I'm wrestling with the moral implications of a scientist riding a wave of unfounded hype to raise public money for his own lab. Also, I don't know if that's an accurate description of what happened; it seems that way to me, but I'm worried I'm wrong. I'd be grateful to get your thoughts (and anyone else's).
I don't know how to reply to the old post you put up. So I will reply here. I think DeMarse accomplished something a bit more complicated than what is described in the comments of the old Hacker news post. The protocol used by DeMarse actually modified the strength of the synaptic connections between the neurons in the petri dish. It seems (though not proven) that LTP/LTD is occurring.
Now to answer what you asked me about. Do I think what DeMarse did is morally right or wrong? I do not want to pass judgement because I am still in school and don't have to worry about funding my own research. A professor I respect for his scientific integrity told me every scientist has a skeleton in their closet (referring to research projects). I think the fact that DeMarse's paper caught on like wildfire just goes to show you that a majority of Humans (computer programmers included) can be relatively stupid.