The importance of philosophical research on love and dogs

Examining the relationship between love and science about dogs brings me joy, and it provides tools for deciphering how social values influence a wide range of scientific projects.

Before I started thinking about dogs all the time, my philosophical research focused on sexism and racism in science and engineering. I love working on canine science, but occasionally I get a guilty tickle in the back of my mind suggesting that I’m shirking my responsibilities, that I should be fighting for justice instead of fooling around with love.

I stamp those twinges down though, because love is important.

Earlier this year I spoke on a science ethics panel along with two men—one presenting research on the dangers artificial intelligence and the other talking about flaws in medical research. When I stood up and started talking about love and dogs and science, I noticed a few sideways glances from some of the very serious folks in the audience.

I didn’t have to work hard to imagine them sighing and shaking their heads, ‘those ladies, always going on about feelings.’ Or, ‘Just what I was looking forward to, an academic chick flick.’

Undaunted, I smiled and kept talking. I held the ground between those very serious people and the door, and they had nothing to do except listen.

After the AI man, the medical research man, and I, the loves dogs woman, finished our talks we fielded questions from the audience. It became apparent during the question period that both of these guys’ research could benefit from the ethical model (Nancy Tuana’s Ethical Dimensions of Scientific Research) I was using to understand the impact of love on canine behavior research.

I study how love influences the interactions among (1) social values, (2) research ethics, and (3) the kinds of scientific questions, methods, and analyses that researchers use. It turns out that understanding the relationships among these three things is just as important for conducting effective medical research and creating ethical AI as it is for understanding how dogs think. And it was just these sorts of interactions that the other members of the panel needed to consider in order to move their research projects forward.

Loves Dogs Woman to the rescue! 😛

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