Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Can Science Be Dangerous?

In society there are a large number of people who question the safety of modern science and the harm it can do. There are many reasons for this: one is rooted in television, film and literature, you only need to think of Frankenstein and how a scientific experiment can go ‘wrong.’ Some people simply lack the education and their opinions are based on what they see and hear from inaccurate sources. Media and history can have a significant widespread impact- for example fear on anything nuclear related is primarily due to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the events that happened in Chernobyl, 1986 and more recently the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

Back to the question, people often misunderstand what science is, so let me first define it. For the purpose of this piece I have chosen a basic definition: “science is knowledge attained through study or practice.” So science is a body of knowledge, it tells us how the world is, based upon scientific research conducted. On its own knowledge is perfectly safe and has no moral value but the point at which science can become dangerous is when science (or knowledge) is applied through technology.

Technology means applying knowledge to create something and I think the beauty of science is often overlooked; science is not about creating a product or tool to achieve a purpose or solve a problem however it is the collecting of facts and data from a systematic approach which then leads to further knowledge and thus can be used to help create technology.

Can scientists be blamed for the creation of technology that endangers lives?  This is a question that has been raised many times in society and specifically in the blaming of people for events that have happened in the past. What we have to remember is that scientists research and discover and that the application and use of such discoveries are by politicians and world leaders. This said I am not displacing the whole blame off them after all they may have developed the weapon that led to the killing of innocent people. When scientists are purposely exploring a scientific area to create a weapon then scientists are directly involved and are aware of what the consequences of their discovery could be, such as military scientists creating weapons which will be used against the enemy.

The question ‘can science be dangerous?’ is irrelevant- it is like saying can a knife on its own be dangerous? Of course it is not as there is nothing to interfere with it, it is simply an object but it has the capacity to become dangerous when a human uses it to commit a crime for example. Despite this we still have to be wary of the consequences of science and this is precisely why there are strict rules governing science and scientific experiments. I just hope that science can continue safely without hindrance and will continue to aid human development.
“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”  Isaac Asimov 

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