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Friday, November 6, 1998 Published at 12:14 GMT


Talking Point


Is science moving too fast? Your reaction

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How can anyone assume that science is moving too fast. It is helping us to find cures for what was once incurable diseases. It also gives us a better understanding of how to care for our surroundings. It also just satisfies our curiosity about the world and the entire universe. Who cares if a human culture becomes a little bit less important. If that is a concern, it is possible to keep a balance in your life. For the past fifty-three years, I have managed to cope with the changing of science and technology and still I appreciate all it has done for me. I have kept the balance.
Suzanne, Australia

Science just expands, often at random, and in many directions, and one thing that history does tell us, is that trying to stop science is always doomed to failure, we as a species are curious, and someone somewhere will do the critical experiment, even if it is illegal. At the end of the day we need some rational guidelines that we can all agree on for now, but that we can periodically review.
Adam Trickett, USA

I think science is moving at a moderate speed, and in fact, needs to achieve a lot more. We are at the tip of the iceberg, and this is no time to begin doubting our achievements and discoveries. There is the need to consider ethics and morals, but besides that, I do not think questions such as the superiority of nature over science are warranted.
Santosh Krishnan, USA

No, I don't think Science is moving fast enough. I'll be satisfied with science when it allows humankind to build it's own heaven digitally inside a computer and upload everyone's personalities to it. Engineer your own heaven.
Chris Hind, USA

Just as science allowed the Europeans to arrive in America, science will allow us to perhaps occupy other planets. The health advancements may be necessary in order for us to do that.
Loran D. Doane, U.S.A

It is ethics that are moving too slowly. We do not invest nearly as much effort in thinking about the social and moral implications of scientific advances as in producing them. With the growing commercialisation of science, the profit motive will it seems increasingly drive the way science advances.
Patrick Elliott, UK

It can't move fast enough in my opinion. In terms of technology, the greatest achievement of the human race was 29 years ago when Armstrong stepped onto the moon. What have we done in comparison since? Stop kicking and get with the program.
Alan Mockler, UK

Deep in prehistory there were two tribes ... both discovered fire. One exploited this new discovery, the second listened to those who feared that fire was dangerous and ignored their discovery. The second tribe died in the first hard winter.
Richard, UK

How can science be moving too fast when it still has so much to discover and explore? Once we have eradicated all disease and know how many stars really do exist we can not be moving too fast.
Luke Beeby, Australia

I broke my neck playing rugby at 17 years of age (12 years ago) and although I'm walking I'm not fully recovered. If science can continue to advance at quicker rates in this field then possibly people with similar injuries to mine will be cured completely.
Keith O'Fee, Zimbabwe

I think that our greatest asset as people is the ability to look at the unknown and to try to understand it. Science has the potential to make all of our lives longer and healthier. I think that with any new discovery there is the potential to use it for the wrong reasons, but we can not let the small capacity for bad outweigh the greater capacity for good.
T. Marquis, Canada

Our ultimate destiny rests in our desire to lead lives devoid of sickness, ample longevity and fruitful prosperity. The only way we can achieve these wondrous utopian goals are through the ceaseless adoption of science. The faster we increase the pace of breaking down the frontiers and acquiring knowledge and development, the sooner we can lead the life's of 'Master of our Destiny'. Surely, that can't be wrong?!
Roger Robinson, UK

As a 45 year-old man diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a year ago, I am excited about any new discoveries that may result in successful treatments for Parkinson's. Even a cure isn't out of the question. The only way I can maintain a positive outlook is to be optimistic that research will deliver something that will improve the quality of my life. Anyone with a progressive illness for which there is no known cure hopes that science will move even faster!
Keith Chancey, USA

Have we found a cure for cancer? Are there other living, intelligent (as much as we are) beings on other planets? Can natural disasters be prevented (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc...)? How can humans co-exist with the natural environment without damaging it further? Answers to the above are very far off. Much further if we impede science.
Andrew, USA

Although I don't believe science is moving too quickly, I feel that ethical considerations are too frequently ignored in the name of profit. As for the use of embryonic cells, although I think the benefits are considerable, I am morally opposed to the practice.
Bill Draper, USA

The question presumes already a sense of no control. As if Science is a unfettered third party. Science, and the resulting technology, goes only as fast as we allow it. It all depends on our approval, disapproval or apathy.
Chris Dunn, United States

