Sunday, November 19, 2006

Science and ethics.

Entry for Wednesday, 9 November, 2005


I wonder.

I attended two very interesting lectures at the University - one last Thursday on Astrophysics, and one Monday on Judaic Studies. The physics lecture was entitled "the universe is a strange place," and covered everything from quantum theory to black holes. The Monday lecture was on the relationship between the Nazis and Christianity.

I also read an interesting article yesterday in Scientific American, also about black holes. It appears Einstein's general theory of relativity has been taking a beating lately, at least out on the cutting edge of quantum, string, and unification theory studies. Einstein was, also, the one who alerted the US government about the scientific implications of what the Nazi scientists were doing during the war - which led to the development of the atomic bomb, which abuses atoms and quarks and gluons. Strange how the circle goes round and round, isn't it?

But out here in philosophy land, I have to wonder - would science have ever invented the atomic bomb if not for the Nazi hatred of Jews? In an odd way, the shadow of those Nazi scientists still hovers over the remnant of Judaism every time someone speculates about rogue nukes and terrorism. The Nazi scientists may posthumously get their wish after all, though regrettably the rest of humanity will get to suffer for it, too. Science and warfare seem to be bound in some sort of tightly woven symbiotic circle, as Obi Wan would have put it. The feed and grow off of each other. If man had never invented war, would we have all the other inventions we enjoy today?

And if not, does that make it unethical to use them?

Points to ponder, class. Does the origin of something make it evil, or does its actions/results make it evil? There was also a great deal of medical research done by the Nazis - most of it barbaric and sickening in methodology. And yet, some of the results of those studies have benefited us today, or could benefit us. If a cure for cancer was found among the notes of these butchers of people, would we use it? Should we?

On a more personal scale, how about plastic? We use plastic junk every day - and most of it comes from petroleum. That means every time you buy something plastic, you are basically putting money into the hands of repressive regimes that discriminate against women, minorities, and non-Muslims. You are helping the wealthy princes lives lavish lifestyles while the poor of their countries live in neglected squalor.

But can we do without plastic? Everything is made of plastic now! And if we can, will we?

And, of course, there's gasoline. Not only do you finance terrorism by buying gas, but you also enrich corporations who make billions of dollars in profit and yet are trying to pay their employees less and less wages and benefits.

But how can we live without gasoline?

I just want you to think about what is the origin of the conveniences that you use, class. We use things every day that are available to us because of evil that happens somewhere else, out of our sight. How much of that suffering is our fault, since we not only tolerate it but actually finance it?

How much of it do you want to be your fault? And are you willing to make any changes so that some of it won't be your fault? Or will we also look the other way, as they did in Germany?

I wonder.

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