Building Blogs of Science

The Hippocratic Oath and its younger relatives

Posted in Science, Science and Society by kubke on December 15, 2009

I came across this blog post by Alex Madrigal on Wired Science the other day: ‘Should earth scientists take a Hippocratic Oath’? In his post he argues that such an oath would

“[…] provide a set of agreed-upon ethical norms for geoscientists, at a time when they are increasingly being called upon to pass judgment on massive human alterations to the Earth’s carbon, nitrogen, and water systems.

Many of you may not know that the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina requires all graduates of all professions to take an Oath that is appropriate for their degree, without which a degree will not be conferred.

The Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences from which I graduated has currently 4 different formulae, which primarily differ on whether the oath is made in the name of god, the scriptures, the country, or your honour. The common text in all 4 formulae is

“[…] to put to the service of society and your equals the art and the science of your profession”

The new text for the oath in the science faculty

I entered the University when Argentina was still under dictatorship, and witnessed the discussion, soul searching and changes that accompanied the transition to democracy. In 1988 (the year I graduated) a new optional text (which is non-legally binding) was introduced to the graduating oath as the result of a symposium on “Scientists, Peace and Disarmament”.

I had the honour to be among the first graduates that had the option to make this oath. I opted in.

Loosely translated, this is the text:

Being conscious that science and its results can cause harm to society and to human beings when ethical controls are not in place,

Do you swear that the scientific research and technology that you will develop will be in the benefit of humanity and in favor of peace, that you are firmly committed in your scientific capacity to never serve aims that will harm human dignity, guided by your professional convictions and beliefs, seated in an authentic knowledge of the circumstances that surround you and of the possible consequences of the outcomes that can result from your work, and not to put remuneration or prestige first, nor subordinate yourself to the interests of your employers or political leadership?

If you weren’t to do so, let your conscience be your judge.

If you can read Spanish, the original texts can be found here.