As a physicist/engineer, I must say that I worry about the rate and direction of science. You don't have to be religious to see that along with the knowledge that science gives you comes awesome power and as a species we have a spectacular history of showing ourselves completely incapable of handling power responsibly. The argument of science being good for mankind is a joke - the nuclear bomb was brought into being with the aid of some of this century's greatest pacifists and humanitarians, but that didn't prevent it being used against humans.
Martin Rayman, UK

I think that we should change with times as the world is changing. I am absolutely against abortion but this is not an aborted fetus we are talking about but is a cluster of cells. Some people just need something to fight about so they are fanning this controversy.
Sumeet, USA

We should face reality and realize that sooner rather than later we will produce offspring according to specifications. Rather than fight this trend we have to develop a framework where it can take place.
Jon Gude, USA ex Norway

We are several thousand years behind schedule, having suffered several dark age setbacks. We are just making up for lost time, that's all.
Ray Duquesne, USA

I personally don't think science is moving too fast. Ethical issues/questions should be answered thoughtfully and with lots of review. As a global society we all seem to fear new science, but we do come to understand it eventually, it just takes time. We have to remember, science is a two sided coin. Just look at nuclear power!
Ken MacKenzie, Canada

Although I am 12, I really don't think science is going too fast. Discoveries each day improve our lives.
Deloshan Navarajan, Canada

The challenge of the state of scientific knowledge will continue to grow. In a knowledge based economy it must. Human beings have been trying to control nature from the time they wrapped themselves with animal furs to prevent frostbite. We must come to terms with the facts that our knwoledge of science has outstripped our evolution and our wisdom. We are much the same beings, our brains are more similar to those of the cave man than our surrounding, modern culture, would suggest.
George Daszkowski, Canada

The technology developments are going too slow. We have for example no operating fusion reactor, no absolute cure for most diseases, we have not explored more planets than the moon. We have no advanced technology at all! Most people in the world still havent even got a pc! We have to speed up the development in science to a maximum!
Airikr Hellstrom, Sweden

Throughout the past decades I have been waiting for more and more interesting breakthroughs everyday but in vain. The recent so-called breakthroughs are nothing more than spectaculars, but all have been anticipated! I expected more...
James Law, Singapore

It is not so much the speed but the direction that science is moving. Modern science ignores man's spirituality. Their arrogance reaches its apex when they start to to talk of TOE - the theory of everything - which will ultimately explain everything. What is the purpose of existence if we do not to respect the sanctity of each and every life. Life begins at conception. If we believe otherwise then our own humanity is destroyed.
Tony D'Ambra, Australia

Yes, science is moving too fast. I think using a human fertilised cell for experiments is not good.
Harjot Kaur Brar, Canada

With the immergence of nuclear fission now more than fifty years ago science provided mankind with the tools of its own distruction. But, this has not happened. How much better for science to find new ways to fight the ancient scourges, cancer. Can science move too fast when you or a loved one may die from a disease, for which no cure is known or effective? The answer, of course is self evident, isn't it?
Gary E Davis, USA

No, science is not moving too fast. There has always been a reaction against science, ever since the days of the Spanish inquisition. Much more recently, there is that touching scene from "The Man in the White Suit", in which the old washerwoman protests to the man who invented a cloth that never needed cleaning. "Why can't you scientists leave things alone? What about my bit of washing?" All in vain. Science will move ahead, for better or worse.
Malcolm Baird, Canada

Science is trying to catch up with nature which is way ahead. For all that we know and can do, there is so much we just don't. The only tragedy is that our acquisition of researched knowledge should propel us closer to the New Heaven and New Earth. Well, that is not happening. Instead of human beings of all colours and races finding equal importance, we are excessively obssessed with capital and finance. So much so that we have failed to honour others factors of production. Also, we have destroyed nature. We received clean air, clear water, free space... What have we done with that? A close analysis will show that we have been employing science to compete with nature, to replace nature. Pray at what cost? At whose cost? For whose benefit? Isn't science becoming an end in itself, like money and finance in economy?
Perez Chandra, India

Science is simply our understanding of nature. The idea that science is at war with nature has its basis in ignorance and a religiously inspired fear that Man should dare transgress on territory reserved for God and bring down upon himself God's wrath. The pace of science has been accelerating since before civilization began. It will never end, since there will always be one more door to open, one more question to ask, and we will always remain stubbornly curious enough that we must open the next door...and the next...and the next.... We will never stop learning. Nor should we be afraid of the power which knowledge represents. Instead, we should fear something far more dangerous: ignorance.
John de Nal, USA

