Behind the Scenes at ISU with Jacques Arnould

By Drew Lacy, Communication ‘14

In some of the earliest days of human innovation, science and philosophy were topics often intertwined. To be a scientist or mathematician was to be a philosopher, and ancient societies saw little reason to separate the two.

In 2012, philosophy and science are often seen as separate fields, sometimes with no relation to one another. But is that such a good thing?

Space philosopher and ethicist Jacques Arnould works with French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales (in English, “The National Center for Space Studies, or simply CNES) to bring an emphasis on philosophy and ethics back to science, by asking one simple question.


Jacques discussed the fascinating world of scientific ethics during an ISU lecture this summer, explaining the importance of that seemingly simple question. Before the lecture, we were able to ask him a few quick questions about the role of ethics and even religion in science, and the answers we got were thought provoking:

As Jacques says in the video, many scientists are focused more on other questions: How? When? Where? Meanwhile, perhaps the most important question is neglected.


As someone who has spent the last two years writing for our student newspaper, The Crimson, I know how easy it is to focus on those questions. They’re often the easiest to ask and answer because of the concrete nature of their responses. But in journalism, like in science, the answer to “Why?” is often the most insightful and useful.


It’s important that we – whether scientists, journalists, students, or anywhere in between – take into account the “why” behind our actions. The answer might even surprise us.

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