Of Ethics and Experiments


My twelve year old daughter sent me a text message yesterday which read . . . Farewell Mum. I love you. I knew straight away it was to do with her being caught up in the teen mock hysteria about the end of the world on account of the huge experiment at CERN which started yesterday. Sigh. Well we had a giggle about it all, and there were lots of probing questions.  My little boy even built a theory that went something like . . . maybe God was not god but a scientist and humans just thought he was God . . . and maybe the scientist doing this experiment will be made into another God by people who are going to be born way in the future.

Hmm.

Anyway, what I found to be ever so funny was that some people, namely the critics who believe the experiment will bring about the end of the universe, have issued death threats to some of the scientists involved if they should dare to defy humanity and go ahead with the project. Well if these critics are so sure it will bring about the end of the universe, what’s the bloody point of issuing death threats?

It’s not at all likely that we’re all about to gravitate into a man-made black hole, it’s not going to bring about the end of the world and the risks of anything going disastrously wrong are slight – so they tell us.

But I do have some misgivings. I hear this experiment has been some fifteen or so years and £5 billion in the making and (this is the point where I start arguing with myself) I’m not sure just how it will actually benefit humankind. I mean so much time and money has been devoted to this experiment and as far as I can tell, it’s not going to solve world hunger, it’s not going to find a cure for AIDS and it sure as hell isn’t going to stop climate change. In fact, the amount of energy it must require is unimaginable. I certainly can’t see the machine using long-life, low-energy light bulbs. And there are many worthy causes out there that would utilise £5 billion for the betterment of humankind that’s for sure.

Right, that’s the morality bit out of the way. I’m not anti-science folks. I mean let’s face it, we are all living on a daily basis off the benefits of science. Of course, it’s a phenomenal amount of money to spend on an experiment which may turn out to be totally inconclusive and of little value or benefit to humankind but since when did mankind ever place people before profit or power. The Iraq war has cost more than £5B thus far and a fat lot of good that has done to humankind. I guess at least this project isn’t destructive, well not as far as we know. And I have to admit, I am excited by it. I mean who doesn’t sometimes wonder about the mysteries of the universe and life etc.? I don’t understand the science behind the LHC experiment. I never was any good at Physics. I could never tell my protons from my neutrons and matters of antimatter just made my head hurt. I barely managed to scrape a shameful grade E at ‘O’ level. But I can still be intrigued. I can still wonder about our origins and I can still marvel at the mysteries of the universe and the galaxies and the black holes and little green men . . .

But I just wonder if we shouldn’t prioritise our scientific research a bit more ethically. I know, we can’t hold back the science, nor should we. But as the guy from Andromeda 5 said the other night . . . you can only ever open Pandora’s Box.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. 1st comment: Those threatening should divert their attention towards those countries with atomic arsenal. They are far more dangerous than the scientists doing their work.

    2nd comment: 5 billion Euros are a huge spending in the case of this investigation, a wee one in the case of famine and sickness in the world.

    3rd comment: As couldn’t be otherwise, Earthpal, I agree with you 100%.

    By the way I am of the opinion that common sense is born with the person, not necessarily acquired with university studies.

    Reply

  2. Thanks Jose. Good point about people threatening the countries with atomic arsenals. Yes, they are more dangerous, by far!

    Reply

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