Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Judging Scientific Research
Richard H. Bube 
Department of Materials Science and Engineering 
Stanford University Stanford, California 94305

From: JASA 29 (March 1977): 44.

Dr. Harris B. Rubin 's research into the effects of marijuana on male sexual response to pornographic movies has received considerable publicity in Science magazine. This letter of mine to the Editor of Science was not published.

I found most disconcerting the editorial remarks of the author of Briefing (Science 192, 1086 (1976)) concerning the research program of Dr. Harris B. Rubin. First the author describes the congressional debate as: "On the one side were arrayed the forces of rationality and progress. On the other were those who stood for morality and traditional values." Toward the end, he/she said, "The result is a defeat for science The implied dichotomy between rationality and morality is enough to concern the sensitive reader, but the final declaration suggests a reductionistic approach that sets a dangerous precedent.

Curiously missing from the debate over the Rubin research is any consideration of the human rights and dignity of those participating in the research program, or of the morality of subjecting human beings to immoral practices, harmful to them, for the sake of scientific understanding. Such an approach is based on the presupposition that exposure to sexual stimuli and experience outside the context of a love relationship is not harmful to those involved; I personally disagree completely with this presupposition and can find no scientific basis for it. By direct and indirect implication the approach reduces the potentially unique sexual expression of a love relationship between two whole persons to a simple matter of tumescence. Even more harmful is the practice of enacting sexual relationships between two "research subjects" for the progress of science, while totally disregarding the relationship between the sexual act and the human attributes of the whole person. Next on the agenda may well be research into how much pain a person can stand, justified, of course, on the grounds that this will aid in alleviating suffering!

As one whose professional life has been dedicated to the integrity of science, I would have not the slightest hesitation in voting against this kind of reductionistic disintegration of human personality.