One should not, as a rule, publish thoughts that aren't carefully considered...but perhaps that's just my perfectionist side speaking and I should loosen up and engage in discussion. To overcome my perfectionism, here are some thoughts that I should have developed better, and I'm sure Philosopher Jon and Philosopher Mike will illuminate for me.
Scientists have beliefs. A particular pet peeve of mine is the frequent claim that scientists and science are somehow sterile and separate from the land of beliefs. This is absurd.
Current topic: Stem cell research. I don't mean to discuss whether or not you agree with stem-cell research, but rather the reasoning behind allowing it. Proponents for scientific research (such as stem-cell) say that scientists need to be free from the fetters of religious beliefs. This is what they call Scientific Integrity, and therefore stem cell research should be allowed. But there is no one person on this entire planet who is free from religious beliefs...or rather metaphysical beliefs. (People will claim not to have "religious" beliefs because that's uncool. But everyone has metaphysical beliefs.)
Whether a given scientist believes that there is no god, one God, four gods, a purple cow in the sky, or a Force that benevolently guides, scientists have metaphysical beliefs. The practice of science cannot exist outside of beliefs, because it is without exception belief-holding humans practicing it. (OK, you could argue that scientists are agnostics, but scientists are demonstrably not all agnostic.)
The difference is that some people have beliefs that allow them to do certain things in the name of science, and other people have different beliefs that restrict them from doing certain things. It's simply not that one person has allowed their beliefs to obstruct Scientific Integrity. It is that one person's beliefs allow practices that another belief doesn't. Different beliefs, not the absence of beliefs.
Beyond this, the reasoning that metaphysical beliefs should not guide our scientific practices is dangerous. It may seem inoccuous when dealing with a cell. Stem cell research is cool, because Superman was into it. What's less cool is experimenting on a Jew because he's a lesser human lifeform. That was acceptable in some places not long ago. Or sterilizing a mentally challenged person because she is unfit to propogate. That was actually quite a hip "scientific" idea less than one hundred years ago. Those were clearly scientific decisions made by claiming to throw off religious beliefs (Victorian close-mindedness, as they might have put it), while clearly been driven and motivated by beliefs (that Jews and the mentally challenged have less intrinsic value than other humans).
Where do we go from here if "beliefs" are not allowed to influence science? How about experimenting on 3-year-old girls in order to further scientific knowledge? There can be no grounds for dissent because your ideas about the value and "rights" of a girl are metaphysical, not scientific beliefs.
OK. That's all I have. Here's a topic: Scientific Integrity is neither scientific, nor integral. Discuss.