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推荐阅读:Is Science Dangerous?

s Science Dangerous?

by Prof. Lewis Wolpert

Dept. of Anatomy and Developmental Biology

University College London, Gower Street

London WC1E 6BT


人类社会需要保护以抵挡科学发展带来的危险吗?当然不需要,只要科学家及其雇主们致力于公开他们所知道的一切详情。

知识是危险的这一观念在我们的文化中根深蒂固。圣经中的亚当和夏娃被禁食“智慧之树”上的果实,而弥尔顿《失乐园》中的蛇将此树称为“科学之母”。当亚当试图向天使长拉斐尔询问有关宇宙本质的问题时,拉斐尔建议他最好“知之甚少”。事实上,西方文献中有大量关于科学家扰乱自然界,而后导致灾难后果的记载。科学家被描绘成一群冷酷和无视伦理道德的人。

那么科学真地是危险的吗?科学家需要肩负起特定的社会责任吗?我们必须认识到,可靠的科学知识并不负载道德或伦理的价值。科学只告诉我们世界为何等模样:我们人类不处于宇宙的中心这一事实本身无好坏之分;基因会影响我们的智力和行为这一可能性亦无优劣之别。


The idea that scientific knowledge is dangerous is deeply embedded in

Western culture. Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the Tree of

Knowledge, and in “Milton's Paradise Lost” the serpent addresses the

Tree as the 'Mother of Science'. Indeed the whole of Western literature

has not been kind to scientists and is filled with images of scientists

meddling with nature with disastrous results. Just consider Shelley's

Frankenstein, Goethe's Faust, and Huxley's Brave New World. One will

search with very little success for a novel in which scientists come out

well - the persistent image is that of scientists as a soulless group,

unconcerned with ethical issues. And where is there a movie sympathetic

to science? Scientists are perceived as middle-aged, emotionally

impaired, and dangerous males.


Technology is not science

Yet, reliable scientific knowledge is value-free and has no moral or

ethical value. Science tells us how the world is. That we are not at the

centre of the universe is neither good nor bad, nor is the possibility that

genes can influence our intelligence or our behaviour. Dangers and

ethical issues only arise when science is applied as technology. However

ethical issues can arise in actually doing the scientific research, such as

doing experiments on humans or animals, as well as issues related to

safety.


The problem is the conflation of science and technology. The distinction

between science and technology, between knowledge and understanding

on the one hand, and the application of that knowledge to making

something, or using it in some practical way, is fundamental. Science

produces ideas about how the world works, whereas the ideas in

technology result in usable objects. Technology is much older than

anything one could regard as science and unaided by any science,

technology gave rise to the crafts of early humans, like agriculture and

metalworking. Science made virtually no contribution to technology until

the 19th century. And even the great triumphs of engineering like the

steam engine and Renaissance cathedrals were built without virtually any

impact of science. It was imaginative trial and error. It is technology that

carries with it ethical issues, from motorcars to polluting the environment,

and the weapons of war.


But are scientists for the applications of science? In a recent issue of the

journal Science the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Sir Joseph Rotblat,

proposes a Hippocratic oath for scientists. He is strongly opposed to the

idea that science is neutral and that scientists are not to be blamed for its

misapplication. Therefore he proposes an oath, or pledge, initiated by the

Pugwash Group in the United States. I promise to work for a better

world, where science and technology are used in socially responsible

ways. I will not use my education for any purpose intended to harm

human beings or the environment. Throughout my career, I will consider

the ethical implications of my work before I take action. While the

demands placed upon me might be great, I sign this declaration because I

recognise that individual responsibility is the first step on the path to

peace.


These are indeed noble aims to which all citizens should wish to

subscribe, but it does present some severe difficulties in relation to

science. Rotblat does not want to distinguish between scientific

knowledge and its applications, but the very nature of science is that it is

not possible to predict what will be discovered or how these discoveries

could be applied. Cloning provides a nice example. The original studies

related to cloning were largely the work of biologists in the 1960s. They

were studying how frog embryos develop and wanted to find out if genes,

which are located in the cell nucleus, were lost or permanently turned off

as the embryo developed. It was incidental to the experiment that the frog

that developed was a clone of the animal from which the nucleus was

obtained. The history of science is filled with such examples.


The poet Paul Valery's remark that 'We enter the future backwards' is

very apposite in relation to the possible applications of science. Scientists

cannot easily predict the social and technological implications of their

current research. It was originally argued that radio waves would have no

practical applications and Lord Rutherford said that applications of

atomic energy was moonshine. There was again, no way that those

investigating the ability of certain bacteria to resist infection by viruses

would lead to the discovery of restriction enzymes, an indispensable tool

for cutting up DNA, the genetic material which is fundamental to genetic

engineering.