I don't feel that science can move tooo fast. Anything that furthers human understanding and eases suffering, can't happen quickly enough in my opinion
John Brooks, UK

While some wonderful advancements have been made, particularly in medicine, Science is not a God, and should not be viewed through blinded eyes. The problem is that Science never looks at the long term effects, and just because they claim that things like genetically engineered food is "safe" now, says nothing about the horrific long term effects on the immune system. The reason new diseases are turning up is science itself! New medicines, in "curing" one disease, are consequently creating another. Science should be working for the good of man-kind - not it's destruction, and self-righteous people who claim God to be non-existant because they can't "prove it" would do well to recognise that they can't disprove God either. It's God who put them on this earth, and God who will exist long after their scientific breakthrough have either failed or destroyed the earth completely.
Christina Bellamy, New Zealand

Science isn't moving too fast, ethics and wisdom are moving too slowly.
Tim Janikowski, USA

Science is definitely moving too fast. In the mad rush to make breakthroughs, scientists seldom ponder the ramifications of their actions.
Cyril Foray, USA

Science itself is not moving too fast. Scientific investigation is fairly innocuous on the whole. What is undoubtedly out of control is the commercial exploitation of Science. We have not even fully grasped the ramifications and dangers of such everyday objects as the TV and the automobile: are we really ready for home cloning kits?? The only thing even more pernicious than the commercial expliotation of scientific discovery is the abuse of "science" to give "credibility" to vile doctrines and enable such obscenities as the Holocaust.
Jonathan Triall, UK

No, science is not moving fast enough. If the USA would devote to science the funds allocated to human space flight, then progress in science and medicine could advance much more rapidly.
Kevin Cahill, USA

Definitely YES. Science should not only discover and invent, but also make sure the results and long term consequences are good for as many as possible and harmful or fatal FOR NO ONE.
Chris Herzack, Finland

Any contibution to medicine which will relieve suffering or cure diseases for humans has to be a good thing.
Christine Kinane, Ireland

Science isn't but technology is. Any increase in scientific knowledge only contributes to a better understanding of the world around us. However, putting it into an application that affects all of the living world without fully understanding the implications is a a leap into a dark and potentially hazardous alley. Indeed, all of the world's environmental problems are a result of such a leap before we looked!
Navin Khadiya, India/USA

There is no way to stop science. The latest development which is growing human cells, will help even recovering from cancer disiase. That's very good. But it shoudn't go to creating human beings as wanted like in the Huxley's book.
Övgü Bingöl, Turkey

The scientist is not really a sensationist but the Media are pushing him in that direction.
James Garvey, UK

It seems that the hitherto scary fantasy of Frankenstein is now becoming reality. Just doesn't seem right to me.
Grant Punchard, UK

This is a battle that has raged on since the dawn of human history between the Neanderthal faction and the rest of humanity. The Neanderthals were against the wheel, taming and use of fire, etc. Luckily for us our Cro-magnon ancestors won that crucial battle, but the struggle continues. Defeat the Neanderthal Party through science and advancement.
Richard Armagh, USA

We already use body parts to help the sick and injured. We harvest organs from the dead - eyes, skin, hearts - and give them to those in need. This is after the spirit leaves. Now we're using embryos to manufacture new parts for the sick and injured. Does the embryo care? Does the dead donor care? All I can say is that embryos don't vote. Are they people? Do they have free will? We all try to live our lives in service to others. I guess these little "people-to-be" are being impressed into service before they have a chance to decide. Does everything conceived have the right to be born? Can't conception be a "mistake?" Kind of like baking an extra dozen cookies. Whoops! We threw in too much batter, now we have more cookies than we need. Guess we'll just give them to the poor. Woops! We conceived one we didn't mean to. Guess we'll just consume it in gene experiments. Man takes life all the time. When you kill a mosquito, when you slaughter a cow you are killing something that should have the right to live. So what's so different about an embryo?
Chris Smith, USA

I think we were all better off in the hands of God than in the hands of men who are destroying human life. I thought we fought a war in Germany about this and then we had the Nuremberg Trials.
Mary Cuddy, USA

Thinking, discovery and application of technology is moving along as it should - unfortunately our abilities as human beings to responsibly apply and use science based discoveries and technology lags too far behind our vision.
Vic Stryker, USA

