance of the idea of mass extermination so much easier for a large number of people.’, ibid., p. 210.

[15] ‘Never did they fake an expert report to save someone’s life.’, Weigmann, ‘In the name of science’, EMBO reports (2.10. 872). 2001.

[16] ‘In the past it was scientists who interpreted racial differences as the justification to murder.’, ibid., p. 874.

[17] ‘The second half of the twentieth century saw a strong movement toward public regulation of experiments on human beings and animals. In the case of human experimentation, initial impetus came from the exposure of atrocities performed in the name of science on the inmates of Nazi concentration camps.’, Guerrini, ‘Experimenting With Humans and Animals: From Galen to animal rights’, p. 137 (2003).

[18] ‘In the 1960s, however, it came to public attention that medical researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom violated the rights of human subjects routinely and with impunity.’, ibid., p. 137.

[19] ‘The established ethical controls did not work, because doctors and researchers had so many personal incentives to pursue what they believed to be important scientific objectives. The classical ethical virtues of a good doctor, as well as the ethical rules of ancient and modern codes, were both simply ignored.’, Drane, ‘A Personal History of Bioethics in Latin America: The Current Challenge to the Medical Profession and the Influence of Pharmaceutical Companies’, in Pessini & de Paul de Barchifontaine (eds.), ‘Ibero-American Bioethics: History and Perspectives’, p. 32 (2009).

[20] ‘In 1965 Henry K. Beecher, the Dorr Professor of Anesthiology at Harvard University, alerted the national press to a number of unethical studies of which he was aware. He had earlier raised these concerns in a professional forum and now “went public” only because he was outraged by his colleagues’ indifference to the issue.’, Guerrini, ‘Experimenting With Humans and Animals: From Galen to animal rights’, p. 139 (2003).

[21] ‘By the 1970s Beecher’s and Pappworth’s expose’s, and the revelation of the Tuskegee study, had demonstrated that biomedical researchers could not be trusted to adhere to the principles of the Nuremberg Code without the coercive inducement of national regulation.’, ibid., p. 141.

[22] ‘Despite the development of both the Nuremberg Code, published in 1947, and the Declaration of Helsinki nearly 20 years later, research was still being done without regard to the health and well-being of its participants. The literature cites many examples (Krguman et al., 1978; Campbell et al., 1992; LoBiondo-Wood and Haber, 1994; Lock, 1995; Dowd and Wilson, 1995; Nicholson, 1997; Homan, 1998)’, Hart & Bond, ‘Using action research’, in Gomm & Davies, ‘Using Evidence in Health and Social Care’, p. 109 (2000).

[23]The question is raised why such a commendable code of ethics has had so little impact in two countries [German and the US] with long histories of unethical therapeutic and nontherapeutic experimentation, unethical eugenically oriented surgery, and medical abuse and exploitation involving Blacks and other disadvantaged groups.’ Byrd & Clayton (eds.), ‘An American Health Dilemma: Race, medicine, and health care in the’, p. 281 (2001).

[24] ‘As health lawyer and bioethicist George J. Annas noted in The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Even where the Nuremberg Code has been cited as authoritative, it has usually been in dissent, and no US court has ever awarded damages to an injured experimental subject, or punished an experimenter, on the basis of a violation of the Code.‘, ibid., p. 281.

[25]not a single volunteer research participant refused to administer severe shocks to counterfeit subjects, when instructed to do so by a scientist in a white coat.’, Scheper-Hughes & Bourgois, ‘Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology’, Blackwell Readers in Anthropology, p. 16 (2004).

[26] ‘It should not come as a surprise that Milgram’s experimenter wore a white lab coat, embodying the authority of the expert research scientist pursuing knowledge. Whether by presence or by uniform, the more salient the authority figure, the more likely people are to obey, as can be seen in Figure 10.6.’, Smith & Mackie (eds.), ‘Social Psychology’, p. 399 (2000).

[27] ‘It was scientific and medical methods, scientific and medical speech that were used in carrying out these crimes in the name of science. Clearly, the scientific value of an experiment is not tainted by the experiment being carried out on murder victims. ‘It would be wrong to condemn them as bad experiments, if they were carried out on mice‘, writes Benno Müller-Hill,’, Weigmann, ‘In the name of science’, EMBO reports (2.10. 874). 2001.

[28] ‘Even today, we prefer to perceive the Nazi era as a period of ‘pseudo-science’. But this is dangerous, as it would relieve scientists from any responsibility for the crimes committed. ‘Criminal acts of this kind are an inexcusable shame, not only for those who prepared them, but also for all those who tolerated them, in fact  for the life sciences themselves, in the name of which they were committed‘, Markl said in his speech.’, ibid., p. 874.

[29] ‘It would be easy to condemn these experiments – most of them conducted without anethesia and in horrific circumstances – as the work of madmen, but bioethicist Arthur Caplan warns that to do so would be to deny their character as a logical expression of the values of German medical science.’, Guerrini, ‘Experimenting With Humans and Animals: From Galen to animal rights’, p. 137 (2003).

[30]Certainly, none of the doctors tried at Nuremberg pleaded insanity; rather, they defended their actions as consistent with the values of science and their duties as scientists.’, ibid., p. 137.

[31] ‘they argued that they were following orders, and that their training as scientists gave them no grounding in ethics that might justify refusing those orders.’, ibid., p. 137.



  1. How do we define evil? How do we define science?

    For example if you or anyone you love is alive today because of surgery, you can thank evil. Our knowledge of surgery is directly from past wars and atrocities.

    It’s disingenuous to cite animal experiments in the name of science as evil while discounting the feed lots. The fact is that if you’ve ever eaten veal, then you too are guilty of this same ‘evil’.

