Raising the Standard at UGA since 2013.

MAILBOX: Regarding “Against Scientific Hubris”

Sifting through the post. (Photo: Richard Croft)

Ryan Slauer’s “Against Scientific Hubris” fails to adequately distinguish between the risks scientific thought and those of the knowledge it produces. He hints early on that “questioning the scientific method itself might be silly” but proceeds to do just that. Science can’t work with limited inquiry, and there’s no situation in which limiting our ability to ask questions about the world is an appropriate response to our fears of what we may do with the newfound answers. Don’t want dinosaurs or gene therapy? Pass laws to prevent the inappropriate use of genetic technologies. Don’t want 3D-printed guns? Make them illegal. Don’t discourage the science that allows for the advancement of knowledge. Slauer consistently conflates scientific thinking with technological advances, and his argument is weaker for it.

Todd Pierson
Class of 2013


Ryan Responds:

Thank you for your comments regarding my post. I would like to reply with a few points:

  1. I intended the question “Should we ever limit scientific inquiry” to be just that: a question. Your response, “science can’t work with limited inquiry,” is a valid point and is appreciated.
  2. I believe I do adequately distinguish between science and the knowledge produced by science. Given the fallibility of human nature (not the fallibility of the scientific method), ethics must meet science somewhere. We can count on human wickedness, and therefore I argue that responsibility is paramount. The question is: Where does this responsibility come into play? You indicate that the meeting of ethics and science ought to be after the fact—through laws and regulations of scientific knowledge deemed dangerous. That is a fair response, and that is what currently happens. The point I bring up regarding this method of oversight is that history (and pop culture) has shown that laws are often inadequate to keep humans from misusing scientific knowledge. In addition, laws do not enforce morality. The demands of moral behavior often go above and beyond the law. This applies to the human application of scientific knowledge.