28 May 2005 | Draft
Honour-related Challenges of the Disciplines
an unexplored aspect of methodology and integrity
- / -
Annex 2 of : Honour
Essential to Psycho-social Integrity: challenge to the nameless of dishonourable
Essential nature of honour
Varieties of Honour
and Dishonour: distinguishing intrinsic honour from honourable externalities
Two forms of "honour": Beyond honouring power and tolerating
Honour-related challenges of the disciplines
Honour: "Finite games" vs "Infinite games"
Honourable "Nomenklatura" vs Unhonoured "Nameless"
Integrative function of honour in interdisciplinarity and interfaith
The question raised by the above review is whether a value as fundamental and
intangible as honour has any role to play in disciplinary practice. In particular,
how might honour be fundamental to significant, effective interdisciplinarity?
Typically of course disciplines offer no cognitive space for values -- other
than those relating to truth and falsehood. Even ethical questions of social
responsibility are considered incidental, if not irrelevant, to the practice
of most disciplines. The issue is whether honour underlies the capacity of a
discipline to deploy its methods -- whether a discipline can operate in the
absence of assumptions relating to honourability. The interdisciplinary implications
are discussed in the main paper at Integrative
function of honour in interdisciplinarity and interfaith understanding.
Whilst the replicability of experiments is the essential determinant of the
advance of knowledge, honour clearly comes into play in the assessment of the
report of any experiment. It does so through the significance of "reputable"
and of "academic integrity". If work is reported from a reputable
source its results are taken on faith as being true. The work does not need
to be repeated, especially if confirmed by other reputable sources. If reputable
sources were not assumed to be honourable in their reporting, then every reported
result would have to be repeated making the use of referenced works virtually
This suggests that honour in some way underlies the operation of any discipline
in practice. This is not widely recognized and does not feature in descriptions
of the methodology of a discipline. It does of course figure very obviously
in the assessment of the probable quality of research. Those of repute, being
more honourable, are readily recognized as being more likely to produce quality
results. Others are readily assumed to have been likely to have undertaken "shoddy"
work, possibly disguised by disreputable "fudging" of results. Any
such behaviour, within any research context, would be deemed to have brought
dishonour upon the institution and the discipline. Those responsible might be
disciplined but in all probability would be permanently dishonoured.
Such concerns are most explictly recognized with respect to "academic
integrity", without which loss of reputation is highly probable. According
to the Center for Academic Integrity (Fundamental
Principles of Academic Integrity):
We define academic integrity in terms of a commitment to five fundamental
values and to the principles that flow from those values. Just as personal
integrity involves standing up for one’s fundamental commitments, even
in difficult circumstances, so too academic integrity involves standing up
for what is fundamental as well. In the case of academic integrity, it is
standing up for the values that are fundamental to the academic process, even
when it is difficult to do so. In the Committee’s discussions with faculty,
students, and administrators, five values emerged as fundamental to the academic
process: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility. Academic integrity,
in our view, is the commitment to stand up for these five values, even in
the face of adversity. An academic community cannot flourish without these
values.... Uniformly, campus honor codes and/or standards of conduct deplore
cheating, lying, misrepresentation, deception, fraud, forgery, theft, and
dishonesty in all its forms, whether in class, in the laboratory, in writing
and research, or in our dealings with one another as students, teachers, colleagues.
The role of honour in disciplinary practice can be illustrated by the examples
of the following disciplines and their associated professions. It is clear that
practitioners are vulnerable to a variety of pressures to engage in dishonourable
practices, or practices that others deem to be dishonourable -- whether or not
the practitioner deems it to be so. In the practice of their discipline, practitioners
may also engage in inherently dishonourable practices of "backstabbing",
possibly to ensure personal advancement and preferential honour for themselves,
or to prevent honour being accorded to others.
In relation to wider society, efforts may be made to formulate "codes
of ethics", possibly reflecting a sense of "social responsibility"
that may well however be considered beyond the practice of the discipline itself.
The purpose in what follows is to demonstrate the extent to which honour is
even more intimately bound up with the actual practice of a discipline.
Fundamental research disciplines
With respect to honourable patronage, the case of mathematician G.H. Hardy
in relation to Sreenivas
Aiyengar Ramanujan can be contrasted with the case of astrophysicist Sir
Arthur Eddington in relation to Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (Arthur I Miller.
of the Stars: Friendship, Obsession and Betrayal in the Quest for Black Holes,
2005). The honourable response to an unknown and uneducated Ramanujan is in
striking contrast to the dishonourable response to the insights of Chandrasekhar.
The first was central to rapid advances in number theory, whereas the second
significantly retarded recognition of work on black holes.
