Table of Contents
Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society,
Unit: The Place of Science and Technology in Society
- Issue: Should the Public Have to Pay to See the Results of Federally Funded Research?
YES: Ralph Oman, from testimony regarding H.R 6845, the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, before the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property of the Committee on the Judiciary, September 11, 2008.
NO: Stuart M. Shieber, from testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Hearing on Examining Public Access and Scholarly Publication Interests (March 29, 2012).
Attorney and past Register of Copyrights Ralph Oman contends that If the NIH [National Institutes of Health] succeeds in putting all of the NIH-related peer-reviewed articles on its online database for free within one year of publication, the private publishers will be hard-pressed to survive. Allowing private publishers to continue to profit by publishing the results of publically-funded research is the best way to ensure public benefit. Stuart M. Shieber argues that the concerns of traditional journal publishers that open-access publishing will endanger their survival are not justified. The data show that publisher profitability has increased despite the recent economic downturn. Providing open access to the publicly-funded research literature amplifies the diffusion of knowledge and benefits researchers, taxpayers, and everyone who gains from new medicines, new technologies, new jobs, and new solutions to long-standing problems of every kind.
- Issue: Should Scientific Papers Containing Potentially Hazardous Information Be Published In Their Entirety?
YES: Daniel R. Perez, "H5N1 Debates: Hung Up on the Wrong Questions," Science (February 11, 2012).
NO: Michael T. Osterholm and Donald A. Henderson, "Life Science at a Crossroads: Respiratory Transmissible H5N1," Science (February 11, 2012).
Daniel R. Perez argues that if we hope to prevent a future bird-flu pandemic, we need all the information we can get. Two papers detailing how to engineer a bird flu virus that can move more easily between ferrets--and thus potentially between humans--should be published in their entirety. Michael T. Osterholm and Donald A. Henderson argue that the risks of releasing all the details of these papers far outweigh any potential benefits.
- Issue: Should the Internet Be Neutral?
YES: Julius Genachowski, from Preserving a Free and Open Internet: A Platform for Innovation, Opportunity, and Prosperity, speech at The Brookings Institution (September 21, 2009)
NO: Kyle McSlarrow, from The Future of the Internet, Testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Hearing (April 22, 2008)
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski argues that we must preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet to ensure that the Internet continues to support innovation, opportunity, economic growth, and democracy in the twenty-first century. Kyle McSlarrow, president and chief executive officer of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, argues that net neutrality mandates would interfere with the ability of broadband providers to improve Internet access and thus would ultimately undermine consumer choice and welfare.
Unit: Energy and the Environment
- Issue: Do We Need Research Guidelines for Geoengineering?
YES: M. Granger Morgan, Robert R. Nordhaus, and Paul Gottlieb, from "Needed: Research Guidelines for Solar Radiation Management," Issues in Science and Technology (Spring 2013).
NO: Jane C. S. Long and Dane Scott, from "Vested Interests and Geoengineering Research," Issues in Science and Technology (Spring 2013).
M. Granger Morgan, Robert R. Nordhaus, and Paul Gottlieb argue that before we can embark on geoengineering a great deal of research will be needed. First, however, we need a plan to guide research by developing standards and ensuring open access to research results. Jane C. S. Long and Dane Scott argue that though we need to do much research into geoengineering, not all issues are technical. Vested interests (whose fortunes may be threatened by change, who may fear consequences, who may be driven by the craving for fame, or whose thinking may be dominated by ideology rather than facts), mismanagement, and human weakness must be addressed before engaging in geoengineering.
- Issue: Is Hydropower a Sound Choice for Renewable Energy?
YES: Steve Blankenship, from "Hydroelectricity: The Versatile Renewable," Power Engineering (June 2009).
NO: Mike Ives, from "Dam Bad," Earth Island Journal (Autumn 2011).
Steve Blankenship argues that hydroelectric power is efficient, cheap, reliable, and flexible. It can serve as baseload electricity, backup for wind farms, and even as energy storage, and there is significant room for expansion, including using new technology that does not require dams. It is therefore drawing increasing interest as a way of dealing with rising demand and ever more expensive fossil fuels. Mike Ives argues that hydroelectric dams such as one proposed for the Mekong River in Laos pose flooding risks, threaten the livelihoods of farmers and fishers, and may be vulnerable to earthquakes. Decisions to build them (or not) are guided by politics, not environmental and social impacts.
- Issue: Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?
YES: John Andrews and Bahman Shabani, from "Re-Envisioning the Role of Hydrogen in a Sustainable Energy Economy," International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (January 2012).
