Moral Leadership Analysis Allegra Goodman’s Intuition

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Moral Leadership Analysis

Allegra Goodman’s Intuition

Sandra Jones

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

MNGT 5773.1



Moral leaders are individuals who do the right thing no matter the consequences. Sometimes those actions are right only in their eyes and are wrong in the eyes of others. Moral leaders use moral reasoning to justify their actions. Moral reasoning can be done even without the person being aware he or she is doing it. Often, moral leaders are faced with a moral challenge that requires them to choose a course of action. Again, right or wrong, it is the action they believe to be the correct one. Allegra Goodman’s Intuition presents the reader with several characters who struggle with their own moral challenges and the moral reasoning(s) for their behavior. In addition, the characters in this book can be compared with other protagonists with similar moral challenges and moral reasoning.


Allegra Goodman’s book, Intuition, revolves around the decisions and actions of four main characters: Marion Mendelssoh, Sandy Glass, Cliff Bannaker and Robin Decker. Marion and Sandy are lab directors of the Mendelssohn-Glass lab at the Philpott Institute, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sandy is a practicing oncologist who craves fame, is eternally optimistic, and quick to action. Marion is a plodding scientist who likes to be exact, specific, detailed and cautious. The two of them are complementary opposites of one another. Robin and Cliff are two of the four postdoctoral researchers in the lab. Robin is intelligent and, although ambitious, is satisfied to keep plugging away at a five-year research project that is only showing minimal results. Cliff, once considered a prodigy when he first came to the lab, is now struggling to produce results on a potentially promising cancer research project.

On the brink of termination, Cliff’s project produces tantalizing results. Several cancer-ridden mice have shown reduction in tumor size because of the injection of a virus that Cliff developed, called R-7. Suddenly, the project that was once being scrapped is now given the complete attention of the entire lab. Cliff, on the verge of being fired, regains his elevated status and is seen as the lab’s meal ticket for garnering more research funding. Cliff replicates his previous research with meticulous lab notes and is again met with the same promising results. With the lab dependent upon grants awarded by the federal government, Sandy is eager to rush to publish a report of Cliff’s findings in the research magazine, Nature, to get recognition and funding for the lab’s operations and for their continued research. Marion, being the exacting scientist, prefers to wait until they have more conclusive results, but Sandy charismatically convinces her otherwise. After many conferences, speeches, and newspaper and magazine articles, Cliff and the lab quickly gain notoriety around the country.

Robin, Cliff’s girlfriend and co-worker, begins to become jealous of Cliff’s rise to fame and is unable to replicate his results in other trials. Because she cannot produce the same outputs as Cliff, she also starts to become suspicious. “Reproducibility of results is considered one of the main basis of the scientific process. It is important in order to ensure that reported results are not a consequence of errors neither of some deceptive behavior from the authors” (Martins, 2008). Robin sets out on a campaign to prove Cliff falsified data and thus begins the moral challenges presented to the characters in the book.

Moral Analysis


Cliff is shot to stardom in the lab and in the research community after the second batch of infected mice also show results of shrinking cancer tumors. All the post doc labs are assigned to work on the project. Robin, who before Cliff’s success had her own project she was working on, begrudgingly stops working on it to pitch in on the R-7 virus. However, each day, Robin becomes increasingly jealous of Cliff’s fame, attention and project importance. In the past, Robin and Cliff would commiserate together on how their projects were not producing and how they craved for results. With Cliff’s success, Robin was all alone in her failures. She was “angry with him. Chasing his results, he had left her far behind, and she feared she would never catch up” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 55). She wanted time to work on her own project and resented that she now had to help someone else become successful.

To compound her feelings, Robin cannot replicate his results. She has equipment problems and trouble with the cell line. Marion and Sandy begin to doubt her capability and Robin accuses Cliff of tainting her cells. Because of her querulous comments and actions, Robin begins to look unprofessional and traitorous to the rest of the lab and she only furthers this by questioning Cliff’s integrity. Through a series of moral challenges and decisions, she begins to gather a few scraps of evidence against Cliff that she hopes will prove he falsified data and that it is his flawed data and not her faulty research skills that are to blame for her inability to replicate his success.

