Originally posted October 29, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
Ethics is more than a survey of opinions
First, as the study’s authors allude to in their Nature paper and elsewhere, public attitudes don’t dictate what’s ethical or not. People believe all kinds of crazy things—such as that slavery should be permitted—but that doesn’t mean those ethical beliefs are true or have any weight. So, capturing responses of more people doesn’t necessarily help figure out what’s ethical or not. Sometimes, more is just more, not better or even helpful.
This is the difference between descriptive ethics and normative ethics. The former is more like sociology that simply seeks to describe what people believe, while the latter is more like philosophy that seeks reasons for why a belief may be justified (or not) and how things ought to be.
Dr. Edmond Awad, lead author of the Nature paper, cautioned, “What we are trying to show here is descriptive ethics: peoples’ preferences in ethical decisions. But when it comes to normative ethics, which is how things should be done, that should be left to experts.”
Nonetheless, public attitudes are a necessary ingredient in practical policymaking, which should aim at the ethical but doesn’t always hit that mark. If expert judgments in ethics diverge too much from public attitudes—asking more from a population than what they’re willing to agree to—that’s a problem for implementing the policy, and a resolution is needed.
The info is here.