The scientist, for from being man’s friend, is today his greatest enemy. How far do you agree with this statement?
To judge a scientist, it would be relevant to first gain knowledge on his motives for research. For many, the allure of prosperity and fame is difficult to resist. The prospect of a future life of luxury leads many scientists to contemplate acting or even acting against their values. Not too long ago, a Korean scientist claimed to have had unprecedented finding in the area of genetics. He managed to gain fame overnight, but under the scrutiny of the scientific community, flaws in his work were detected and indicated that he had falsified his findings. The public responded rancorously, and it brought shame to him and his country. If a scientist is willing to compromise on his integrity to satisfy his need, the effect it would have on Man is often adverse. In the case where a scientist develops a potentially harmful drug but manages to successfully pass it off as treatment, the consequences could be unthinkable.
At a cursory glance, it would seem that scientists control their work as they are the ones carrying it out. However, more often than not, scientists are not acting based on their will. The true wielders of the scientists’ discoveries are often higher powers such as despotic governments or rapacious corporations. In North Korea, much of the country’s already meagre GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is used to further the advancement of nuclear technology and to create weapons of mass destruction. Under the regime of the late Kim Il Sung, it would be virtually impossible for any scientist to defy him. To act against Kim’s will would be tantamount to committing suicide, and even worse, the massacre of their families. Hitler also managed to ride on the credibility of the scientists to justify his own pseudo science to support the carnage of millions of Jews across Europe. Pharmaceutical firms like Pfizer and Merck devote only about 5% of their total expenditure on research to battle diseases ravaging the tropics as those people would not be able to afford the treatment anyway. Therefore, it is clear scientists do not have much control over their research after all as they obtain funds from these higher powers.
Though some scientists might be corrupt, there are also scientists who are altruistic, engaging in their research for the benefit of Mankind. Albert Einstein’s most famous theory of relativity, E=mc2 won him a Nobel Prize in Physics. His work would lay the foundations for future development in quantum physics to further improve the welfare of humans, to develop machines that would greatly ease their burden. However, his work also went on to inspire the Manhattan Project which lead to the discovery of the atomic bomb. The bombs “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it caused utter decimation of the cities, with many still living with the side-effects of the radiation. Concomitantly, one might be misled into thinking that the scientists are responsible for such horrific incidents. While scientists bear some of the blame, the major reason for such mishaps is not because of the scientist himself, but other factors which led to it, in this case, the belligerence of Japan.
Recently in the spotlight, there has been much discussion in the area of genetics. There are various issues associated with it such as stem cell research, cloning and the creation of designer babies. All these issues do not differ much in the controversy which they generate. The fundamental nature of life and who gets to control and decide a person’s destiny often comes under scrutiny. Conservative religious groups such as the Roman Catholics who believe that creation is God’s prerogative and the libertarians who believe in Utilitarianism and the benefits such technology could bring have argued furiously, each side refusing to give in. Therefore, it would lead to many critics to assert that controversy and the divide between groups of people is a corollary of a scientist’s work. This argument is highly fallacious, as these differences in attitudes between different groups of people would exist, whether such sensitive issues such as genetic research come into play. What genetic research does is only bringing the gulf in opinions to the surface, making it more obvious. This might not be a disadvantage after all, for the first step to resolve any conflict is to identify it first. As such, genetic research might even be useful in bringing the world closer together and dispelling animosity.
There is a popular saying which goes “Science is objective, but scientists are not”. I do not repudiate this statement, for after all, scientists are also human. However, to assume that all scientists are evil just because of a few black sheep is highly parochial. Besides, scientists are the people who have contributed most to Mankind in terms of alleviating tangible problems which our ancestors used to face, such as allowing us to prepare for natural disasters and preventing many deaths from diseases. They should be accorded due respect for that.