Robin’s Moral Challenges

The first moral challenge Robin faces is stealing Cliff’s lab book to see if she can decipher any inconsistencies in his data. She feels that Cliff’s results are too good to be true and he must be hiding something. Despite her doubts, she knows it is wrong to suspect his work but even worse to sneakily steal his book, “her conscience pricked her and provoked her, and she was ashamed” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 174). However, after finding nothing to indicate guilt in the lab notes, Robin still feels she must confront Cliff on another matter. She tells Cliff that she witnessed him killing research mice in the wrong manner but he denies her accusations, foreshadowing one of Cliff’s own moral challenges.

Robin’s next moral challenge came one night while she was alone in the lab. Unable to shake the feeling that Cliff had done something wrong, Robin desperately searches through drawers and finds some old draft notes of Cliff’s with R-7 notations. The notes, she thinks, shows that Cliff manipulated or falsified the data. “Falsification is changing or omitting research data or results, and is usually done to enhance the significance of the research findings” (Axman & Boren, 2010). When Robin reviews the numbers and sees “there were too many mice, the total number dissected in the notes was thirty-three, ten more than what Cliff had recorded in his journal article”, she thinks he has done just that (Goodman, 2006, pg. 199). Robin struggles with the moral decision to present her findings to Sandy and Marion saying, “I can’t keep this to myself” and decides to talk to them (Goodman, 2006, pg. 204). Upon confrontation, Cliff defends himself, saying the notes were from the first experiment and were not meant to be a part of the study. Marion, knowing Robin’s jealousy of Cliff, tells Robin she is just being petty and her accusations are brushed aside.

After getting nowhere with both of her attempts at truth, Robin is faced with her next moral challenge. Should she pursue her suspicions further? She decides that the truth must prevail and she visits a former mentor who suggests the evidence merits further clarification. The mentor sets an informal meeting where Robin and Cliff both present their cases. Once again, Cliff is exonerated. Dejected, Robin feels she is going against the “status quo”, the unspoken rules of the lab – “there was the book way of working, and then there was the reality. There was the presumption that everything that touched the [mice] was sterile, and the reality that equipment was often only fairly clean” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 226). While there were procedures and policies, they were bent every once in awhile and everyone felt Robin was blowing things out of proportion with Cliff’s sloppy lab notes.

She tackled her next moral challenge and decided to take her case to the next level, The Office for Research Integrity in Science (ORIS). Robin’s friends advised her against such an action, discrediting the directors of the office, calling them “extremely dubious character[s]” and “professional [ruiners] of reputations and of lives” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 243). Nevertheless, Robin “knew [Cliff] had misrepresented his findings and…she would still trust and use her intuition” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 246). Robin decides to pursue an ORIS led investigation.

The ORIS investigation caused a “public inquest” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 253). The meeting with her mentor had been a private meeting with a handful of researchers, but the inquest was known throughout the research community. Everyone now knew Cliff’s findings were questionable and that one of the lab’s own workers was turning against them. This further caused Robin to be ostracized among her peers. Even though Robin and others suffered negative consequences due to her actions, she used moral reasoning to justify why she did so.

Robin’s Moral Theory/Reasoning
Justice Approach

Many moral theories can apply to why Robin acted as she did. One of these is the Justice approach. Robin’s co-workers treated her like a traitor for whisteblowing on Cliff and the Philpott Institution. “She sought to destroy her own colleagues’ work, their word, their reputation” (Goodman, 2006, p. 256). Because of her coworkers’ feelings about her actions, she had taken a new job at another lab but they too, ostracized her. If indeed Cliff had lied about his notes, Robin deserved to be vindicated and hailed for upholding the truth, not vilified by the research community. Despite the fact The Office of Research integrity states that whistleblowers of research misconduct should be protected, Robin, nonetheless, suffered negative consequences (Horner & Minifie, Research Ethics III: Publication Practices and Authorship, Conflicts of Interest, and Research Misconduct, 2011). She followed the appropriate chain of command by approaching her employers, Sandy and Marion, about her suspicions of Cliff’s immoral acts. However, when those actions got her nowhere, she felt she had no choice but to report to someone externally, the ORIS.

