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This House believes science is a threat to humanity
This House believes science is a threat to humanity
Science is the accumulation of knowledge in a systematic method to create general truths on the operation of the universe, most commonly referring to “the physical world and its phenomena, the nature, constitution, and forces of matter, the qualities and functions of living tissues.” (Webster’s)1 In this debate it can be understood to be the development and utilisation of new technology and the expansion of human knowledge in the modern era, though it should be noted that not all technological advances are from rigorous scientific analysis (such as the industrial revolution) and science has only significantly influenced technology in the last two centuries.2 What it means to be human is itself another debate, but here it can be understood to be both the collective entity of the human race and the defining features of humans which make them distinguishable from other beings.
Advancements in science have occurred for thousands of years as far back as the Ancient Greeks (who many believe invented scientific principles),3and their effects are becoming ever more pronounced. Production has shifted to mechanized factories and even killing in warfare is being replaced in parts with unmanned drones. The boundaries of medicine are being expanded with possibilities of cloning and stem cell research. Science has allowed acts that would otherwise be impossible for humans to consider undertaking. It has created previously unknown abilities to heal the sick or destroy all of humanity with Weapons of Mass Destruction.
This debate questions whether or not being able to undertake those acts is a benefit, and whether science does more to improve lives or harm them. Whilst this debate is on the principle in question, a proposition could practically propose that society hold public debates about the implications of issues such as genetic engineering, with possible moratoriums following.
|Points For||Points Against|
|New communications have dissolved traditional families and led to the creation of harmful new relationships.||Lives can be more fulfilling|
|The manipulation of life is Playing God.||Science is a set of tools to improve humanity; like anything it should be used with caution.|
|Science has created new means for the state to control the lives of its citizens.||Science allows humans to collaborate more effectively|
|Science enables much greater destruction||Science saves and improves lives|
|Science leads to the damaging of the environment|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
New communications have dissolved traditional families and led to the creation of harmful new relationships.
New technologies have broken down traditional social relationships which provide stability and are important for psychological health. Many individuals are increasingly becoming self-absorbed in videogames and autonomous lives on the internet without making lasting connections with people face-to-face 1.Technology is not necessary for a fulfilling life, as the Amish show by avoiding technology which damages the community and harms social relations. 2Improve this
Traditional social relationships are not necessarily good things. Often, such as with the family, they were arbitrary based on the location that someone lived or how they grew up. The internet allows people to form relationships which they can choose to fit their personalities and preferences. Thus, technology is not inherently harmful to socialisation. The Amish do not reject technology per se, they just regulate what they use in order to ensure a healthy society. It is just their preferences differ from “mainstream” society.Improve this
The manipulation of life is Playing God.
Science has moved into new areas which violate the boundaries of morality. Research into cloning of persons and animals is taking place, as well as work on genetic manipulation.1 Such work is reckless and involves taking the position of God as an entity which decides what forms of life to create. Genetic testing involves the abuse of animals, which are used merely as tools in studies to increase knowledge.2
1. Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, 'Brochures of Patients: Human Cloning and Genetic Modification,'Improve this
The state should not preference individual belief systems above others and dictate morality accordingly, thus the idea of “God” is irrelevant given significant numbers of people do not believe in this as a basis of morality.
The problems raised by the proposition are an argument for proper regulation, as with any human action, rather than abolition since the boundaries raised are human creations themselves. Cloning a human perhaps should be banned, but not because there are fundamental ethical differences to IVF or existing twins but because there is a significant danger of physical abnormalities. 1 Suffering in research perhaps should be banned, but is also part of a cost-benefit analysis as to the benefits of such research (such as fighting disease). Such suffering is not gratuitous, but necessary in order to obtain vital medical advances.2
Science has created new means for the state to control the lives of its citizens.
Technology allows governments and those in authority to develop more powerful means to monitor citizens and control discussion. The totalitarian governments of the twentieth century (such as Stalinist Russia) utilised modern technology to monitor and indoctrinate populations.1 Even in democracies, monitoring of communications and centralisation of information makes it much more difficult for an individual to oppose actions they do not consider moral as any attempts to organise against it could mean arrest. 2It is no longer the case that citizens can chose to “opt-out” of control by a higher body by withdrawal to less controlled areas, such as the countryside.
1. Los, Maria. 'The Technologies of Total Domination.' Surveillance and Society. 2 (1): 15-38. 2004.2 New York Time, 'Surveillance of Citizens by Government,'Improve this
The proposition has not considered that technology can also empower individuals. Modern communications allow citizens to organise together to combat centralised control. The use of social networking for the modern movement of “flashmobs” and the 2011 riots in the United Kingdom illustrate this.1 The internet allows citizens’ access to vast amounts of data previously only available to powerful and connected, allowing more informed decision making.Improve this
Science enables much greater destruction
Advances in technology have increased the destructive capacity of conflict by enabling killing to occur much more rapidly, as can be seen by the destruction of the First and Second World Wars with their unprecedented number of deaths.1More “advanced” societies, or rather those with more destructive technology have been able to subjugate and oppress other societies with different value structures, such as Native Americans, Aborigines and all other colonised peoples.2 The development of Weapons of Mass Destruction has raised the threat of total global destruction.3 Science has produced the means for more suffering in an almost infinite capacity, which surely outweighs the benefits towards healing the sick.Improve this
The proposition ignores the capacity of science to protect humanity, by allowing it to bypass natural phenomena and survive. The ability of humans to colonise other worlds in the future could be a useful means to avoid a natural disaster (such as the impact of meteors on earth).
