Science and Social responsibility

While science is credited with improving many areas of human life (through discoveries that eliminated harmful diseases, improved communication, etc) it has also been responsible for very regrettable events in human history. Cases abound but perhaps the first use of the atomic bomb during WW11 is the most glaring. Scientific discoveries have consistently been used to create the weapons that have consequently been used to cause widespread havoc.

Taking the destructive effects of scientific discoveries, what responsibilities should be placed on the scientists who made them? Who is the guilty party between the scientist and the government or private company that goes ahead to create weapons that could annihilate large sections of the human population?

Back to the atomic bomb. When Einstein was told that his famous formula was capable of producing an atomic bomb, he responded that this was unlikely to happen. Later events proved Einstein wrong but by then the harm had already been done. Of course Einstein was not in the team that used his formula to develop the bomb and that should absolve him.

Of the many other discoveries that have been used to create dangerous weapons, can we assume that the scientists whose discoveries are used are not aware of the purposes to which their discoveries will be used? Can scientists always claim that they are ignorant of the real uses their discoveries will be used for?

The conducting of any scientific research leads to outcomes which might have been totally unexpected at the beginning. When the scientist, who only had the best intentions, discovers that the discovery might be put to the wrong uses if it falls in the wrong hands what is he or she supposed to do?
Being members of the society just like the rest of the population, scientists have a duty to report their findings if only to alert the public about the extent of their work and how their discoveries could be used. This show of public responsibility will not only endear the scientific community to the rest of the society but could actually act as a deterrent to terrorists and arms manufacturers who would then think twice before abusing scientific discoveries.

All facts considered, it is still important to remember that changes in the field of science are so rapid that the long-term effects of any research cannot be foretold with any precision. But the very instance there are concerns about the use of discoveries, sharing such info with relevant authorities could forestall future catastrophes.

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