One way for a whistleblower to seem less of a troublemaker is to seek vindication for the original action by engaging in further whistle blowing. Most often this entails use of external channels because internal channels have already been exhausted without success. Public vindication also provides legitimacy to the whistleblower...Justice theory suggests that whistleblowers may use external channels as a way to get back at organizations for the injustice of the reprisal they experienced after using internal channels. If whistleblowers believe that the reprisal they suffered following internal whistle-blowing was procedurally unjust, they may be more likely to counter-retaliate against the organization using external channels. (Regh, Micelli, Near, & Van Scotter, 2008)

This is, of course, what Robin did. She wanted to get justification for her suspicions against Cliff and when Sandy or Marion would not give that to her, she took her complaints externally to the ORIS.

Utilitarianism Approach

Another moral theory that can be applied is the Utilitarian theory. While Robin’s whistleblowing may have hurt the reputation of the lab, of Cliff and maybe of all researchers everywhere, the greatest benefit of having the truth exposed still outweighed the negative consequences (her reputation as a whistleblower and Cliff’s reputation as a sloppy scientist). It was better for the research community and the world at large to know that the cure for cancer had not been found than for the protection of the reputation of a few researchers.

Communitarism Approach

The Philpott and other institutions survive on federal grant money, paid for by taxpayers. If Cliff had lied about his results, it would be better for the community, i.e. taxpayers, to not have their money wasted on fraudulent research projects. Although Robin was comforted by the fact that “wrong results shouldn't survive the test of time, since, sooner or later, people will perform new tests and realize they were wrong” (Martins, 2008), other researchers should not waste their time or money trying to replicate false success. Therefore, it was for the betterment of the community for Robin to denounce Cliff’s data.

Virtue Approach

The Virtue approach is another theory that can be applied to Robin’s moral reasoning. Honesty should be a cornerstone of a researcher. For a researcher to lie about his or her procedures is a virtue or behavior others would not want to emulate. “Truthfulness

[is] both . . . a moral imperative and . . . a fundamental operational principle in the scientific research process” (Horner & Minifie, Research Ethics I: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) - Historical and Contemporary Issues Pertaining to Human and Animal Experimentation, 2011). Robin was pursuing the truth and wanting Cliff to be honest in his data and results.
Kantianism Approach

Robin confronted her lab directors and Cliff about her doubts because she felt it was her duty and obligation to do the right thing. “One of the basic responsibilities of scientists is to maintain the quality and integrity of the work of the scientific community” (Horner & Minifie, Research Ethics I: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) - Historical and Contemporary Issues Pertaining to Human and Animal Experimentation, 2011). Robin felt that Cliff had lied and it was her moral duty as a scientist to expose him.


Marion’s Moral Challenges

Marion, one of the Philpott Institute’s lab directors, encounters many moral challenges as well. First, knowing Sandy’s impulsive behavior, she debates on whether or not to share the first tentative results with him. She and Feng discovered the first instance of Cliff’s success with results showing in a few mice. However, she waivered on making Sandy aware of the discovery. Even Marion’s husband warns her not to tell Sandy because he would “go off half-cocked. He was incautious. Imprudent. [He] would go off rampaging for bold new results, sometimes forgetting what might be small and diffident, and difficult to describe – the truth” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 36). Marion says to her husband, “I don’t think it’s right at all to keep information from him, but I’m worried…” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 35). In the end, Marion’s moral conscience wins out and she does decide to tell her partner about their very tenuous results.

