Science, Society, and Controversy

As time goes on, humanity is able to achieve much grander fetes than what our predecessors could even think of. One hundred years ago, no one could predict the Internet. Two hundred years ago, no one could predict creating vaccines that can totally help eliminate certain diseases. The list goes on. However, with every new invention and discovery, there is always a lot of controversy– “Should we put a man on the moon?” “Is animal testing ethical/necessary?” “Is the Earth not the center of the solar system?”– that is generally resolved when enough of society agrees whether or not one thing is right or wrong through general knowledge of the topic at hand.

Despite all of the controversies, science and society constantly overlap. After all, we would not be where we are today if we did not explore and discover. Sometimes, we make discoveries that we would probably not want to know about: in Ed Yong’s TED talk, we learned about how parasites can create real life zombies. Yong’s talk ended with a haunting realization: could what we do be affected by a small parasite with its own agenda? Although Yong’s TED talk is not the most controversial scientific discovery, it still describes a terrifying realization that most people would prefer not to think about. However, despite sounding so horrible, knowing about these parasites may be helpful. Studying the toxo parasite may help us learn more about human behavior as this parasite is found in 1/3 of the human population.

A more controversial topic is found in CRISPR. Ellen Jorgensen’s TED talk explains ethical issues behind using CRISPR, which sounds pretty exciting but may be more harmful than most people think. We do not know the long term effects of what our technology can currently do. It is hard to predict what nature will do (we cannot predict what new species will arise in the next hundred years), it is even harder to predict what our new technology can do. As Jorgensen stated, we do not know the long term effects of eliminating mosquitos or editing a baby’s genome (although, there is currently a question of whether or not CRISPR can cause unwanted mutations).

Although discovering more always brings up new and interesting topics, the intersection of science and society generally results in controversy as people get excited about new things but do not consider what may happen past that. As Jorgensen said, it may be better to educate people about the new technology. Louie Schwartzberg’s TED talk showed the beauty of pollinators and talked about the potential catastrophes if they were to disappear, again reminding the audience that all of our actions have consequences. Understanding science is useful to control the Earth, but we have to consider what may happen out of this. Nonetheless, we have made many positive contributions that helped move the Earth forward but, as Jorgensen said, we should deeply think about what we read in newspapers instead of just outright believing that something is “easy” or “cheap.” On the other side, another big problem that stops science and society from intersecting is possible controversies, which again can be solved through people actually understanding the topic of debate.

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