In Wired Magazine (via Rationally Speaking):
When scientists violate moral taboos, we expect horrific consequences. It’s a trope in our storytelling that goes back at least to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: However well-intentioned our fictional scientists may be, their disregard for ethical boundaries will produce not a peer-reviewed paper in Science but rather a new race of subhuman killers, a sucking wormhole in space-time, or a profusion of malevolent goo.
In the real world, though, matters aren’t so simple. Most scientists will assure you that ethical rules never hinder good research—that there’s always a virtuous path to testing any important hypothesis. But ask them in private, perhaps after a drink or three, and they’ll confess that the dark side does have its appeal. Bend the rules and some of our deepest scientific conundrums could be elucidated or even resolved: nature versus nurture, the causes of mental illness, even the mystery of how humans evolved from monkeys. These discoveries are just sitting out there, waiting for us to find them, if only we were willing to lose our souls.
What follows are seven creepy experiments—thought experiments, really—that show how contemporary science might advance if it were to toss away the moral compass that guides it. Don’t try these at home—or anywhere, for that matter. But also don’t pretend you wouldn’t like to learn the secrets that these experiments would reveal.