Can people with no understanding of science judge how science should behave?We live in a scientific age. But do we WANT all this rapidly-advancing science and technology. Who decides what...

Can people with no understanding of science judge how science should behave?

We live in a scientific age. But do we WANT all this rapidly-advancing science and technology. Who decides what technology we get? Does it make us happier? Or safer?

Is it possible to prevent scienctific progress? Are there certain areas that we should not investigate? Is science Pandora's box?

What areas of modern science are you worried about?

Asked on by elfgirl

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

The question, as stated, is a non sequitur and a false syllogism. Taking the latter part first, science doesn't "behave," and its behavoir is neither good nor bad, it just is.  The scientific process that has developed over the last 500 years has proved to be the triumph of mankind's reason.  It explains what is, and why it is, as fully as it can, and makes no moral or political interpretation. It cannot be regulated any more than anyone's search for truth can be regulated.  It can, however, be suppressed, altered, and twisted to political agendas. Taking the former part second, people with no understanding of a topic are simply not fit to judge upon it.  This question implies that  non scientists can dictate the behavoir of science, or perhaps more bluntly, politicians can decree what science is.  The prior responses seem disturbingly to agree with this proposition;  this seems to be a bit too close to how science is subordinated to the whims of government in 1984 ("The stars are points of fire several hundred feet away!")  When the prior US president denies climate change, and the current president states that "the science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear," you don't have science; you have politics.  Science has become a tool of government to promote political agendas. But science, by its very definition, seeks truth. In short, politicians have no business in science.  None.  Their business, by definition, is "anti-truth." However, what to do with scientific discoveries, well, that's a different issue, and perhaps that's what this question intended.  If so, non scientists may have opinions about science; each individual is entitled to his or her own. But imposing your opinion on someone else is immoral.  If you don't like abortions, or chip implants, or cloning, or hypersonic weapons, or atomic bombs, don't submit to the process, and don't possess any. But passing laws to keep everyone safe denies those who choose to employ scientific discoveries.  Each individual, on each topic, has to decide for his or herself. That decision does not apply to every other individual at large.

The hard reality is that if it can be done, it will be done. That's the assumption from which to go forward.  Putting science under legal wraps forces it underground, or offshore, and allows government regulatory power it should never have.  What's worse, "banning" science will simply deny indivdual's access to it; governments, of course, will retain access for themselves.  In very rare instances, this is acceptable, as in the case of an atomic weapon, but that is an exception, and should not be applied as a general rule.

You cannot politicize science. Do so at your peril.  Allowing non scientists to "regulate" science is akin to giving babies razor blades.

Scientific progress will only continue if scientists are allowed to practice science, and implement scientific discoveries without endless government  or ignorant amateur interference.  If such implementations cause problems, then scientists will find solutions for them.  Amateurs and governments please step aside.

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

When I read this topic, it made me think of the ongoing local school board debates I read about occasionally over whether to permit the teaching of evolution in public school science classes. When a school board rules against common sense, it is a classic example of the ignorant leading the blind. The single most significant detriment to the effective K-12 education of students in the United States is the fact that any moron can get elected to the local school board.

There are no simple answers to your questions, elfgirl.

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

Can people with no understanding of science judge how science should behave?

We live in a scientific age. But do we WANT all this rapidly-advancing science and technology. Who decides what technology we get? Does it make us happier? Or safer?

Is it possible to prevent scienctific progress? Are there certain areas that we should not investigate? Is science Pandora's box?

What areas of modern science are you worried about?

If persons with power had been paying attention to scientists' predictions about weather patterns, the whole Katrina disaster might have been averted.  But, funding had been cut to the Army Corps of Engineers budget for maintaining the levee system over several years and administrations to the point that there was nothing in the works to upgrade the system to withstand a category 4 storm.

Science brings us some really good things, but it also brings us some really dangerous things.  Humans are really the only tool-users who greatly impact the environment to the point of catastrophe.  I don't think the first person who threw a chunk of coal on a fire imagined global warming.

I believe that everything that can be investigated scientifically should be investigated.  There are some things that once investigated should be shelved due to ethical or moral reasons.  I am totally opposed to human cloning, but I am not opposed to stem-cell research.

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marilynn07 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

No, I don't believe it is possible to prevent scientific progress.  I also think it is unwise to try to prevent it.  Many wonderful things have come from scientific research that was aimed at something else entirely.  It would be a shame to try to short circuit that process.