The dishonourable treatment of researchers initially reporting on the possibility
of cold fusion, whereby they were effectively hounded out of the profession,
is unfortunately characteristic of how innovative thinking tends to be handled,
whether or not it proves correct. Curiously in this case, subsequent to this
treatment -- for which no honourable apologies are deemed due -- continuing
heavy investment in the possibility is made by reputable Asian laboratories
and a major Western government energy agency has recognized its possibilities.
Other dramatic cases in which researchers were dishonoured by their profession
include that of homeopathy, properties of water. It might be argued that the
attitude that resulted in the original condemnation of Galileo by a religious
hierarchy has effectively been integrated into the scientific method.
Such cases should of course be contrasted with those where there is deliberate
fraud practiced systematically in reputable laboratories. Here what is interesting
is that the honourability of the laboratory is effectively used by the scientific
fraudster to perpetrate the fraud but that honourability is also used to retard
attention to the matter, and possibly to cover-up the incident in order to best
protect the honour of the institution. The case is even more dramatic where
the fraud is perpetrated over an extended period of time, during which the fraudster
accumulates honours and controls the research funds and priorities of others
as in the case of Cyril Burt's work on twins (In D. J. Miller and M. Hersen (Eds.),
Research fraud in the behavioral and biomedical sciences, 1992; Mackintosh
N. J. (Ed.) ( 1995). Cyril Burt: Fraud or framed? 1995)
Medical research of course bears many similarities to research in general.
Particular cases illustrative of questionable honourability are those involving
experiments with human subjects. Well documented examples include those relating
to use of radioactivity and biochemical agents on unsuspecting subjects who
it has subsequently been recognized were dishonourably treated. The case of
Nazi medical research in concentration camps is also well documented, as with
the subsequent use of that research by medical researchers. The extraordinary
case of the complicity of the UK medical profession in the 150-250 murders by
Harold Shipman, a medical doctor, has been marked by a concern to avoid any
"witch-hunt" investigation in order to protect the honour of the profession
and the confidence of the population in it. Concerns have also been raised about
the nature of the case made for "cancer research", where the apparent
honourability of the claims may have been used to disguise the real need and
the actual use of the funds. A clerar case is offered by the century of delays
within the profession impeding recognition of helicobacter (Barry Marshall (Ed).
Helicobacter Pioneers: Firsthand
accounts from the scientists who discovered helicobacters, 1892-1982)
It is worth inquiring how honourable is the approach of the medical profession
to alternative and complementary medicine, especially given the complicity of
allopathic medicine with the pharmaceutical industry. It is well-recognized
that eminent members of the medical profession use their honourability to endorse
-- without question and for a fee -- research results obtained by the pharmaceutical
A high proportion of research funds is allocated through military budgets,
notably to researchers in disciplines deemed most honourable in the "pecking
order" of sciences -- mathematics being at the peak. Such disciplines are
naturally complicit in the design of weaponry, and notably weapons of indiscriminate
mass destruction (such as thermobaric devices) -- which many would deem to be
inherently dishonourable. Members of such disciplines are complicit in the deception
of framing their activities as honourably focused on "defence" when
the track record is of their extensive and unprovoked use against innocents
-- deceptively reframed as "collateral damage". It might be simply
asked how much threat, or what level of attack, justifies use of such weaponry
in disproportionate (overwhelming) response -- and how researchers frame their
contribution to such slaughter to be honourable.
A significant proportion of social science research funds is allocated under
"defence" and "national security" budgets. This research
has notably been used to seek ways to destabilize regimes -- whether democratically
elected or not -- without use of military force. The most obvious examples are
those of Latin America and especially Chile (cf Project
Camelot). It was such destabilization that subsequently resulted in many
thousands of "disappearances", associated with systematic torture.
What is interesting is that the social scientists involved were able to to frame
their involvement as an honourable contribution to the defence of their country
-- and were appropriately rewarded for it.
It is extraordinary that whilst funds are available for research on such destabilization,
and the monitoring and assessment of intelligence that may precede intervention
in the interests of national security, little priority is given to research
on viable alternatives to existing modes of social organization. The possibility
that alternatives emerging in other countries may have some value for those
countries, and be deemed honourable experiments, is reframed as a potential
threat to a "way of life" that might come to be seen as less attractive
by comparison [more].
The extensive work on economic and social development could be seen as an effort
to engender copycat models of a particular Western way of life, deliberately
avoiding re4search into other possibilities.
The social science professions can usefully be challenged as to whether their
efforts have been primarily focused on shoring up existing social systems, through
which they can be honoured and rewarded, rather than researching alternatives
and those prepared to experiment with them -- with or without the insights of
social science disciplines. As such they are surely to be judged as, in some
measure, aggravating the current social chaos rather than contributing to its
alleviation. It is curious, for example, that whilst medical research in concentration
camps is incorporated into the corpus of research literature, that on communes
in discredited communist regimes is not considered in any sense relevant to
exploration of possible social alternatives.