Next, when confronted by Robin’s first indication of doubts about Cliff’s notes, Marion suppresses her by saying that no one should “examine Cliff’s private notes without his permission and I don’t want to reward this type of behavior on your part, Robin, by passing judgement” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 207). Perhaps Marion was blinded by the publicity and notoriety of running the institute where the cure for cancer was discovered or she simply wanted to carry on with the research for the good of humankind without interference from a spiteful Robin. In either case, it was her duty to investigate Robin’s allegations further. “Federal regulations mandate that, as a condition of receiving federal funds, research institutions must investigate all allegations of misconduct…and report their findings to the ORI” (Sox & Rennie, 2006). In this moral challenge, Marion explicitly failed.

Eventually, Marion herself begins to doubt Cliff’s work. Other labs continued to be unable to replicate Cliff’s results and a key post doc researcher at their own lab refused to continue working on the R-7 project (without revealing why, causing Marion to be suspicious). It was a struggle for Marion to admit to Sandy that she thought Cliff lied because she “dreaded his reproach for caving to the forces arrayed against them…she had to speak” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 352). She admits that she had a “change of heart” and thinks Cliff “may in fact have suppressed some data and exaggerated in other cases. He may have cut corners in his procedures and particularly his dissections…his record keeping might have been poor” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 353). Marion decides Cliff must go. Sandy agrees but wants to wait. Despite Sandy’s wishes, Marion decides that she cannot wait. She does not feel right about Cliff lying and continuing to work in the lab. When confronted, Cliff defends himself saying the published results are not flawed but she tells him she does not “believe that anymore” and that what he did was “bad science” and she “can’t support it…and cannot continue working with [him]” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 360). Marion’s moral challenge was to admit to herself, Sandy, Cliff and the research community that she could no longer support Cliff’s results. She decided to retract the Nature publication. According to the Office of Research Integrity, it is the duty of the scientist’s lab to “notify journals that published fraudulent findings” and to “retract an article that an investigation has shown to contain faked data” (Sox & Rennie, 2006). While the outcome of the investigation showed “there was no clear evidence of fraud” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 366), Marion herself knew that Cliff had not been entirely truthful. She knew it was the right decision to retract the article.

The last moral challenge for Marion was to separate herself from Sandy. While they had always been each other’s ying and yang, she knew Sandy was “completely tangled in Cliff’s faulty work (Goodman, 2006, p.363). He would forever be associated with the fraud speculation. Marion wanted her lab to have a “reputation for consistency and care, and slow, meticulous lab work” – something Sandy never could propagate. After the ORIS inquest, the lab’s integrity was shadowed with doubt but still, Sandy “was utterly unapologetic, unconscionably optimistic, even in defeat” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 363). It was going to take Marion much time and effort to earn the respect of her colleagues and the community. Consequently, Sandy was to blame. “Sandy had gotten her into this mess, rushing the grant proposal out” instead of patiently waiting for more concrete results (Goodman, 2006, p. 328). Now, Marion would have to coax back the trust of the community.

Trust is slowly built but may be quickly destroyed and once lost is difficult to win back. Public relations strategies will not gain or win back public trust. The building and maintaining of public trust is dependent on the ethical behavior of … scientists. It may require genuine behavior change on their part. To engender public trust, the science community must demonstrate adequate risk management, admit uncertainty and factor it into decision making, be transparent about how decisions are made, admit past errors, and punish irresponsible behavior by members of their ranks. (Small & Mallon, 2007)

It is because of the tenuousness of trust that Marion had to face the difficult moral challenge of no longer working with Sandy.

Marion’s Moral Theory/Reasoning

Virtue Approach

Marion, at first, supports Cliff’s sloppy lab notes when confronted by Robin. This was a change in character for Marion who was usually strict about preciseness. And “anyone who has ever worked in a laboratory knows that good notes are essential to the ultimate success of the study” (Birnbaum & Culpepper, 1999). However, when the lab was charged with misconduct by the OSRI, she began to look at the situation in a new light. It was the Virtue approach that made Marion confront Cliff about his note taking and retract the article in the Nature magazine. “Values recognized as fundamental to the scientific enterprise as a whole are…truthfulness [and] trust” (Horner & Minifie, Research Ethics I: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) - Historical and Contemporary Issues Pertaining to Human and Animal Experimentation, 2011). Marion realized she wanted to be the type of scientist with a reputation for truth and that meant Cliff’s mistakes must come out publicly.

