Striking a Balance Between Science and Society

All scientific research is done in the hopes of serving the human population through either increased knowledge or tangible health services. Although the fundamental principles of science are often studied in isolated, controlled experiments, they cannot be successfully implemented into the world without taking into account the multitude of variables that exist in society. Scientists must be able to recognize the adaptations that must be made to ensure that specific communities can benefit from scientific advancements.

The largest and most widespread example of science interacting with different societies is in the realm of public health, because developing countries cannot use the same public health solutions as more advanced countries that have access to basic infrastructure. Rural communities in the African subcontinent are simply too far from hospitals and cannot receive treatment in time. The most common solution to this dilemma has been to bring the medical services directly to the communities in need. In order to do so, world health organizations such as Riders for Health have had to reengineer 21st century technology to meet the needs of the communities they are trying to serve. The motorcycle ambulances that they have been able to produce are cost-effective, practical for the geographic terrain, and easy to use.

The most important of public health solutions is sustainability. In order for these solutions to be effective in the long-run, they must be sustainable by the local community. For example, the Riders for Health organization works to train local community members on how to use the motorcycle ambulances and how to deliver basic medical treatment. By doing so, they are not only ensuring that the people will receive the medical attention they need, but they are also empowering communities to mobilize and be innovative in designing solutions that best fit the needs of their community.

Education and proper training is especially important when weighing the ethical validity of certain biotechnological advancements. Prosthetics, although once used for repair and functional replacements, are now being considered as a proactive tool for evolution. The main argument for human modifications is that it is our duty to diversify the human specifies and ensure its survival. However, we’ve learned in class that evolution is never perfect and that it only modifies expressed phenotypes. Proactively modifying humans in the hopes of outsmarting evolution is extremely irresponsible — humans are not entitled to survival. Biotechnology also has many side effects that haven’t been fully researched yet. For example, using CRISPR to treat leukemia patients is risky because it requires infecting patients with a virus. The long-term effects of having the virus in the body are unknown, and CRISPR has been known to have many off-target effects that could endanger the patient even further.

Despite the many questions that must be addressed when implementing scientific solutions in society, it is important to remember that these advancements are ultimately meant to help the human race. Public health solutions, prosthetics, and genetic modifications through CRISPR have the potential to solve many major health crises in the near future. However, it is important to find a balance between scientific advancements and ethics in order to implement solutions that are socially responsible. Striking this balance will require scientists to collaborate across disciplines with educators, engineers, economists, and government officials. This collaboration is the ultimate key to ensuring our survival.

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