Mark Antony Rossi MarkAntonyRossi@aol.com
When we think of advanced technology we usually reflect upon its positive contributions to ordinary people. Life-saving heart and kidney transplantations are now as routine as an oil change. Major medical discoveries continue to increase the quantity and quality of human existence. But what happens when science and technology become more than useful tools to better our lives? What are the consequences when science and technology are studied and applied as articles of religious faith? And how can we be safe from scientific good intentions gone wrong if the guiding principles and procedures established are absent of ethical consideration? These are but a few of the questions I pose in this series of articles written seek to examine the darker side of advanced technology.
Post Cold War America occupies a place demanding extremist statements or action in order to gain public attention. The ugly truth of this fact directly stems from the inward focus most feel is well deserved after 50 years of fretting about communist world domination. Our celebrity-driven, status-conscious attitudes are partly due to the average person's secret longing for a life free of responsibility. After recognizing this cultural and psychological backdrop it is quite easy to understand why so few of us are willing to publicly question authority figures on issues beyond taxes and crime The thrust of our overwhelming desire to keep more hard-earned money and live without fear is neither ignoble nor unreasonable, but it does limit our vision to a larger picture emerging beneath upturned noses. We have fast become a people memorizing rights and forgetting responsibilities. This collective character defect is destined to leave us vulnerable to the ethical and moral challenges soon to face the average citizen.
The field of science, as numerous other professions, has been seduced by the wiles and wealth of commercial interests. An interview or commentary by a scientist on television today virtually assures said scientist has a financial stake in whatever theory, agenda, product, procedure or pronouncement made. The days of old when scientists laboured for cures for the sake of humanity are mostly historical footnotes. In the world of today great deal of what a scientist writes, thinks and does must be scrutinized to the point of smearing the quality few that remain. It is part of the bad apple effect. A scientific paper written today cannot be taken as pure decent science if one considers the pressures of tenure, funding, publicity, politics and peer review.
Where does this practice leave the overworked housewife wondering when someone is going to create something to ease the suffering of her bedridden elderly mother? It leaves her in the same terrible spot she found herself in before she heard about a brilliant new procedure that helps one thing and hurts about six others. It leaves her angry and heart-broken after she discovers the bulk of medical scientists work for pharmaceutical giants who expect to make billions of dollars from their scientific teams who seem to only target ailments with the most victims (i.e. most potential profits.). It leaves her cynical when she suspects deep down inside there is simply more money in the treatment of disease than the cure. It leaves her faithless in another field with a supposed code of ethics continues to ignore people in order to make profits to fund their science.
If you precisely follow this twisted logic, the average scientist has the potential to do great harm to his or her fellow humans in exchange for the privilege to practice science. Corporations in their quest to satisfy stockholders should be likened to a type of HMO for scientists. I say this because the rationalizations scientists use when slightly questioned by the media are nearly identical to doctors complaints of HMO's: "It's all their fault. I have nothing to do with these decisions." HMO's should be condemned for their deployable practices, but you are not likely to hear much about the other side of the coin. The coin that wears the face of doctors ordering expensive tests to run up insurance tabs or to cover their legal behinds. The coin that depicts doctors writing brand prescriptions by the billions because pharmaceutical salesmen provide cases of samples and other professional goodies. The same goes for scientists who often stand on a code of ethics they signed ten minutes after discovering their student loans are more persistent than the pull of gravity. Can a scientist operating under these conditions be true to his code (the one that supposedly protects us) and meet his/her loan obligations, debts, insurance, association fees, mortgage, car payments and kid's tuition?
If these folks were average folks, like you or I, only a fool would believe they have the right to question their motivations, intentions or business arrangements. But these are not average folks but major players in the future of our planet. Their inventions will reshape the landscape of our lives in ways the inventors had not intended or dreamt. You will learn through this series of the terrible consequences that await mankind due to lack of ethical consideration. New methods to murder, maim and manipulate the masses are but a fraction of the new realities we will endure without an honest system of oversight. Science and technology, once thought immune to evil machinations, will serve directly and indirectly, political and corporate designs of profit and control. The minute compromises of the modern-day scientist are bound to graduate to years of social restructure and decades of unique suffering.
The 20th century, a century of genocide and bloody war, has given birth to a 21st century promising a bloodier peace. This new century of distraction and dulled expectation is fertile ground for the battle of human biology to be waged. A battle unlike any other battle in recorded history. For in this battle the generals do not know they are generals, the victims do not know they are victims, and the war is not a sound bite in the mouth of a human teleprompter. It is hidden in the hearts of ethical infants. It is invisible to the eyes of the distracted. It is only known to the few who correctly see the nature of power shift from military to technology and politics to science. And the few who witness philosophy devolve from the telescope that veers into mystery to the microscope called God Almighty. The minister's tunic and the soldier's uniform make way for a third signature era: the lab coat. The new symbol of power wearing the same face of certitude.
"When science becomes God, man is just another beast in the jungle."
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