This is not to say that all scientific discoveries should be used!!  There are areas -- human cloning, for example -- which involve major moral issues.  It IS possible to slow the discovery and use of science in areas where there is a consensus that it is morally or ethically undesirable.  Since so much of science depends on major funding from governments and foundations, it is possible to reduce or even eliminate public funding for certain things.  Of course, this doesn't mean that private funds won't be used for that purpose!

Excellent thoughts! I agree with you. Discovery and research are key to human progress. However, not every scientific discovery should be used.  It is after some discoveries are put into use that the side-effects are made known.  I am thinking of Agent Orange and Thalidomide.  These products do exactly what they claim to do, but at horrific risk to the human population.

 

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cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

No, I don't believe it is possible to prevent scientific progress.  I also think it is unwise to try to prevent it.  Many wonderful things have come from scientific research that was aimed at something else entirely.  It would be a shame to try to short circuit that process.

This is not to say that all scientific discoveries should be used!!  There are areas -- human cloning, for example -- which involve major moral issues.  It IS possible to slow the discovery and use of science in areas where there is a consensus that it is morally or ethically undesirable.  Since so much of science depends on major funding from governments and foundations, it is possible to reduce or even eliminate public funding for certain things.  Of course, this doesn't mean that private funds won't be used for that purpose!

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youknowme786 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I'd agree with you in the sense that I/others may not want some technological advancements, but it's interesting to see what sort of innovations come out of others. For example, modern fertilizer might not have been here if it wasn't for research into bombs.

However, some of the things you mention above certainly are frightening, "...where my DNA becomes government property," etc. That, though, I guess would come down to personal opinion as to whether or not you want that chip "installed" within you. There could be positives in it such as the potential to detect and deter medical emergency, but again, I don't know if the benefits outweigh the costs.

It's all subjective, I suppose.

 

--ME

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blinky969 | Student, Undergraduate

Posted on

I have to agree that scientific progress is inevitable, but knowing many scientists, I have to say, one cannot say that knowledge of science is equatable with knowledge of morality.  I know a great many ethical scientists, and a great deal of unethical ones, and purporting that science should provide its own moral compass is opening a door to disaster.

As Einstein say, "If I had known, I would have been a locksmith."

The best we can hope to do is channel science constructively, by focusing on research that is responsible and reasoned.  All new developments have unexpected consequences, and we have to be mindful of what a world with widespread human cloning, or no privacy would be like, before we readily accept the inevitability of it.  This is where I think our legislative systems have been greatly failing, and should be doing a far better job.

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elfgirl | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

But, for example, suppose technology came up with an internet connection that could be fitted under your skin and linked directly to your nervous system, giving your brain constant, hands-free, online access. It may sound a bit 'Star Trek' now, but it could easily be possible in our lifetime. Business/Commerce/Capitalism would love it. It would make workers much faster and more productive. It would be an instant best-seller. And hey presto, suddenly we're all permanently reachable, watchable, recordable. Our innermost privacy will have been surrendered and we'll never be alone again.

How would you stop a product like that from spreading if technology created it? I don't believe our concerns would be able to prevent such things from invading society if they make us more profitable workers.

I feel very concerned that technology will inevitably create a very invasive 'surveillance society' where we can't say, do or even think anything that isn't filmed, recorded or somehow monitored.

I can see a future where my local council will be able to instantly check with my fridge's memory circuits to ensure that I fed my kids how they approve.

A world where everything I buy will be recorded and I will be profiled over and over and over again without my consent.

...where my DNA becomes government property.

...where my car will tell the police if i break the speed limit etc etc

Do we WANT all the inevitable data-snooping that will come with an advanced information age? 

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

One very important thing about science is that it affect lives of us all deeply, irrespective of whether or not we understand science. Andpeople are certainly entitled to judge and influence the course of anything that influences their lives. Therefore, I am convinced that people have every right to participate in decisions on the pace of scientific development and the areas of technology to be developed.

Having asserted our right to influence the course of scientific progress, we should then examine the ways using this right wisely in our own interest and that of our fellow beings.

It is logical to assume that people with better knowledge of science are better equipped to take the correct decisions related to science. It is equally unrealistic to expect everyone to be an expert in science.

So, in conclusion, I would like to suggest that decisions on use of science and scientific progress should be taken collectively by group of honest and capable people providing input on scientific expertise as well as on well balanced considerations of human welfare.

Scientific progress cannot be stopped. But it must be suitabley directed and controlled to ensure that science ramains a servant of people, not their master.

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