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Theo Smit
04-21-1993, 07:49 PM
Thank you very much for asking such an important set of questions to "our commu
nity".
I suppose, you mean our community of biomechanicians, but, to answer your secon
d question first,
I think the question "what is good science" concerns any scientist, and at leas
t also those
who have anything to do with science.

I think, a lot of problems rise because of an unclear definition of the word go
od. Obviously,
what is good for one person, is not by definition good for another one. John Ma
rtinson correctly
writes that science is a part of the whole world community, and is embedded in
political,
economical and social structures. It is therefore hard to give a general answer
to the question
if the word "good" is not specified any further.

Personally, I interpret the word "good" as "good for science itself". This is a
much more
defined question, which can be answered even objectively. Science is a search f
or knowledge
and understanding of the world around us, and any science that helps us to unde
rstand the
"world" better, is good science. This depends on the quality of the question to
be researched
as well as the effectiveness of the used methods. It is important to note, that
a negative
answer to a question (the hypothesis is not true) also is a positive result for
science. I
think, this approach may lead to the solution of a part of your question.

If you also imply social, economical or political aspects in your question, I'm
afraid you
will hardly be able to find an answer in many years. Clearly, the president of
a large
concern that produces implants, is interested in research that increases the pr
ofits
of his firm; an arthrosis patient will be interested in arthrosis research and
the
president of a country in war will be interested in the development of weapons.
Even in
medical science, the results are not by definition good, also if the intention
of the
scientists was morally "good" (to which criteria?); the intensive care units wi
th
ultramodern equipment certainly helped many people to recover from situations t
hat
used to be fatal in earlier years. Yet there are more and more cases in which w
e desparately
ask: Why are we doing this? Is the science that made these technics possible go
od or bad? The
answer must be: it depends...

I hope these thoughts can help you to answer youir students.
With best regards,

Theo Smit
Smit@tu-harburg.dbp.de