Christian Scholars Address Ethics Crises

Whether there’s a new cultural crises in ethics or such crises have simply become more public through the information age, the need to address them is real. At this year’s interdisciplinary  Christian Scholars Conference in June and around the theme, “Crises in Ethics: Theology, Business, Law and the Liberal and Fine Arts,” two Gordon professors travelled to Nashville to present papers on panel discussions.

Joining two other bible scholars on a panel called, “Old Testament Theology of Prayer,” Elaine Phillips, professor of biblical studies and Christian ministries, discussed, “The Prayer of the Upright:  Confession, Petition, Accusation, and Intercession in Wisdom Literature.” There are several studies on prayer in the Psalms or on select prayers within the Old Testament, but little in the way of a comprehensive exploration of the theology of prayer in all the Old Testament.  Her session was the second in a three-year project to examine the theology of prayer in the various sections of the Old Testament with the intent of providing the groundwork for a canonical Old Testament theology of prayer. 

Across campus, Jonathan P. Gerber, assistant professor of psychology, discussed the recent number of high-profile lapses in research ethics, where many of these cases emerged due to new analytic techniques for detecting and managing fraud, techniques which are broadly applicable to other empirical disciplines. Gerber’s peer-reviewed panel discussed the impact of recent cases of social psychological ethics, the techniques used to uncover fraud, the role of Christian institutions in maintaining research integrity, and the application of these techniques to other disciplines.

Specifically, Gerber addressed the fraud of Diederik Stapel and whether it led to calls to revise research practices in psychology.  Gerber’s paper—entitled, “Did Stapel’s research fraud lead to knowledge distortion or reputation reduction?”—provided the preliminary results of a 60 year meta-analysis of social comparison research, including over 600 research papers. Gerber said, “The effect sizes in Stapel’s work were not significantly different to other researcher’s findings, suggesting that knowledge about social comparison has not suffered from Stapel’s misconduct, even though the field’s reputation has. It appears that, sometimes, you can fake too well.”

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