NO: Ulf Bossel, from "Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?," Proceedings of the IEEE (October 2006).
John Andrews and Bahman Shabani argue that hydrogen gas can play an important role in a sustainable energy system. The key will be a hierarchy of spatially distributed hydrogen production, storage, and distribution centers that minimizes the need for expensive pipelines. Electricity will power battery-electric vehicles for short-range transportation and serve as the major long-distance energy vector. Ulf Bossel argues that although the technology for widespread use of hydrogen energy is available, generating hydrogen is a very inefficient way to use energy. A hydrogen economy will never make sense.
Unit: Human Health and Welfare
- Issue: Do We Have a Population Problem?
YES: David Attenborough, from "This Heaving Planet," New Statesman (April 25, 2011).
NO: Tom Bethell, from Population, Economy, and God, The American Spectator (May 2009).
Sir David Attenborough argues that the environmental problems faced by the world are exacerbated by human numbers. Without population reduction, the problems will become ever more difficult--and ultimately impossible--to solve. Tom Bethell argues that population alarmists project their fears onto popular concerns, currently the environment, and every time their scare-mongering turns out to be based on faulty premises. Blaming environmental problems will be no different. Societies are sustained not by population control but by belief in God.
- Issue: Should Society Impose a Moratorium on the Use and Release of lSynthetic Biologyl Organisms?
YES: Jim Thomas, Eric Hoffman, and Jaydee Hanson, from testimony offered to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Hearing on Developments in Synthetic Genomics and Implications for Health and Energy (May 27, 2010).
NO: Gregory E. Kaebnick, from testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Hearing on Developments in Synthetic Genomics and Implications for Health and Energy (May 27, 2010).
Jim Thomas, Eric Hoffman, and Jaydee Hanson, representing the Civil Society on the Environmental and Societal Implications of Synthetic Biology, argue that the risks posed by synthetic biology to human health, the environment, and natural ecosystems are so great that Congress should declare an immediate moratorium on releases to the environment and commercial uses of synthetic organisms and require comprehensive environmental and social impact reviews of all federally funded synthetic biology research. Gregory E. Kaebnick of the Hastings Center argues that although synthetic biology is surrounded by genuine ethical and moral concerns--including risks to health and environment--which warrant discussion, the potential benefits are too great to call for a general moratorium.
- Issue: Are genetically modified foods safe to eat?
YES: Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko, from "Scary Food," Policy Review (June/July 2006).
NO: Vandana Shiva, from the Introduction to The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes: A Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs--False Promises, Failed Technologies (Navdanya, 2011) (http://www.navdanya.org/publications).
Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko of the Hoover Institution argue that genetically modified (GM) crops are safer for the consumer and better for the environment than non-GM crops. Vandana Shiva argues that we need to create a GMO-free world to protect biodiversity, human health, and the freedom to choose GMO-free seed and food.
- Issue: Can We Stop An Asteroid or Comet Impact?
YES: Committee to Review Near-Earth-Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies Space Studies Board, from Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies (National Academies Press, 2010).
NO: Clark R. Chapman, from "What Will Happen When the Next Asteroid Strikes?" Astronomy (May 2011).
The Committee to Review Near-Earth-Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies argues that though the probability that a near-Earth-object (NEO) will strike Earth in the near future is small, the potential damage is so great that investing in identifying and tracking NEOs, and researching ways of preventing impact, is worthwhile. Because the NEO threat is global, there is a need for an international entity to deal with the threat. Clark R. Chapman argues that though the consequences of an asteroid or comet impact would be catastrophic, efforts to prevent the impact would be futile. It is far more appropriate to incorporate such impact disasters into more conventional disaster planning.
- Issue: Will the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Ever Succeed?
YES: Seth Shostak, from "When Will We Detect the Extraterrestrials?" Acta Astronautica (August 2004).
NO: Peter Schenkel, from "SETI Requires a Skeptical Reappraisal," Skeptical Inquirer (May/June 2006).
Radio astronomer and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researcher Seth Shostak defends SETI and argues that if the assumptions behind the search are well grounded, signals of extraterrestrial origin will be detected soon, perhaps within the next generation. Peter Schenkel argues that SETIs lack of success to date, coupled with the apparent uniqueness of Earths history and suitability for life, suggests that intelligent life is probably rare in our galaxy and that the enthusiastic optimism of SETI proponents should be reined in.
- Issue: Do Humans Belong In Space?
YES: Eugene A. Cernan, from testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing on "Spaceflight--Past, Present and Future: Where Do We Go From Here?" September 22, 2011.
NO: Neil deGrasse Tyson, from "Delusions of Space Enthusiasts," Natural History (November 2006).
