Man, powered by his imagination and inquisitive character, has wondered he mechanisms of Nature since time infinite. This quest for the truth, the ways in which his surrounding works, has led to many a scientific discoveries and innovations. Since the art of making fire and creating handcrafted tools, our civilization has come a long way. Science and Technology are making advances at an amazing rate. From telephones to the Internet, calculators to computers, cars to rockets and satellites, we are submerged in a sea of discoveries and inventions made possible by Science.
Fields like Medicine and communications have made inroads into our cultures and thus our lifestyles. So vast is the impact of Science in our lives, that people fear the unthinkable. It leads them to accusations such as Science tries to play God, as in the case of cloning. Repeatedly, it is also heard that we are so dependent on Science and Technology that we who create it are nothing but slaves to it. However I feel that it would not be wrong to term Science as a friend of Humanity.
This faithful friend has come through many a times. We have reaped innumerable benefits out of this friendship. Therefore in the question of whether any limits should be placed on scientific developments, we have to assess whether these benefits and also the cons. What better field of science then, to platform our discussion than the field of medicine and forensics, which has stirred much controversy? Medicine has helped humankind in uncountable ways. People have started taking charge of their own health and life.
Therefore, the life expectancy of a person living in the nineties is about twenty years more on an average from that which people enjoyed at the start of the last century. By the virtue of medicine, not only does a person live longer but also lives his life to the fullest in the best of health. Deadly diseases such as small pox, plague and polio have caused a large number of epidemics resulting in major loss of life. The Plague Epidemic of London in the 1600s had wiped out nearly a fifth of its population.
Researches and scientific effort led many scientists to find cures or preventive vaccinations for these life-threatening diseases. Today these diseases have been eradicated from the face of the earth. Thanks to our Science, millions of lives have been saved from the clutches of these evils. The field of medicine today is well equipped to cope with the health problems faced by man. Science behind Medicine has led to awareness and preventive education among the public.
Antibiotics and other medicines sometimes help us fight life-threatening conditions. In short, the patients are often handed a second chance to live. We are no longer at the complete mercy of nature. The right to choose and to take control of ones life has been passed down to the individual. As pointed out by Willard Gaylin in his essay, Harvesting the Dead, science has essentially changed the definition of death. Now although a person could be declared dead, he could have willed his usefulness beyond his mortality.
Medical technology has reached a point where organs can be transplanted from one individual to another. However many see red in such an act as desecration of a human body. But by donating his or her organs, the person would not only have saved someones life, he would have also found a meaning not only in his lifetime but also in his death. Medicine has often been cited as a means to over-population. Sure, it helps us live a little longer but it also provides us with birth control techniques such as contraceptives and sterility operations to help prevent it.
Speaking along this line, instead of blaming science for our troubles, would it not be right to blame those who do not heed the advice provided by Science and make use of the technology it has provided to curb over-population? Issues such as euthanasia and abortion have always been topics of debate in the field of medicine. Many equate these to murder and protest against its use. Even before the present day techniques were developed, people already had in place procedures that essentially had similar goals to what is now termed as euthanasia.
Science has just provided us with simpler ways that are not tough on the patients themselves. This in my opinion is no justification but the fact. Further man controls the use of any technology. It is a question of ethics of the person resorting to such means. If there is enough reason and rationale behind it, then it can be judged as an act of mercy. On the other hand, an abuse of this technology is nothing but a murder. Even if it results in a few cases of abuse of this science, we cannot possibly discount it as evil because it is its use that is bad.
There has been a lot of discussion and hype surrounding the recently unveiled Human Genome Project. As one of the researchers puts it, “It has opened a library of life which might take at least a century to explore”. With such a huge database at our command, there is no telling where scientific developments might lead us next. The mission of the Genome Project is to identify the thousands of genes found in man, determine their scientific sequences, interpret the data to find solutions to some of the unsolved questions on human life.
