Scientists are "not immune to the currently seductive ideologies," as Arthur Kantrowitz asserts in his Opinion piece of Feb. 2, 1998 (The Scientist, 12:9). There has been a clear shift from the "idea of progress," when every new or possible technology was uncritically hailed, to the current period, in which the balance of doubt and skepticism has shifted. I mark the shift with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1962).
But the wondrous quality of what most of us share as scientists is that while we may be selectively attracted to one set of conjectures vs. another by how we think or might want the world to be, eventually those give way to new theories, and finally evidence--or the lack of it--manifests itself in our willingness to acknowledge ignorance. When such ignorance persists despite our best efforts, many of us accept the relevance of ethics, law,...
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