Eugene A. Cernan, commander of the Apollo XVII mission, argues that manned space exploration is an investment in the future, in technology, jobs, international respect, geopolitical leadership, and the inspiration and education of our youth. It must not be abandoned. Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson argues that large, expensive projects such as space exploration are driven only by war, greed, and the celebration of power. The dream of colonizing space became a delusion as soon as we beat the Russians to the Moon, and it remains so.
Unit: The Computer Revolution
- Issue: Will Robots Take Your Job?
YES: Marshall Brain, from Robotic Nation (Summer 2003), http://marshallbrain.com/robotic-nation.htm
NO: Peter Gorle and Andrew Clive, from Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment, Metra Martech (February 21, 2011)
Marshall Brain argues that by the middle of the twenty-first century, robots will be able to perform nearly any normal job that a human performs today. They will eliminate a huge portion of the jobs currently held by humans. Those humans will be unemployed andif welfare systems cannot keep up with needdestitute. He insists that It is time to start rethinking our economy. Peter Gorle and Andrew Clive argue that robots are not a threat to human employment. Historically, increases in the use of automation almost always increase both productivity and employment. Over the next few years, the use of robotics will generate 700,0001,000,000 new jobs.
- Issue: Is Cyber-War or Cyber-Terrorism a Genuine Threat?
YES:Mike McConnell, from Mike McConnell on How to Win the Cyber-War Were Losing, The Washington Post (February 28, 2010)
NO: Maura Conway, from Privacy and Security Against Cyberterrorism, Communications of the ACM (February 2011)
Mike McConnell argues that the United States is already under attack by cyber-warriors, and we are losing. We need to upgrade cyber-defenses and be prepared to counter-attack. This may include requiring the private sector to share more information with government agencies. Maura Conway argues that even though various cyber-based attacks have been called cyber-war and cyber-terrorism, definitions are crucial. In particular, cyber-terrorism fails to qualify as terrorism because it lacks the spectacular public impact of destroying buildings with airliners. Cyberterrorism . . . is not in our near future.
- Issue: Does Endorsing Open Source Software Fail to Respect Intellectual Property?
YES: International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), from Indonesia: 2010 Special 301 Report on Copyright Protection and Enforcement (February 12, 2010)
NO: Michael Tiemann, from The OSI Categorically Rejects IIPAs Special Pleadings Against Open Source, Open Source Initiative (May 3, 2010)
The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) argues that Indonesia should be put on the United States Trade Representatives Special 301 watchlist because, in part, Indonesias attempt to promote open source solutions encourages a mindset that does not give due consideration to the value of intellectual creations. Michael Tiemann of Open Source Initiative objects strenuously, arguing that open source software is just as much an intellectual creation as proprietary software, it depends just as much on copyright protections, and because open source preferences have been promoted in several states, as well as portions of the federal government, the IIPAs position amounts to an attack on the United States itself.
- Issue: Is Animal Rights Just Another Excuse for Terrorism?
YES: John J. Miller, from In the Name of the Animals: America Faces a New Kind of Terrorism, National Review (July 3, 2006)
NO: Steven Best, from Dispatches from a Police State: Animal Rights in the Crosshairs of State Repression, International Journal of Inclusive Democracy (January 2007)
Journalist John Miller argues that animal rights extremists have adopted terrorist tactics in their effort to stop the use of animals in scientific research. Because of the benefits of such research, if the terrorists win, everyone loses. Professor Steven Best argues that the new Animal Enterprise Protection Act is excessively broad and vague, imposes disproportionate penalties, endangers free speech, and detracts from prosecution of real terrorism. The animal liberation movement, on the other hand, is both a necessary effort to emancipate animals from human exploitation, and part of a larger resistance movement opposed to exploitation and hierarchies of any and all kinds.
- Issue: Should We Reject the Transhumanist Goal of the Genetically, Electronically, and Mechanically Enhanced Human Being?
YES: M. J. McNamee and S. D. Edwards, from Transhumanism, Medical Technology, and Slippery Slopes, Journal of Medical Ethics (September 2006)
NO: Maxwell J. Mehlman, from Biomedical Enhancements: Entering a New Era, Issues in Science and Technology (Spring 2009)
M. J. McNamee and S. D. Edwards argue that the difficulty of showing that the human body should (rather than can) be enhanced in ways espoused by the transhumanists amounts to an objection to transhumanism. Maxwell J. Mehlman argues that the era of routine biomedical enhancements is coming. Since the technology cannot be banned, it must be regulated and even subsidized to ensure that it does not create an unfair society.