The "psychological operations" of the military, including the acquisition
of intelligence (possibly through dubious methods of interrogation), and the
range of techniques of propaganda in support of government initiatives, are
all dependent on various branches of the social sciences -- presumably understood
to be acting honourably in patriotic support of their country.
It should not be forgotten that initial research in the social sciences was
primarily supported because of its potential role in influencing behaviour --
notably with respect to marketing and advertising, whether of products, services
A key conclusion of the investigation into the intelligence disaster in relation
to intervention in Iraq -- in which so many lives were lost -- was the extent
of groupthink amongst social scientists in the various think tanks contributing
to the government position. It is worth considering the underlying role played
by honour in relation to this groupthink process. Clearly patriotism influenced
the honourable framing of the issue and inhibited dissent ("you are either
with us or against us"). Many of the involved think tanks were highly reputable
-- with honoured social scientists -- whose honour could not be impugned. Challenges
from the less reputable would only bring their honour into greater disrepute.
The military has traditionally attached the highest value to honour and is
the most explicit in that regard. At the lowest level there is concern that
any action should bring dishonour on the individual military unit, on those
of which it is directly or indirectly a part in the military hierarchy, and
on the military as a whole. The military might be said to exist to defend the
honour of the country that it serves. Much is made is made of honouring the
national flag (or "showing the colours") in ceremonies and parades
by the military as symbolizing that attitude. Flag burning may be cri,inalized.
The military in all countries is much challenged in its training facilities
by the dishonourable way it which soldiers are treated through bullying and
hazing -- to the point of provoking suicides. Despite an "honour code",
military academies are acknowledged to face a significant problem of cheating.
The products of the most reputable academies have been officially involved in
... [cf Oliver North, Westpoint, General Dwyer, My Lai, etc] Comparisons between
My Lai and Abu Ghraib have been made to demonstrate an unchanging mindset [more].
The military hierarchy of those countries most closely associated in their own
view with the defence of civilization now justify the practice of any form of
torture and humiliation (as anticipated in the movie starring Bruce Willis,
Siege, 1998). Assassination is now freely advocated and used.
Curiously all notion of honour in relation to a "fair fight" has now
been lost. Whilst criticizing opponents for subterfuge and stealth, "stealth
weaponry" is now explicitly developed. Whilst recognizing the challenge
of asymmetric warfare, the strategic response is deliberately conceived in terms
of use of overwhelming force. Whilst deploring the cowardice of terrorists,
indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction (thermobaric and air fuel devices)
are dropped on urban areas from an invulnerable height -- after forcing the
enemy to disarm. Can dropping an indiscriminate bomb ever be more honourable
than blowing oneself up with the bomb? Typically however, in asymmetric warfare,
it is the weaker that emerges as the most honourable, whereas the disproportionately
brutal response of the stronger erodes any honour with which they might previously
have been associated.
Regrettably military honour has been further undermined through the involvement
in UN Peacekeeping Operations. The military has stood by whilst massacres were
perpetrated (Rwanda, Srebrenica). Soldiers freely made use of the population
they were there to protect for sexual services (A
comprehensive strategy to eliminate future sexual exploitation and abuse in
UN peacekeeping operations, 2005) [more].
Rather than "peace-keeping", such conduct justifies the term "piece-getting"
Challenges to understandings of honour have become evident in recognition of
the level of sexual and racial discrimination in the military [more].
The nature of honour in a military context has been further reframed by exposure
in 2005 of the level of religious discrimination and harassment amongst officer
cadets in military academies. In the case of the U.S. Air Force Academy, complaints
included allegations that Jewish students were harassed or insulted, that those
of other faiths were not given the same latitude in exercising their religion
and that some chaplains urged cadets to tell those not "born again" that they
faced "the fires of hell." [more]
Academy teachers also were said to have promoted their faith in class [more].
One issue is whether religious proselytizing on a campus funded by the US government
is a violation of the separation of church and state. [more]
The more critical question that has been raised is that if a sizeable proportion
of those acquring a milmitary discipline are prepared to treat their own female
colleagues brutally, and treat any cadet who is not an evangelical Christian
with derision, and this sort of behaviour receives tacit approval of their commanders,
what are their attitudes likely to be toward the populations -- men, women and
children -- of countries like Iraq, targeted for US military assault? Even more
crucially, is the Chrsitian faith being used -- possibly condoned by military
chaplains -- to legitimize abuses, including humiliation and torture, by the
military against those which oppose the USA? Given the command structure, can
the USA now prove otherwise with any credibility?
