In Praise of Science and Technology by Carl Sagan

1776 Words8 Pages
In the middle of the nineteenth century, the largely self-educated British physicist Michael Faraday was visited by his monarch, Queen Victoria. Among Faraday's many celebrated discoveries, some of obvious and immediate practical benefit, were more arcane findings in electricity and magnetism, then little more than laboratory curiosities. In the traditional dialogue between heads of state and heads of laboratories, the Queen asked Faraday of what use such studies were, to which he is said to have replied, "Madam, of what use is a baby?" Faraday had an idea that there might someday be something practical in electricity and magnetism. In the same period the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell set down four mathematical equations, based…show more content…
The establishment of such research and environmental assessment organizations will require substantial political courage if they are to be effective at all. Technological societies have a tightly knit industrial ecology, an interwoven network of economic assumptions. It is very difficult to challenge one thread in the network without causing tremors in all. Any judgment that a technological development will have adverse human consequences implies a loss of profit for someone. The DuPont Company, the principal manufacturers of halocarbon propellants, for example, took the curious position in public debates that all conclusions about halocarbons destroying the ozonosphere were "theoretical." They seemed to be implying that they would be prepared to stop halocarbon manufacture only after the conclusions were tested experimentally-that is, when the ozonosphere was destroyed. There are some problems where inferential evidence is all that we will have; where once the catastrophe arrives it is too late to deal with it. Similarly, the Department of Energy can be effective only if it can maintain a distance from vested commercial interests, if it is free to pursue new options even if such options imply loss of profits for selected industries. The same is clearly true in pharmaceutical research, in the pursuit of alternatives to the

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