The Irresponsibility of Science and Technology,
In one sense, science and technology cannot . be stopped once set in motion. Of course, we could forbid new scientific and technological research, but this would soon put us in the backwaters of history. All cicatrices is interrelated and interdependent, and discoveries in one field open new vistas in others. Marx may have been wrong it making the economic institutions dominant over all the others. It may be that science and technology have greater effect upon our social relationships than any other institution. Henry Ford’s Although the “computer-gone-berserk” is a popular theme of science fiction writers, it is a fiction. Computers have no independent mind; they do only what human programmers tell them to do. It is true that once a new technology is accepted, its latent con sequences may be unavoidable. Automobiles technology has been challenged, and some pollute, mass production promotes uniform- gains have been. made in harnessing techie, and the temptation to use available tech- no logy to the protection of the environment. no logy is often irresistible. Repeatedly, a new Thus, .science •and’ technology can be .the ‘ weapon (the crossbow, the pistol, the cannon, servants and not the masters if only we can. the-submarine, the machine gun, poison gas, agree upon their use the atomic bomb) was at first believed to’ be As this is written, the s notifier establish too terrible to be used-yet it was.Are we to men is not entirely healthy. The fraction of be helpless victims of technology? students entering scientific careers is falling This depends upon our values .. Neutrino government ‘and university funding for scabies are so convenient that it seems we shall entice research is shrinking; about half our not surrender them until all the fuel is gone; scientists ‘and engineers are in weapons reyet Freon-loaded aerosol spray cans, which search, .which provides little of human Ben might damage the ozone layer, were surefire and political control of scientific and dared quite readily. We still use aerosol cans;. technological research is increasing [Laubach, but without the Freon. It is true that anything 1980). The autonomy of science diminishes useful will be used, but people. can decide as the domination: of government grows. how it is used. Popular skepticism of scientist shown in The question-can people control technol- popular acceptance of unscientific fads such orgy?-has a clear answer. It is yes-but only’ as laetrile [Peterson and Markle, 1979). Non if there are other values which seem more scientific cults and fads of many sorts .are precious. When people make reckless use of thriving (see The Skeptical Inquirer, any issue). technology, .science gets the blame. During Those who really understand science have decade of the 1970 s, there was it spectacle- always been in the minority. Science may arousal of environmental concerns.’ As even’ go into temporary eclipse in one region, .nis is written, the national administration as in Hitler’s Gehenna in the 1930 ‘sor in the seems to favor development over conserve- People’s Republic of China in the 1950s, but tion, but this is probably a temporary digressing the worldwide destruction of civilization. Polls clearly show that a majority of the nation in a nuclear holocaust-which is not people are willing to sacrifice some comforts .at all impossible-science and technology will and conveniences in order to preserve the continue to promote both innovation and environment [Ladd, 1982). Reckless use of change.