'Science' Is Not Interchangeable With 'Progress'

Jul 19, 2017

Science is often believed to be interchangeable with “progress." But the idea of ethical science may conflict with the notion of “progress.”

Clean water? What’s wrong with that? Inconceivable outcomes, that’s what. Clean, potable water is rarely pulled from sparkling streams. More often, it is processed, chlorinated, and flushed into the waste disposal system. Your clean water is presently generated with highly ordered, complex, and dependent systems.

At each point on this chain, the vast spider web of infrastructure pollutes the water, soil and air. Likewise, with each new invention, a host of new problems can occur without adequate scientific inquiry. Asbestos was a great insulator, and we placed it everywhere: factories, hospitals, schools, housing. Science did that. But scientific investigation also revealed hazards of asbestos as early as the 1880s. Official policy kept restrictions from being implemented for nearly 80 years.

Life on earth arose over billions of years through modifications, improvements, testing, winnowing losers, recovering from disasters, and building upon redundancy in our evolutionary heritage. Humans are merely integral to this global animal we live upon: earth. Ignorance and disrespect of the planet’s health and well-being doom science to fail, perhaps injure, or destroy all life. Concurrently, we do not have complete ecosystem knowledge of sustainability and how to wisely guide our technologies toward a carbon neutral, carbon negative existence. Only our compassionate creativity, imagination, and experimentation will afford any sort of future for all life on this planet.

The Iroquois’ "seven generation" adage ensures that any decision today will do no harm for seven generations to come. Incumbent upon we citizen scientists is to assign human beings the primary task to live worthy lives so as to preserve the integrity of a healthy, beautiful, blossoming planet.