Kantianism Approach

Marion also decided to retract the publication because it was her duty to do so. She had failed in her duty of investigating the inconsistencies of data when first presented by Robin, however, this time she knew what must be done. “The scientific community has a duty to warn people to ignore an article containing faked data. [The institution should] notify journals that published fraudulent findings, and publish the results of the investigation of the fraudulent author’s articles” (Sox & Rennie, 2006). This was Marion’s first step in earning back her careful, meticulous reputation.


At the beginning of the book, Cliff is dejected and depressed because his research has proven fruitless. After the R-7 virus shows promising results in a few mice, Cliff performs a second clinical trial. Cliff sees this as his chance to prove that his virus did work and that his previously failed attempts had not been in vain. He becomes protective of the project, working long days and nights, often alone. Working alone meant no other post doc was around to substantiate his actions or methods – an act that contributed later to the doubt cast on his character.

Cliff’s Moral Challenges

During the second round of testing, Cliff made two moral choices: He chose not to follow protocol and not to reveal certain data. First, Marion preferred the mice to be sacrificed or “sac’d” by breaking their necks before dissecting them. She felt this was a more humane death for the mice. All the post doc researchers were aware of this rule and reasoning for it. However, Cliff did not have the stomach to break their necks. He preferred to euthanize the mice with CO2 gas, which went against Marion’s explicit rules. Secondly, he purposely neglected to include the euthanasia in his research notes and, subsequently, in the Nature magazine publication. When confronted by Robin about how he killed the mice, he chose to lie saying he did “sacrifice them properly” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 176). While the method of killing the animals should not have an impact on how the virus reacted in their bodies, a scientist must be above reproach. A scientist must notate every step in exacting detail. Birnbaum and Culpepper (1999) recommend having a quality assurance program to include “good laboratory record keeping [to] enhance the ability to defend, reconstruct, or reanalyze a research study” – something Cliff did not have. Knowing he was breaking the rules of the lab and then not documenting it in the publication or confessing when Robin accused him, were all moral challenges Cliff faced.

Cliff’s Moral Theory/Reasoning

Communitarianism Theory

Cliff believed that his research was sound and needed to be shared with the world. He was actually curing cancer! By leaving out, minute, indiscriminate details, he was able to get the research out to be further explored and eventually given to individuals to cure cancer. He was helping the community and the world at large in curing this disease.

Utilitarianism Theory

Cliff used utilitarianism in leaving out small details of his research such as how he killed the mice. What did it matter how the mice were killed? What did it matter if he did not follow lab protocol as long as the results worked? He was giving the greatest good (a potential cure for cancer) for the least harm to others (not following Marion’s sacrifice rule).


While the book never showed Sandy struggling through any of his own moral challenges, it is clear that he did some things he knew to be wrong. He agreed with Marion when she stated her beliefs about Cliff providing false data, and yet he did nothing. In fact, in spite of having his own suspicions, he wanted to keep Cliff at the lab until their appeal process was finished. He wanted to keep up the appearance of the lab being honest and trustworthy despite the allegations by Robin. If the lab admitted any wrongdoing, it would be in danger of losing federal funding for research. The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council attribute one reason for research misconduct as “funding pressures and an overemphasis on publication” (Horner & Minifie, Research Ethics I: Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) - Historical and Contemporary Issues Pertaining to Human and Animal Experimentation, 2011). It was this pressure that led Sandy to support the findings in the Nature publication even while admitting to Marion that he knew Cliff had cheated. While not an acknowledged moral challenge on Sandy’s part, it was a moral challenge nonetheless.