As a doctor who sees people suffering from all kinds of terrible diseases everyday, many of them with no good treatments, I certainly do not think science is moving too fast. I look forward to the day when there will be good treatments for conditions like diabetes, spinal cord injuries, schizophrenia, etc. Any tool can be misused as well. So it is important that we establish sound mechanisms to prevent the misuse of these technologies. As for ethics, I am more concerned about the well being of a human being than a cluster of cells.
Rajiv Rajan, India

It is for scientists to search for the truth. It is for the people to form the moral guidelines under which scientists work, through government legislation. It is that society is too ignorant of the power and limitations of science, so that decisions are based on fears instead of fact.
Derek Scholes, USA

As long as it moves forward and is not hampered by the religious right, each scientific discovery is just another step towards the goal. Knowledge of our universe.
Harlan Penn, USA

Scientists are experimenting with human tissue before they have bothered to ask or answer the questions about its sanctity , ownership or even the possibilities of horrific changes being introduced to the human race(ie akin to retroviruses) as a result of their meddling. Many of the things they seek are great goals but they are forging ahead, building on incomplete understanding in a case to which our future is very sensitive. Science cannot detach itself from responsibility and ethics as its choices bring power and change.
R H Beresford, UK

In order to decide whether the current pace of science is good, we need to decide what aims we are persuing. If our aims are merely to continue to live as we do now and avoid taking risks, then science is a dangerous risk. However if one believes that the ideal is for mankind to reach new heights of knowledge then science can only be good, and is arguably our whole reason for being, Scientific understanding is the main thing that distinguishes us from other animals. With regards to issues of morality, one needs to remember that morals are only heuristics for the optimisation of social operation. They should thus not be taken as absolutes, but merely as guidelines. (I am an atheist scientist and my views reflect this)
Robert Ennals, UK

There will continue to be rapid development as long as it remains PROFITABLE for industry. The ethical views will not change this unless they provide a more profitable route.
Iain Bark, UK

On the whole the benefits outway the risks. However, regulators need to ensure that science does not outstrip their ability to control the emerging discoveries where this is appropriate.
Stephen Crossley, UK

I think that science is moving too slow. We need to try and eliminate all disease and solve other problems such as pollution and population. Furthermore we need to progress as far as possible in space if the human race is to survive.
Paul Christopher McConnell, UK

Given human stupidity and greed, the only way to solve the majority of our problems is for science to move faster. The dangers of advancement pale to the consequences of stagnation.
C Alexander, UK

Science is currently racing ahead of public opinion - I beleive many people would feel unhappy about the source of some of the material used in these breakthroughs, and many more feel, as I do, that the scientific community has failed to engage in proper consultation. Also there seems to be a disproportionate amount of money being ploughed into gentic research while other areas of medicine are being neglected relative to their ability to improve large numbers of people's lives. Polio, Malaria and AIDS are revaging the populations of many countries, but then of course they won't be able to afford expensive designer medicines so there is no profit to be made. The phrmaceutical industry needs to be run in such a way that 'number of lives saved' determines investment, not 'number of dollars for shareholders'.
Terry Johnson, UK

There is no realistic alternative to knowledge. 'Enforced ignorance' would be a terrible price to pay for peace of mind.
Joe Stocker, UK

Why do we think science is moving too fast when it comes close to home, namely the human body and not when spacetravel or information technology or physics or chemistry is involved? We are afraid of the unknown. The modern society likes to be politically correct and be open minded but are very conservative when it comes to medical advances which has infact helped us become a modern society. Women do not have to die in labor any more if the baby is too big and babies born 12 weeks early can now live and be healthy - all because science has moved fast in the last few years.
Willem Smit, South Africa

Use a historical perspective on the question of development speed for science. Once it was considered unnatural with no pain during operations. Other examples abound of things going from being highly controversial to obvious part of our lives. I just hope that senility is solved before I have to see the minds of my parents being destroyed.
Bernt Budde, Sweden

Yes, scientific experiments such as this is getting too way out of hand. We must remember that we are not GOD and should not play GOD. We have a creator that created us and we should always remember that.
J Gonzales, USA

It's not so much that science is moving too fast. Rather, it is staggering like a drunken sailor. Things are getting totally out of control. The U.S. government bans funding for human cloning research, on the advice of a prestigious panel. So, scientists obtain their money from private sources. Are these scientists out to improve our lot, or are they just glory seekers out for the megabucks and Nobel prizes. Science is not just one straight line toward the future; there are setbacks. In 1948, for example, a German was awarded a Nobel Prize for the invention of DDT; 20 years later it was banned in the U.S.! We need much stricter controls on the introduction of new techniques.
Gerald Graham, Canada