Humans have also reacted to this increase in destructive capacities by working to reduce them. The use of Mutually Assured Destruction (where both sides knew that the other could retaliate sufficiently that both would die in any conflict) prevented the escalation of the Cold War between the USA and USSR. 1 Modern global politics recognises the risk of WMDs and seeks to address this. Humans are destructive, rather than the tools they use. The Rwandan genocide was perpetrated mostly with simple machetes, not the advanced weapons the proposition points to 2.Improve this
Science leads to the damaging of the environment
The pursuit of industrialisation and the use of modern technology require the generating of enormous amounts of energy. Such production creates severe damage to the environment via pollution 1. Renewable energy is currently expensive and difficult to reliably produce2. Humanity is treating itself as more important than the billions of other life-forms on earth who have rights themselves. The damage to the environment also threatens to leave the earth uninhabitable, which would also harm humanity’s interests. 3Improve this
Science responds to the desires of humans to research new areas. It is being used to address pollution and create sustainable fuel to ensure the survival of the planet. Moreover, the effect of development on animals should not be overstated. It is true that many animals have suffered, and whilst wanton cruelty is unacceptable, a cost-benefit analysis should be conducted. Animals have rights and preferences, but these are surely weaker than humans given their reduced capabilities 1. Development has raised millions of humans out of poverty and improved their lives. 2 Scientists are the very group of individuals at the forefront of preventing global warming, so to blame them for the misuse of their developments is ridiculous.3Improve this
Lives can be more fulfilling
Science is the discovery and use of knowledge. It is how we became the dominant species on earth, by using tools and techniques to improve our living standards and take control of our environment. 1Technological advances have enabled humans to become removed from the basic toil needed to survive and to consider other pursuits, so for example we no longer work all day every day as we are more productive so allowing holidays. They are now able to pursue their desires or consider great questions.
The proposition does not suggest living as a hunter-gatherer from the prehistoric era. It does suggest a simply way of life not obsessed with scientific development and material improvement. Humans may avoid labour intensive means to survive, but most are still engaged in work in order to provide except that it is now in an office. Furthermore, it is not clear that we are any happier in this new environment than during a simpler existence.1
Science is a set of tools to improve humanity; like anything it should be used with caution.
Science is not a threat to mankind, its misuse by selfish or misguided humans is the issue. Knowledge of the functioning of the universe is ethically neutral. The knowledge of science is a tool to improve the well-being of humanity and increase life choices. Like any tool it can be misused, it should be regulated and used carefully, there must be checks from government to make sure that science does not go further and faster than is in the interests of the state or than its people want. It is only through regulation, checks and inspections that we can make sure that science is used for good rather than ill and ensure that the research is performed in a moral way. But possible misuse is not a reason to outright ban such an important concept. Knowledge is morally neutral in that it has no preferences itself. 1
Humans, whether scientists or laymen, lack sufficient wisdom or information to use the knowledge they do have to the best possible benefit. Therefore regulation is insufficient since it is not clear what that regulation should be necessarily. Given the overwhelming destructive potential of humanity’s misuse of science, its existence can be claimed to be a significant threat which grows over time. Science has been misused in the past, but the risk of nuclear weaponry is now so great that even a small mistake could wipe us out 1.Improve this
Science allows humans to collaborate more effectively
Science has created modern communication systems which allow individuals to communicate across the globe with friends and relatives. Communications also allow humanity to deal with wider problems collectively where this was previously impossible. One example is collective action to deal with natural disasters such as flooding or tsunamis, aid is flown in from around the world and millions donate the necessary funds after seeing the suffering on their TV screens. It is also more difficult for local rulers to oppress their populations without facing outside pressure to reform or stop.1Improve this
Communication over vast distances is only useful now that humanity has begun to move around more. Less industrialised communities tend to have relatives and loved ones within close proximity for practical reasons. Many natural disasters are precipitated by the degradation of the environment due to development or are made worse because overpopulation has caused migration to unsuitable areas. Once again, technology is attempting to solve problems it has created.Improve this
Science saves and improves lives
Science has allowed much greater medical care for the sick and disabled in society. Lifespans have increased and previously terrible diseases can be dealt with (such as cholera).1 Increased crop yields from intensive farming are providing enough food for the world (even if it is not being properly distributed).2Science has also enabled those who were born with disabilities to live better lives, as society is able to adapt and accommodate them.Improve this
Many of these “solutions,” are to problems that technology has created. Many modern diseases are products of urbanised environments and the growth of industry, such as cholera. Population growth has been facilitated by technology, being raised from lower natural levels. Pollution and other poisons have increased birth-defects across the globe, and many of those who have disabilities from accidents would not have survived in previous ages. The comparatively small benefits do not outweigh the destructive capabilities of modern technology. This is especially prominent with the destruction of animal lives and environments due to a rising human population.Improve this
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