Reflections and Lessons

Prevalence of Misconduct

Intuition is a fictional story and yet, it brings to light the prevalence of misconduct in the research community. Scientific misconduct defined as “Fabricating or knowingly falsifying data, research procedures or data analyses” and “Plagiarizing or misrepresenting the proposing, conducting, reporting or reviewing of research or other scientific activities” (Birnbaum & Culpepper, 1999) can be seen in real life instances. Intuition can be compared to the true story of Jon Sudbo who confessed to fabricating data of an oral cancer curing drug. Sudbo published his report in the Lancet, a British medical journal and received millions dollars in research funding, before his lies were discovered (Wade, 2006). Sudbo was charged with scientific misconduct. Another example is “ Eric Poehlman, an expert on women’s health at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, who admitted to falsifying data on 15 federal grant applications and 17 publications, and has been sentenced to one year in a federal prison for defrauding the federal government” (Wilson, Schreier, Griffin, & Resnik, 2007). And there are many more cases of scientific misconduct. The Annals of Internal Medicine state, “scientific misconduct is endemic” (Sox & Rennie, 2006).

Some experts suggest ethics and moral training is needed to deter the growing occurrence of scientific misconduct (Dehn, 2010). While training may remind individuals of what is right and wrong, morals cannot be taught in a classroom. It is an intrinsic skill individuals gain through life lessons. Regardless of why an individual participates in scientific misconduct, or any misconduct, I propose is not because of ignorance of right or wrong but the moral reasoning they use to justify committing immoral acts.

Comparisons: Justifications of conducting wrong moral actions (Cliff)

The Remains of the Day

In the book, The Remains of the Day, Stevens, the butler is faced with the moral challenge of following the orders of his employer and dismissing two maids because of their religious beliefs. Stevens, who later reveals he thought it was wrong to fire them, does as his employer asks and releases the maids from their duties. His motive for doing so was because he felt he had an obligation to carry out his employer’s orders. While Cliff, in Intuition, did the wrong thing for his own reasons and not because his employer asked him to do so, he still knew it was the wrong thing and did it anyway, just as Stevens did.

The Secret Sharer

In the short story, The Secret Sharer, the captain knows it is wrong to stow away the admitted murderer, Leggatt, and yet he does it anyway. He goes to extreme lengths and suffers through many close calls trying to keep Leggatt a secret from the rest of the crew. Had he not thought it was wrong, he would not have felt the need to keep it a secret. Cliff also knew his sloppy lab notes and his choice of euthanasia for the mice was wrong, but he too, kept his actions a secret. He revealed to no one the way he had killed the mice and he hid his notes in the back of a little-used drawer where no one would find them. Like the captain who hid Leggatt, Cliff would not have kept the notes secret, if he did not think it was the wrong thing to do.

Blessed Assurance

Blessed Assurance tells of a funeral insurance salesman, Jerry, who collects insurance money from poor black families. The policy of dropping the customer if they miss 2 weeks payments even though they have paid on time for many years he knows is not right, but he still stays at the job. But because he develops relationships with several of the families, he often pays their premiums for them so their policies will not lapse. He knows this is wrong of him to do and he keeps his actions a secret for many weeks. When he does at last confess to his employer, he feels a great sense of relief and slept better that night than he had in weeks. Unlike Jerry, who eventually confesses to his employer, Cliff never confesses to any wrong doing. He admits to careless note taking but never to fabricated data or his choice of death for the mice.

Comparisons: Justifying right moral actions, against all odds (Robin)
Things Fall Apart

In the book, Things Fall Apart, Nwoye, the son of a respected but strict village clansman, decided he could no longer follow the ways of his village. He felt his village did many things wrong such as leaving new born twins to die and killing members of other villages out of retribution. When the Christian groups came to his village he discovered a new way of life but most of his clansmen did not agree with the changes. Nwoye was an outcast for believing in the Christian ways and was separated from his family and friends. But Nwoye felt it was the right thing to do. Similarly, Robin was an outcast in her lab and research community for pursuing the case against Cliff. Her coworkers stopped interacting with her, her outside friends advised her to not pursue her suspicions and her coworkers at her new job also ostracized her. And yet, Robin still did what she felt was right.