Social obligation of scientists

The social obligations that scientists have as distinct from those

responsibilities they share with all citizens, such as supporting a

democratic society and taking due care of the rights of others, comes

from them having access to specialised knowledge of how the world

works not being easily accessible to others. Their obligation is to both

make public any social implications of their work and its technological

applications, and to give some assessment of its reliability. In most areas

of science, it matters little to the public whether a particular theory is

right or wrong, but in some areas such as human and plant genetics, it

matters a great deal. Whatever new technology is introduced, it is not for

the scientists to make the moral or ethical decisions. They have neither

special rights nor skills in areas involving moral or ethical issues. There is

in fact, a grave danger in asking scientists to be more socially responsible

if that means that they have the right and power to make such decisions

on their own. Moreover, scientists rarely have power in relation to

applications of science; this rests on those with the money - industry and

government. The way scientific knowledge is used raises ethical issues

for everyone involved, not just scientists.


It is not easy to find examples of scientists as a group behaving

immorally or in a dangerous manner - BSE is not an example - but the

classic was the eugenics movement. The scientific assumptions behind

this proposal are crucial; the assumption is that most desirable and

undesirable human attributes are inherited. Not only was talent perceived

as being inherited, but so too were pauperism, insanity and any kind of

so-called feeblemindedness. They completely failed to give an

assessment of the reliability of their ideas. Quite to the contrary, and

even more blameworthy, their conclusions seem to have been driven by

what they saw as the desirable social implications. By contrast in relation

to the building of the atomic bomb, the Allied scientists behaved morally

and fulfilled their social obligations by informing their governments

about the implications of atomic theory. The decision to build the bomb

was taken by politicians, not scientists, and it was an enormous

engineering enterprise. Had they decided not to participate in building an

atomic weapon that could have led to losing the war. Should scientists on

their own ever be entitled to make such decisions?

Genetics and cloning

Mary Shelley would be both proud and shocked. Her creation of a

scientist creating and meddling with human life has become the most

potent symbol of modern science. But shocked because her brilliant

fantasy has become so distorted that even those who are normally quite

sensible lose all sense when the idea of cloning humans appears before

them. The image of Frankenstein has been turned by the media into

genetic pornography, whose real aim is to titillate, excite, and frighten.

The bio-moralists are triumphant with the aid of genetic pornography to

titillate and frighten, purveyed by the media.


Ironically, the real clone of sheep has seen the media blindly and

unthinkingly following each other - how embarrassed Dolly ought to be.

The moral masturbators have been out in force telling us of the horrors of

cloning. Jeremy Rifkin in the USA demanded a world wide ban and

suggests that it should carry a penalty on a par with rape, child abuse and

murder. Many others, national leaders included, have joined in that

chorus of horror. But what horrors? What ethical issues? In all the

righteous indignation, I have not found a single relevant new ethical issue

spelled out.


It seems distasteful, but the 'yuck' factor is however not a reliable basis

for making judgments. There may be no genetic relation between a

mother and a cloned child, but that is true of adoption and cases of IVF.

Identical twins, who are a clone are not uncommon, and this upsets no

one except the hard stressed parents. What fantasy is it that so upsets

people? Say that one could clone Richard Dawkins, who seems to quite

like the idea, how terrible would that be? While genes are very

important, so is the environment, and since his whole upbringing would

be completely different and he might even have a religious disposition -

clones might make very rebellious children. Indeed the feelings that a

cloned child might have about its individuality must be taken into

account. However, this is an issue common to several other types of

assisted reproduction such as surrogate mothers and anonymous sperm

donors. I am against cloning as it carries a high risk of abnormalities.

Those who propose to clone a human are medical technologists not

scientists.


The really important issue is how the child will be cared for. Given the

terrible things that humans are reported to do each other and even to

children, cloning should take a very low priority in our list of anxieties.

Or perhaps it is a way of displacing our real problems with unreal ones.

Having a child raises real ethical problems as it is parents who play God,

not scientists. Here lies a bitter irony. A parent's relation to a child is

infinitely more God-like than anything that scientists may discover.

Parents hold tremendous power over young children. They do not always

exercise it to the child's benefit.


In regard to therapeutic cloning for stem cells, for example, I find the

ethical discussions hard to follow. They are based on the false view that

the fertilised egg is a human being. Would one not rather accept a

thousand abortions and the destruction of all unwanted frozen embryos

than a single unwanted child who will be neglected or abused? I take the

same view in regard to severely crippling and painful genetic diseases.

On what ground should parents be allowed to have a severely disabled

child when it could be relatively easily prevented by prenatal diagnosis?

It is nothing to do with consumerism but the interests and rights of the

child.


It is not, as the bio-moralists claim, that scientific innovation has

outstripped our social and moral codes. Just the opposite is the case.

Their obsession with the life of the embryo has deflected our attention

away from the real issue, which is how the babies that are born are raised

and nurtured. The ills in our society have nothing to do with assisting or

preventing reproduction but are profoundly affected by how children are

treated. Children that are abused grow up to abuse others.

So what dangers does genetics and embryo research pose? Bioethics is a

growth industry but one should regard the field with caution as the

bioethicists have a vested interest in finding difficulties. Moreover, it is

hard to see what contribution they have made. Some of these common

fears are little more than science fiction at present, like cloning enormous

numbers of genetically identical individuals. Who would the mothers be,

and where would they go to school? In fact it is quite amusing to observe

the swing from moralists who deny that genes have an important effect on

behaviour to saying that a cloned individual's behaviour will be entirely

determined by the individual's genetic make-up. Gene therapy,

introducing genes to cure a genetic disease like cystic fibrosis carries

risks as does all new medical treatments. There may well be problems

with insurance and testing, but are these any different from those related

to someone suspected of having AIDS? Anxieties about designer babies

are at present premature as it is far too risky, and we may have, in the first

instance, to accept what Ronald Dworkin has called procreative

autonomy, a couple's right 'to control their own role in procreation unless

the state has a compelling reason for denying them that control'.


