So What is Integrity Anyway?
Dr. Don Johnson, an AITSE Consortium member who holds a PhD in chemistry and another in computer and information sciences, sent AITSE a copy of his book, Probability’s Nature and Nature’s Probability Lite (this is the easy version of the book). Because the website advertising this book is all about integrity in science, we were intrigued. Then, today we received an email from another chemistry professor asking for our definition of “intellectual honesty”. Looks like a topic that requires exploration.
So what is integrity anyway? On page 84 of his book, Dr. Johnson points out that the root of integrity is “integer,” which to a mathematician is an unfractionated whole. Various internet sources give phrases and words such as sound, unbiased, consistent, or adhering to ethical and moral principles. Wikipedia points out that, in popular culture, “in an absolute context, the word “integrity” conveys no meaning between people with differing definitions of absolute morality.”
But, of course, science and technology do strive to find absolute truths. If we mix all the colors of light, we get white light; if we mix all the colors of pigment, we get brown pigment. The question is, do scientists and engineers strive to find the truth? After all, when one’s actions, results, or conclusions have uncomfortable implications, it is not always easy to maintain scientific integrity. AITSE believes that science should be based on evaluation of evidence, not mere consensus, political, financial, or even religious (theistic or atheistic) considerations. But, this sounds a lot easier than it is in practice.