Is There a ‘Bad Science’?

Should we clone human beings? Should we research into immortality? Will that be a right thing to do?  Was inventing morphine a bad thing? What about invention of computers, television, internet, rockets, sleeping pills etc.? How about discovery of radioactivity? In fact, about any scientific discovery or invention.

For example, did the inventor of television ever think about the social impact it will have? Did he consider the time-wasting capability of this device? How about the guy who came up with the cigarettes and tobacco? Did he consider that he was inventing new ways for people to die? Can we argue in the hindsight: if it was a good idea to invent such a thing? Did the guy who invented computers consider the disruptive nature of this device in the job market? Did the inventers think about any ethical issues associated with their inventions and discoveries? Even more fundamental question is: if they should have considered the side effects of these inventions. Even if they did, could they possibly ‘uninvent’ or ‘un-discover’ something?

How about the new inventions and discoveries? Should we be thinking about their possible destructive power and the evil they will spread just like the atomic bomb and tobacco? Is it even possible not to invent stuff? Is it possible to not look into a possible discovery with its negative impact in mind? It might be possible for one particular scientist and engineer to do that but how about the whole world? Perhaps though legislation? If something is there to be invented or discovered, it is just the matter of time before it is revealed. But even if we could stop people from inventing certain technologies, should we stop them? Let us look at the history.

Almost all the inventions made by humans were made either based on pure curiosity or with good intentions in mind. Almost all of them have made our lives easy in some way. However, their destructive power cannot be ignored. Radioactivity and the nuclear bomb, rockets and missiles, sleeping pills and depression are all examples. However, one thing common in all of them is that they are good in good hands and pure evil in the wrong hands. It has nothing to do with the technology or science. We are all born with hands. It is entirely up to us to choose how we use them. The same hands can be used to help or to deliver a punch to someone. Just like the hands, almost all of the inventions made are not good or evil. Their final output completely depends on the purpose they are used for. Greed is the driver for most of the bad use of science. Greed for wealth lead to pharmaceutical companies making people drug addicts. Hunger for power lead to arms races across the globe. Control measures need, therefore, to be applied on greed and criminal use of science. Not on science itself.

The same can be argued for the inventions of postnormal times. Robotics and automation can be a force for good. It can help us improve our lives and make this world a happier, safer more peaceful place. But they can also lead to our downfall if their destructive power is unleashed and greed takes over. The job-killing capability of these technologies can be overcome by a fairer distribution of benefits from these technologies considering that the whole humanity has contributed to the realization of these technologies.

There is, apparently, no bad science. Only the wrong type of people. Keep inventing!

Naeem Minhas

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