Politics and diplomacy
In principle political parties lay explicit claim to serve the best interests
of a country and are most attentive to the honour to be accorded to elected
representatives in doing so. Curiously, however, whilst opponents may be referred
to by honorifics ("the honourable member", "my honourable colleague"),
much effort is made to dishonour them, whether in parliamentary debate or by
other means. This notably extends to "negative campaigning". Extreme
examples include politically-motivated charges, whether fabricated or not, as
in the case of Anwar Ibrahim (former Prime Minister of Malaysia).
The circumstances surrounding the decision to intervene in Iraq provide a range
of examples of highly dishonourable manipulation of information, and the dissemination
of misleading information, by politicians and diplomats or with their complicity.
Most striking have been the cases of George Bush and Tony Blair, both honourably
"sworn to uphold". Perhaps the most dramatic was the presentation
to the United Nations Security Council on 5 February 2003 by Colin Powell, deemed
a highly honourable person by many [more].
It was his honourability that was effectively used as guarantee of the authenticity
of the evidence he presented, which others were unable to verify.
Following the invasion of Iraq, the complicity of politicians in the allocation
of contracts for reconstruction raises fundamental issues regarding the honourability
of processes supposedly designed to install an honourable democracy in the country.
The complicity of various parties associated with the United Nations in the
oil-for-food scandal also raises issues of the honourability of those involved
in what was conceived as an honourable effort to respond to conditions of food
shortage in Iraq.
- renege on commitments, tsunami
- honouring commitments
Economics, finance and accounting
The generation and control of money is a discipline fundamental to the operation
and survival of individuals, groups and nations. The key to its success lies
in the collective confidence in the capacity of a central agency to back any
monetary token and to honour any promise made in relation to it.
Having dropped the gold standard, the capacity to honour commitments associated
with monetary tokens has become less straightforward. The situation is rendered
more complex because of the tendency of countries to print more monetary tokens,
or to borrow monies, without necessarily being in a position to honour the associated
The challenge for statisticians has long been made through the phrase: "There
are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics" [more].
Statisicians are highly vulnerable to pressures from those that employ them
(or bribe them), whether businesses or politicians, to selectively massage figures
in order to make whatever case is presented. The challenge is most evident in
the fraud scandal associated with the European Commission's Eurostat agency
in 2003 [more].
The legal system, and specifically the courts, provide a rare and striking
instance of the manner in which the intangible notion of honour is given formal
recognition. Not only is there the courtesy of rising in honour of the judge,
as representative of the system of law, but there is the specific process of
oath taking by any witness taking the stand. Oath taking is a commitment on
one's honour to tell the truth and only the truth.
The honourability of the legal system has been exemplified by the processes
of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in dealing with the
aftermath of the apartheid regime.
Dishonourability is most evident in the legal system where the judge, the jurors
or the witnesses have been subject to intimidation or otherwise bought off.
It is also evident in instances of tampering with evidence -- possibly to frame
innocent individuals -- by the police, who are otherwise expected to act honourably
and impartially. Those with power or resources may also act dishonourably --
possibly "above the law" -- to use the legal system to harass any
that oppose them.
Many religions have specific spiritual disciplines associated with them whose
practice is designed to ensure an appropriate, if not a progressively closer,
relation to divinity. Those who practice such disciplines may themselves be
honoured for doing so. However, those who are considered to practice them most
successfully, may be honoured for their holiness and for any capacity to communicate
and transmit the relation to divinity. Priests in particular may be understood
to fulfil this mediating capacity with divinity for the followers of a religion
-- and may be honoured above others in their community for doing so, and for
the holiness that they in some measure represent.
Abuses by priesthoods, dishonouring the beliefs they claim to represent, have
over the centuries resulted in schisms within religions and the formation of
new religions deemed to reflect spiritual insights more truly and more honourably.
Recent scandals of sexual abuse by priests, or in religious institutions, have
notably brought great dishonour to the Catholic Church.
All the sporting disciplines place much emphasis on the honour that is brought
to the individual, whether as winner or participant, to their team and to their
country. That honour is, for example, celebrated in flag raising ceremonies
at the Olympic Games -- as well as in any presentation of medals.
The honourability of sport as a whole has been severely undermined by reports
of the corrupt practices associated with determining the location of the Olympic
Games as the highest celebration of honour in sport. Other forms of corrupt
practice undermining the honour associated with sports have been widely documented.
They include: "fixing" fights and races, "nobbling" horses,
and use of performance enhancing drugs. The real extent of such practices is
In the "mythology" of sport, much is made of the honourable response
to an opponent, whether stronger or weaker, whether "honourable" or
"dishonourable". This is particularly the case in the Eastern martial
arts (aikido, judo, etc). (Aspects of this are reflected in the "mythology"
of "westerns". It is unfortunate that there is little trace of this
in modern military practice.)
- Coliseum gladiators (Roman Empire)
- citation games