One must wonder why the bio-moralists do not devote their attention to

other technical advances like that convenient form of transport which

claims over fifty thousand killed or seriously injured each year. Could it

be that in this case they themselves would be inconvenienced?

Embryology and genetics, in striking contrast, have not harmed anyone.

Should the so-called ethical issues relating to the applications of genetics,

for example, lead to stopping research in this field? The individual

scientist cannot decide for a science like genetics is a collective activity

with no single individual controlling the process of discovery. I regard it

as ethically unacceptable and impractical to censor any aspect of trying to

understand the nature of our world.

Politicians and politics

John Carey, a professor of English in Oxford, in his introduction to the

Faber Book of Science writes: The real antithesis of science seems to be

not theology but politics. Whereas science is a sphere of knowledge and

understanding, politics is a sphere of opinion. He goes on to point out

that politics depends on rhetoric, opinion, and conflict. It also aims to

coerce people. Politics, I would add, is also about power and the ability to

influence other people's lives. Science, ultimately is about consensus as to

how the world works and if the history of science were rerun, its course

would be very different but the conclusions would be the same – water,

for example, would be two hydrogens combined with one oxygen and

DNA the genetic material, though the names would not be similar.

There are surveys that show some distrust of scientists particularly those

in government and industry. This probably relates to BSE and GM foods

and so one must ask how this in fact affects people's behaviour. I need to

be persuaded that many of those who have this claimed distrust would

refuse, if ill, to take a drug that had been made from a genetically

modified plant or would reject a tomato so modified that is was both

cheap and would help prevent heart disease. Who refuses insulin or

growth hormone because it is made in genetically modified bacteria? It is

easy to be negative about science if it does not affect your actions.

Cloning of a human raises no new ethical issues, and should be opposed

on the ground of the risk of the child developing abnormally. Therapeutic

cloning to make stem cells that could provide tissues to replace damaged

organs without the increased risk of immune rejection raises no such

problems. No politician has publicly pointed out or even understood that

the so-called ethical issues involved in therapeutic cloning are

indistinguishable from those that are involved in in vitro fertilisation,

IVF. One could even argue that IVF is less ethical than therapeutic

cloning. But no reasonable person could possibly want to ban IVF that

has helped so many infertile couples. Where are the politicians who will

stand up and say this?

Science and society

Genetically modified foods have raised extensive public concerns and

there seems no alternative but to rely on regulatory bodies to assess their

safety as they do with other foods, and similar considerations apply to the

release of genetically modified organisms. Genetic engineering requires

considerable scientific and technical knowledge and even more important

money, which scientists in general do not have. Indeed, for the public

sector, the applications of genetics and molecular biology can open up

difficult choices because such applications are expensive

New medical treatments, requiring complex technology, cannot be given

to all. There has to be some principle of rationing and this really does

pose serious moral and ethical dilemmas much more worthy of

consideration than the dangers posed by genetic engineering.

Are there areas of research that are so socially sensitive that research into

them should be avoided, even proscribed? One possible area is that of the

genetic basis of intelligence and particularly the possible link between

race and intelligence. Are there then, as the literary critic George Steiner

has argued, 'certain orders of truth which would infect the marrow of

politics and would poison beyond all cure the already tense relations

between social classes and these communities'? In short, are there doors

immediately in front of current research, which should be marked 'Too

dangerous to open'? I realise the dangers, but I cherish the openness of

scientific investigation too much to put up such a notice. I stand by the

distinction between knowledge of the world and how it is used. So I must

say 'No' to Steiner's question. Provided of course that scientists fulfil their

social obligations. The main reason is that the better understanding we

have of the world, the better chance we have of making a just society, the

better chance we have of improving living conditions. One should not

abandon the possibility of doing good by applying some scientific idea

because one can also use it to do bad. All techniques can be abused and

there is no knowledge or information that is not susceptible to

manipulation for evil purposes. I can do terrible damage to someone with

my glasses used as a weapon. Once one begins to censor the acquisition

of reliable scientific knowledge, one is on the most slippery of slippery

slopes.


To those who doubt whether the public or politicians are capable of

taking the correct decisions in relation to science and its applications, I

strongly commend the advice of Thomas Jefferson. 'I know no safe

depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people

themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise that

control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from

them, but to inform their direction.' But how does one ensure that the

public is involved in decision making? How can we ensure that

scientists, doctors, engineers, bio-ethicists and other experts, who must be

involved, do not appropriate decision making for themselves? How do we

ensure that scientists take on the social obligation of making the

implications of their work public? We have to rely on the many

institutions of a democratic society: parliament, a free and vigorous press,

affected groups, and the scientists themselves.


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