Though finding facts about our bodies is its main emphasis, it would also look into the possible ethical and legal consequences of unveiling such data to humankind. The project has been speculated to stop and even reverse the aging process. In short, it might be possible to bridge the gap between life and death. This bold claim has caused an uproar amongst people, they say that by acting in such a manner, we humans are trying to play the role of God. However, according to Capra of Tao of Physics, Science is trying to find the basic stuff that constitutes the reality.
This research has shed enormous amount of light on life. Though only a piece of the great jigsaw puzzle of life, it leads us one step closer to the whole picture. Understanding the data helps us find the meaning of life and who we really are. It helps us figure out why we act and behave in a manner that we commonly do. Thus with a better understanding of our bodies, we progress towards conditions which our bodies perhaps want. If this is so, then it can only result in better living standards. What would be that God, who does not yearn for the prosperity of His people?
The Genome Project supplies us with valuable information, which tend to further the good done by Medicine. The knowledge obtained about our DNA could help us to diagnose, treat and someday prevent the thousands of disorders and illnesses that affect us. Learning our genetic codes could help us determine the modes of attacks used by pathogens and viruses and thus wipe out deadly diseases such as malaria from humanity. Another possible use of this vast information can be marked out in Genetic Screening of pregnant mothers and their fetuses.
Some people see red in this citing discrimination of the less fortunate individuals where though genetically they are at a risk for some disease which they do not even show symptoms of. However, every coin has two sides to it. If the prediction turns out to be right, is it right to put that unborn child through a lifelong agony of pain and suffering, always depending on others to fend for them? The democracy that we live in guarantees its citizens with the freedom to choose.
After such genetic screening, all that we would be doing is handing the parents of the unborn child the right to choose life or abortion of their child. After all, they are going to care after him or her for the rest of their lives. The creation of Dolly, the sheep famed for being the first ever clone, has since led to the opening of a Pandoras box. The possibility of cloning human beings is now very much a reality. Cloning involves many religious, moral and ethical issues that need to be addressed. Is it unnatural?
Are we playing God? compelling arguments state that cloning of both human and non-human species results in harmful physical and psychological effects on both groups : cloning of human beings would result in severe psychological effects in the cloned child, and that the cloning of non-human species subjects them to unethical or moral treatment for human needs. However, cloning is good news for infertile couples hoping for a child of their own, or it can be used to clone animals on the brink of extinction to ensure its survival.
If cloning were allowed to be further developed, scientists would be able to clone body organs which are an exact replica of an individual body organ. This would prove to be very beneficial to a person who may have lost a body organ. For a lot of time, especially the period of the First World War, there had been talks about Eugenesis (Happy Genetics). It is simply a breeding program for humans with certain desirable characteristics for the benefit of humans. In recent times there has been much talk about designer babies, whereby the genetic make up of the future child is carefully selected and planned.
Thus these babies could possess everything a potential parent might want in a child: good looks, intelligence, perfect eyesight, atheletic abilities, lower risk of illnesses etc, right down to the little details like blond hair and blue eyes. While this pursuit for perfection could benefit society with smarter people, or less health problems, the future might be bleak for the children who were conceived naturally, they might even harbour feelings of resentment against parents who could, but didnt give them the best.
In my opinion, science, like most things have the good and the bad side to it. Douglas Shrader tries to explain through the Utilitarianism Principle that if an act produces more good than harms for a society, it can be reasoned out as a right thing to do for the society as a whole. Similarly, if we take a balance and weigh the benefits and costs of scientific developments, we would find that the case is not even close. The benefits such scientific discoveries could and have endowed on humanity far outweigh the costs .
The ethical and moral implications associated with it make it difficult to draw the line of limit. However, looking more closely at our world, we find ethics in most of the disciplines including religion. People can take advantage of any field if they wish to, but our social and political ties prevent most of us from acting in manners considered as taboos. Some people who yet work in ways to disrupt the social structure are often times rejected. Further there are laws in place to guarantee that no ones right to freedom of choice is infringed upon.