    In that regard the Brahmans and Southern Hindu’s are far superior in their reverence to God. They don’t eat any meat because they respect life. Remember the video’s a couple of years ago of the feed lots pushing downed cows into the slaughter house with forklifts? How cruel was that? If you eat commercial beef then you are part of that!

    Ever eat foie-gras?

    Never the less we deny our complicity and point to others. We define science as what the Nazi’s did during a brief period 70 years ago.

    Yet who among you would take their 6 or 7 year old to the slaughter house and see the cows front legs buckle as the pneumatic gun blasts their temple? Who would let their children see the workers grab the handles and split the cows wide open? Who would let their children walk among the various bladders of blood and guts that line the floor of an active slaughter house?

    It’s hypocritical to condemn science for using animals while we kill and eat them daily. While God may be merciful, according to the criteria of this article the LORD is evil.

    Numbers 19
    1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
    2 This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:
    3 And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face:
    4 And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times:
    5 And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
    6 And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
    7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
    8 And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
    9 And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.

    This would confirm that the LORD was evil and Christ had to make some changes in Hebrews 9 below.

    Hebrews 9
    9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
    10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
    11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
    12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
    13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:

    That is until the ‘Prince’ returns, then the Sabbath and blood sacrifices are fully restored. That means (according to the definition of evil on this page) that the LORD and the Prince are evil. But Christ is not evil. That would also mean (according to Hebrews 9) that this ‘Prince’ in Ezekiel is not Christ and is not in our future, as Christ ended the sacrifice. Or Christ is temporary and the Prince will trump Christ.
    What your calling evil on this page was the everlasting covenant of the LORD in the Old Testament, and is apparently restored by the Prince.

    Ezekiel 46
    1 Thus saith the Lord GOD; The gate of the inner court that looketh toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the sabbath it shall be opened, and in the day of the new moon it shall be opened.
    2 And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of that gate without, and shall stand by the post of the gate, and the priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings, and he shall worship at the threshold of the gate: then he shall go forth; but the gate shall not be shut until the evening.
    3 Likewise the people of the land shall worship at the door of this gate before the LORD in the sabbaths and in the new moons.
    4 And the burnt offering that the prince shall offer unto the LORD in the sabbath day shall be six lambs without blemish, and a ram without blemish.
    5 And the meat offering shall be an ephah for a ram, and the meat offering for the lambs as he shall be able to give, and an hin of oil to an ephah.
    6 And in the day of the new moon it shall be a young bullock without blemish, and six lambs, and a ram: they shall be without blemish.
    7 And he shall prepare a meat offering, an ephah for a bullock, and an ephah for a ram, and for the lambs according as his hand shall attain unto, and an hin of oil to an ephah.

    Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses. Killing in the name of! ~Zack de la Rocha


  2. Your comments do not address the article’s content.

    * The feed lots were not discounted
    * It was not argued that it is wrong to use animals for science
    * It was not argued that it is wrong to eat animals
    * No defense was made of animal cruelty in any form, including industrial farming
    * Our knowledge of surgery has been added to using information from atrocities, but this is irrelevant to the article, which is arguing that atrocities have been committed in the name of science (and certainly information should be gathered in a manner which avoids atrocities)

    You may not know how to define evil, but that’s irrelevant. The atrocities committed in the name of science were judged by the standard to which scientists themselves acknowledged they should be held.

  3. I’m waiting for the day that all the evil acts of Mad Science will be vanquished so that Science will be as pure as it is supposed to be.

    One Day….

  4. Are Vaccines evil?

    As a grandparent I would never suggest not vaccinating my Grandchildren. However isn’t the human genome becoming dependent on Vaccines?

    What happens if the economy really tanks and the countries can’t manufacture vaccines? Probably whole family lines will die off as they were artificially sustained by vaccines. People that would have normally died and not reproduced are allowed to reproduce and live so long as the governments provide the juice they require.

    Once the governments can’t produce the vital juice many, many people will become sick and die in a single generation. That will put such a strain on the already weakened infrastructure that the world will sink into anarchy. The strongest physically and genetically will control the remaining populations.
    After some time civilization will emerge again, with a renewed and stronger human genome.

    Or not



    The question does state “ever”, yet you make it sound like it is happening on a daily basis. You may note that the closest bullet is from the Nazi era, and those scientists supporting the opinions that the Nazi’s handiwork was good are vastly outnumbered by those that go against.

    As for the study of “Long white coats”, they were meant to symbolize an AUTHORITY FIGURE, and by narrowing that down to only scientists you are misusing the quotes. They were originally in use to symbolize intelligence in general, including doctors.

    • 1. I do not make it sound like it is happening on a daily basis.
      2. The most recent evidence cited is not from the Nazi era. The first sentence in the article describes the era in question as ‘From the 18th century up to the late 20th century’, and contains examples specific examples from the 1960s and 1970s. Additional examples could be provided from the 1980s up to the 21st century.
      3. The white coated individuals in Milgram’s experiment were not intended to simply represent a general authority figure. Please read footnotes 25 and 26. Only doctors and scientists are identified with white lab coats in any case (no one associates this coat with lawyers, politicians, or generals), so your claim of artificial narrowing is inaccurate.

  6. The article contains two lessons that are eternally taught and eternally ignored;
    1. ALL power corrupts; spiritual, physical, social, intellectual, scientific, military, artistic; it does not matter the source of the power; it has the ability to corrupt because;
    2. All human beings are subject to the same failings.

    Abuse of power is a function of the character of the person, not the intellect.
    Great knowledge does not automatically produce great wisdom.
    We firmly believe that it does.
    We are wrong.

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