Anything can sound bad if you word it badly. The Milgram Experiments sound bad a lot of ways. Considering that the “victim” was in fact a knowing actor, the severity of the ethical concern does lessen significantly, as there was no physical harm presented by the experiment. All the same, the true volunteers were unaware of this fact, and so run the risk of potential psychological trauma as a result of inflicting potentially fatal electric current to another human. It seems a little risky just to create a little data.
In a similar way, Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment sounds pretty bad when described. The important thing to recognize, however, is that the members of Zimbardo’s experiment is that all participants were knowing “volunteers in a study of the psychological effects of prison life.” The only arguable neglect was in allowing it to go on as long as it did.
What’s done is done, of course, but the question of whether the results were worth the risk is moot. The findings of both experiments have been unquestionably valuable for sociologists, and as mentioned, Zimbardo’s experiment only failed in its neglect to shut down sooner. Milgram, however, seemed so hungry for insight that he was willing to manufacture it. Even omission can be considered deceit, but it doesn’t seem quite right to go that far. Such scenarios are naturally occurring, and (to me, anyway) it is the ethical responsibility of the researcher to stay as separated and objective toward the experiment as possible in order to achieve an acceptable non-bias.
If I entered the field of sociology, my primary research interest would be in the political activity of persons in America age 18–28. There seems to be an intense awakening and sharpening of political awareness, and even a consistent rage towards the current state of things. However, despite consistent complaints of the unfair, ineffective, violent, manipulative, corrupt government, there remains a considerable lack of political activity in the vast majority of this age group. I’d be very interested in finding out what keeps us from participating more.