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What are the social justice implications of applied science and technology and how have...

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user771156 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 21, 2013 at 1:37 AM via web

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What are the social justice implications of applied science and technology and how have human activities caused global climate change? 

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kipling2448 | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 21, 2013 at 2:35 AM (Answer #1)

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A serious effort was made at reshaping the question into something comprehensible, difficult considering there are two questions with a tenuous connection between the two.

A very old question -- posed as articulately as anyone by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein -- regarding the moral implications of the application of some technologies or ideas remains as pertinent today as when it was first posed hundreds of years ago.  A good contemporary example involves the genetic modification of agricultural products to make certain plants more resistant to diseases.  The technology is impressive, and promises benefits to mankind, but critics of the biotechnology industry, for example, Jeremy Rifkin, strongly protest the use of such technologies, arguing that they pose unknown long-term risks to public health.

The splitting of the atom in 1932 similarly presented long-term moral implications with which many people continue to contend.  While that technological achievement was widely applauded for the advances it represented in the physical sciences, and while many anticipated atomic physics as a panacea for energy production, the flip side of the coin was the exploitation of that development for the production of weapons with unprecedented destructive power.  Today, the problem of nuclear proliferation is one of this country's most serious national security concerns.

With regard to human interaction with the environment and the problem of climate change, the issue is much more complex, and much more gradual in evolution.  Depletion of the ozone layer of the Earth's atmosphere -- a leading cause of warming temperatures and greenhouse gases -  was not the result of any sudden technological breakthrough so much as the result of decades of continuous production and release into the atmosphere of the chemicals that have caused ozone depletion.  The use of chlorofluorocarbons in consumer products like hair spray and antiperspirant was not the result of any major technological advancement accompanied by a heated debate regarding the moral implications of the use of such chemicals.  On the contrary, the public accepted the advanced manufacturing processes as simply a part of life in an advanced country.

There is often a moral component to the introduction of a new technology.  In the case of the internal combustion engine and the provision of a more user-friendly method of applying deodorant, the debates were nonexistent until the damage was done.  Whether we should clone each other, however, is more pertinent to the question of morality.

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