When you want to run an experiment, you not only have to get funding from a granting agency or foundation, you also need to satisfy Animal Care or Human Ethics regulations. The requirement for each depends on what kind of research you’re doing.
If you want to figure out the distribution patterns of gophers, you’ll need to make sure Animal Care is in order; do you need to take biological samples? Will any pain be inflicted? How will you avoid affecting their behaviour?
If you want to talk to rape survivors about some aspect of their experience, it’s Human Ethics you will need to satisfy; how will you store the data? How will you protect privacy? Even your questionnaire will need to pass scrutiny to make sure it’s not judgemental or leading.
We all accept it’s part of the process, and it’s important to ensure scientists can’t live up to the Mad Scientist persona of the ’50s and 60’s. Examples of science gone wrong; Mengele’s sadistic Nazi medical experiments, Harlow’s monkey experiments, and the Russian zombie dogs. Here’s a more comprehensive list of some psychology experiments that would never pass Animal Care of Human Ethics requirements now. It’s very clear that they serve a very important purpose.
I’d just like to say that I am not fighting some internal conflict that’s keeping me from turning into a mad scientist. I’m not a boiling cauldron of crazy looking for ways around a system that’s stifling my sadistic creativity.
I made an observation today that I’m pretty sure I can test without filling in any applications for Animal Care, Human Ethics, or grant proposals. My hypothesis is this:
The amount of kitchy decorations on a car is directly proportional to the shittiness of the car.
I mean, you’re just not going to see a Lexus driving around with a cat tail sticking out of it’s gas tank.
So far, my data collection supports this hypothesis. I haven’t done any analysis on this yet, to see if it’s statistically signifiant, but the pattern is clear. So what’s the mechanism behind this behaviour? I think it’s just like the bower bird.
If you can afford the shiny new Lexus, then that’s what you buy. You’re sure you’ve got a flashy car and it’s going to get the girls. But if you’re stuck in a 1981 Honda Civic, you’re going to pretty up that beater in an attempt to get the attention of the ladies. Just like that bower bird.
For the sake of being completely honest, you should know that I fell for my very own bower bird. The guy that got my attention was driving around in a 1998 Jeep TJ with a rusty hood. He chose to decorate his non-Lexus with the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a Darwin Fish.
It was a way to ensure that he would attract a girl with the right attributes. Like a 2001 Toyota Prius with this in the back window.