Science is a Social Problem

Are evolutionary theory, genetic engineering, stem cell research and the mindset behind them hurting society more than helping? How would we know?

The real problem referred to in my title is a bit more fuzzy than the one suggested in that first paragraph. The problem is that scientific thinking is displacing moral reasoning and ethical judgement.. Slavish adherence to science pollutes social policy, and thinking about our own behavior. We only care about the most efficient means to a given end, rather than thinking about the end in question. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park, "You were so busy trying to figure out if you could do something, you never stopped to ask if you should." (He was talking about cloning dinosaurs, but the sentiment applies in lots of other cases.)

Of course the scientific worldview has been enormously beneficial in many ways. Neat and simple "scientific" explanations of things help us feel like we understand the world. This is psychologicallly comforting, even if our unsderstanding is really an illusion. The inventions we’ve developed out of a scientific understanding of the world have been the the basis for huge imporvements in the human condition over the past few centuries.

All is not well in the modern, scientific world. I’ll spare you the usual blather about nuclear bombs and concentration camps. Of course those things are bad! Another problem of the scientific world view deserves our attention. The problem is dehumanization. Do we really want to be thought of in terms of our reporductive cells or as bundles of biological urges. Do we want our social value to be measured by our fitness to reproduce (shades of Nazism and euthanasia)? I hope not!

 Let us work to keep science in its place: Helping us to understand and perhaps mainuplate the relationships between natural phenomena. Let’s restrict rationality to its proper role in helping us find the best way to achieve goals that arise from other values.

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~ by chetdavis on July 27, 2006.

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