Re: Professional Ethics

Tom Pearson (
Sat, 07 Feb 1998 15:37:30 -0600 (CST)

At 12:46 AM 2/5/98 -0500, Joseph Carson wrote:

>. . .Dr. Pearson's insights (must be because he's an engineer!)

Ah, Joe, you flatter me. I'm no engineer (most folks who meet me can
discern that, oh, right away). My dad was an engineer for NASA and Lockheed
for 35 years, and my brother is a design engineer for one of the 7 million
computer companies in Silicon Valley. Whenever I go back to California to
visit, I get real quiet when they start to talk shop, lest my ignorance get
in the way of family feeling. But thanks for the compliment.

>I think it's legitimate to question whether it's "ethical" for the
>Engineering Profession to have a "code of ethics." From first-hand
>experience, I can attest that the reaction of the Engineering Profession to
>the plight of an engineer in employment jeopardy because of his/her
>adherence to the "code of ethics" in their employment, when the employer
>wished otherwise, is simple and stark - "Good Luck"
>I served in the military for six years and such a lack of cohesiveness would
>be disastrous there. No, it's not war, but if the engineering profession
>wants loyalty of its members it needs to be there when engineers "go in
>harm's way" for their profession's code of ethics.

Just so. I'm going to assume, in that first paragraph above, you mean
"currently constructed codes of ethics." There's no question in my mind
that they are, with few exceptions, woeful. They fundamentally require the
professional to "do right," but provide little in the way of genuine
mediation for those who, like yourself, have taken those codes seriously. I
have the sense there are many who feel vulnerable and abandoned by their
institutions, companies and professional associations, both before and after
they have taken an ethical stand. In our culture, professional practice is
not going to disappear, and neither are its various ethical issues. It is
long past time for a revision (and a re-vision) of our professional ethical
codes, so that they more clearly describe what moral excellence actually is
within a practice, and why that comprises the very definition of a
"professional." I do pray, Joe, that you are not simply the latest victim,
but will be among the first of the reformers in this area.

Tom Pearson

Thomas D. Pearson
Department of History & Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American
Edinburg, Texas