Entomology, chemical ecology, evidence-based environmentalism and science in general. I like big bugs and I cannot lie.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Moral dilemma

Imagine a purely hypothetical PhD student, who for illustrative purposes only we shall call Judy. Judy ordered an expensive piece of scientific equipment that needs a specific power pack ordered with it separately. When it arrived Judy discovered that the equipment, which we shall say purely for the sake of this example costs ten times as much as the power pack does, worked perfectly but that there was a problem with the power pack. Judy phoned up the very helpful scientific equipment supplier who offered her a replacement power pack.

This morning a parcel was delivered to the lab where we're going to pretend she's based, containing another piece of the very expensive equipment, rather than its power pack. Judy now has two options, phone the supplier to ask for a replacement power pack and send the piece of equipment back, or just buy another couple of power packs.

On the one hand Judy is doing a PhD which she, perhaps rather egotistically, thinks will be of benefit to a large number of people and which will go a little faster with twice as much equipment. On the other hand Judy's Mum managed to instill a fairly powerful sense of Catholic guilt in her which has proved rather harder to shake off than the actual beliefs themselves and she's started thinking about the employees of the scientific equipment supplier sleeping on park benches with only a pile of glossy pamphlets on PCR supplies between them and the elements.

What should Judy do?


Imogen said...

She sends it back.
Moral high ground aside, can Judy live with the internal nagging and squirming if she doesn't? Can she live with ordering two more power packs from some guileless employee of the comapnay who will then say "Oh, our records show we just sent you one - wow, you do need a lot of power" or something similar.

Jules said...

Oh dear.

So I've got a little minature Imogen dressed in white on one shoulder being the voice of my conscience. Do I have another friend who'll volunteer to sit on the other shoulder in tacky hen-night devil horns? If not I'll send it back tomorrow.

Jules said...

Judy. I mean Judy would send it back. If it existed. Because it's hypothetical. Errrm.

Imogen said...

I hate the picture of myself as the voice of conventional piety perching on your shoulder being snippy! heavens, woman, haven't you ever seen me drunk? (!) I'm just dully honest 99% of the time and mostly lack the imagination even to think of the dishonest way.

Jules said...

Ok then, you can be sitting there with a bottle of Aspall in one hand and a wonky halo :)