A Man for All Seasons

In A Man for All Seasons, Thomas More is imprisoned and eventually killed for standing true to his beliefs. He stood trial to justify his actions and defend his point of view because he felt what he believed in to be morally right. More’s family and friends all tried to persuade him to dismiss what he thought was right and move on. Robin, too, went to trial to bring her allegations against Cliff even while her friends were trying to convince her to move on. But both More and Robin followed their moral beliefs out to the end. While Robin was not physically killed, her career as a researcher was mortally wounded as a result of being branded a whistleblower. Her relationships with her friends and coworkers had been damaged because “she had offended their deepest beliefs. She was a heretic, for she’d lost her faith in the natural selection of ideas” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 348)

The Sweet Hereafter

Billy Ansel, a character in the book The Sweet Hereafter, is segregated from the members of his community because he is the only person pushing for the towns members to drop their lawsuits. Everyone is seeking retribution for a tragic accident that occurred in their community but Billy is the only one who thinks the lawsuits are not good. He fights from family to family trying to get them to see their actions are wrong. Robin, in the same way, fights for her employers and the research community to see what Cliff has done is wrong. She, like Billy, is one against many but still she fights for what she believes is right.

Personal History

Katharine Graham, as the publisher of the Washington Post, is suddenly faced with the moral challenge of printing and making public a now well known government scandal called Watergate. She decides that the public deserves to know the truth and prints the information in her newspaper. She fights many battles with government officials and her newspaper peers. She and her paper are labeled as whistleblowers. However, Katharine is privy to secret information that she feels must be made known despite what anyone else thinks. She knows it is the right thing to do for the public to know the truth. Similarly, Robin is labeled a whistleblower and fights to make Cliff’s secret lies public. She also stands up for what she believes in because she thought the public had a right to know about Cliff’s fraudulent data.

Comparison of Right vs. Right

In the play, Antigone, both Antigone and her uncle Creon believe they are doing the right thing. Antigone does not think it is morally right for her brother to not have a proper burial and Creon believes it is not morally right for him to receive a proper burial. They both strongly believe they are right and the readers of the play can identify with both sides and see how in some ways they are both right and both wrong. In Intuition, both Robin and Cliff are right in their own ways. Robin is right in thinking that Cliff’s data may have been skewed as evidenced by his hidden lab notes. However, Cliff is right in saying that the notes were just scratch pieces of paper that were not a part of the actual research. Readers are able to identify with both sides.


The book never states whether or not Cliff actually gave fraudulent results but leaves it up to the reader to determine. If Cliff did give fraudulent data, he never confessed to it. His only concession was to sloppy notes and when pressed about them he felt “forced to interpret records he’d never meant for anyone to see” (Goodman, 2006, pg. 199). While this statement hints that there may have been some wrongdoing on Cliff’s part, again, the reader is left to decide for himself. The reader is also charged with judging the moral actions of the other characters as well. Readers may not have agreed with the actions of the characters but at the conclusion of the story each character feels satisfaction with the outcome of events. Although his work was slightly discredited, Cliff feels hope for a new future, buoyed by his renewed love of research. Robin feels vindicated by the retraction of the article in the Nature magazine and the reinstatement of her reputation. Sandy feels optimist about his start at a new research lab and Marion feels a new sense of herself as a scientist; alone without Sandy by her side, she is forced to be her own spokesperson.

Each of the characters made choices they felt were right; not necessarily what others thought were right. This provides readers with a lesson about morality. Perhaps it is not for others to judge whether another’s actions are moral or not. Only that person can decide if he or she can pass the “sleep test”. By asking themselves if the actions they take will allow them to sleep at night and “by listening to their hearts and avoiding activities that made them uncomfortable,” people can be confident that they have done the right thing (Badaracco Jr & Webb, 1995). In the end, each of the characters felt good about their decisions because they felt they had done the morally right thing and this is all the rest of us can hope for in our own lives.


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