When the human race stops trying to kill itself, then maybe we will bother to use the science we have created to further our existence, not destroy it.
Paul Cooke, UK

The question "Is science moving to fast" is really not the proper question to ask in the first place. If anything, the rate of change of scientific advancement in fields such as physics, artificial intelligence and medicine will only increase in the near future. As a consequence, within our lifetimes, our society will change in ways that we can barely imagine. At this point, scientific advancement is like a juggernaut. The questions that should be asked are whether our moral and legal systems are keeping pace with these changes that will shape our society. Personally, I think genetic testing has matured far enough that I would feel uncomfortable to give an insurance company the right to run a test to find discriminating genetic markers that may exclude me from a medical plan or a job. How is our legal system dealing with these changes?
Dan Reese, USA

In my opinion, "science" is doing exactly what it should be doing, testing the boundaries of our universe and discovering the extent to which we can control it. I understand why some people fear this, but since no one can truly see what will become of our future, I don't think that fear of progress is the correct response to the situation. It is better to find out all that we can about ourselves and the universe that we live in, so that as our world changes, we are able to change as well in order to better survive. If there is anything to fear it is not the rate at which we advance, but rather the choices we make in deciding who has control over this science.
Ian Latham, USA

Yes Science has made some good strides in understanding and applying it to the benefit of mankind. But, to conclude that science has already outpaced the handiwork of nature and is on the verge of creating an artificial world is total nonsense. We have just begun to understand the handiwork of nature. Whatever science does, especially the biological sciences, the rules are made by nature. It is always manifested in terms of checks and balances.
Srinath K Rao, USA

If anything, I feel that for the the last thirty years or so science had ground to a halt. It's wonderful and reassuring to see it progressing to take us into the next century and millennium. For Humankind to survive to the year 3000 we are going to need every advance that science can give us. Any hinderence to that could ultimate destroy us.
P S Cornell, UK

It is not a matter of being fast or not. We have to think about its most important aspect - ethics. Ethics not as a dogma but as a way to respect the mankind limits. We have to understand that science is a tool to development, to a better way of life, not a tool to show to the world how vain can be a human being trying to be, to play god.
Lucia Oliveira, Brazil

To take the example you raised, a team have found a way to persuade stem cells to differentiate in the lab. But that's all they have done. These same cells also differentiate in nature. Every time a foetus develops, these processes take place. Nothing new is being created here, no new equations or reactions, no new species, no new ethical dilemmas. It's just the same cells doing the same things, only in a new location. To ask if we are doing this "too fast" is to ask if we should wait until nature has been doing this for four billion years, or for four billion and ten years, before doing it ourselves. And might it someday lead to the creation of a new species? Well, whoop-dee-doo. That just might help make up for all the species we have destroyed, don't you think?
Jon Livesey, USA

How can one learn too much truth?
Patrick Wilken, Australia

History has always shown that reisistance to scientific advances has been futile and counterproductive. Although these new developments raise problems of genetic "engineering", those are potential problems. On the other hand, the range of benefits which may come from this new technique far outweighs any detriment.
Steven Solomon, USA

Modern science has placed incredible strains on bio-ethics in the medical community. Expediancy is the name of the game with economics playing an increasingly large role. If society is to take control, it will need to do so quickly and globally or the momentum of the researchers will be impossible to counter-act.
D Joseph Hogg, Canada

I believe that we have adequate controls in place. The "ludites" should be quiet and let scientists get on with their work
Guy Wilmshurst-Smith, UK

All scientific breakthroughs result from human thought. To say that science is moving too fast is to say humans are thinking too fast albeit assisted by our new tools, that have also resulted from pure thought. I wonder if people who equate the Dark Ages with Those Good Old Days realize what life would be like today without science. Maybe they should turn off their computers, stop using the Internet, stop using modern medicine_ the list goes on_ Hopefully, Genetic engineering will help advance our moral capacity before we all kill each other.
Neil Hastings, USA

The rate of discovery is dependent upon the number of people working on the problems and the amount of previous work the researchers have to draw upon. Science does not move at all, people doing the research move and they are moving at the same rate they always did, it is just that there are more of them and communications are faster today then in previous times. Any attempt to slow down scientific researce will fail and will cause the rest of the world to consider the nation foolish enough to attempt to limit research as being oppressive.
Richard Ketchum, USA




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