Science and Society: A Few Thoughts…

Each of the videos presented different junctions between society and science. For example, the three different talks about societal privileges prescribed by anatomy, parasitic manipulation, and kinky insects all shed light on how societal norms and fears clash with the laws in nature surrounding sex, sex roles, and individual autonomy. Science highlights how human society diverges from nature, especially in the talk discussing how vast human evolution may be in a 100 years. An ethical debate arises from this talk: the speaker, Juan Enriquez, claims that it’s unethical to not develop the human body for extra-planetary exploration because we should prevent ourselves from going extinct with the earth, and we should colonize other planets. My discomfort with his ideas is that his view of the earth and human bodies is one that makes them seem disposable. The idea that once we’ve used up the earth, we can fly away it and let it die is one that seems to devalue it to an insignificant rock. The other idea that he proposed where we could contain and insert people’s consciousness into different and subsequent bodies or vessels for long-term space travel presents a man-made immortality that devalues human existence. If we would live forever, then what will it mean to be alive? And value would the human body have? (Plus, it is very reminiscent of the thriller Get Out, which is freaky enough). His views echo the common sentiment in human society, which is we need to prolong ourselves, no matter what the costs.  He’s not the only one with this view, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad one– we should want to live, we should want to live quality lives, and we should make necessary advancements to do so. But when society prioritizes our own advancement over the survival and respect for the natural world, it makes me wonder whether we are an innovative and imaginative species or a wasteful, scared, and selfish one.

Anyway, we rely on scientific discovery to prolong our lives, which is why I believe that the junction where science and society meet most popularly is in health and medicine. Health and medicine is probably one of the main reasons why humans dominate the planet–we defy microscopic killers, we effectively heal from injuries, we defy the dangers of childbirth, we eradicate once-fatal diseases through vaccinations all thanks to advancements in this field. However this junction is a tricky one, because while science stampedes here, its still held back by society. As seen in the Rx for Survival episode, medicinal intervention and care is inaccessible to certain groups of people due to lack of resources. Even in affluent nations, wealth disparity renders many having to choose between medicine and their groceries. Speaking of medicine, my sister, who is currently in a Global health and Indigenous medicine class, shared with me how cures to certain illnesses are not researched well because cures are less profitable for a pharmacy than maintenance drugs that keep the symptoms of one at bay. This is an example of how societal aspects like economy can hold the reins on science, and even have the power to dictate lives. Now I get that medicine is a business, and I get that science should be regulated so that it doesn’t go too far and out of control, but the possibility that certain research is being funded based on money is a bit disheartening. Ellen Jorgensen suggested in her talk about CRISPR that we, the general public have a responsibility to CRISPR because our taxes fund the scientists who develop it. Society supports scientific advancements, and as long as we care about prolonging ourselves, I think we should demand for discoveries to be made, ones that eradicate disease, not ones that babysit them.

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