“Man’s moral sense has not kept pace with his scientific knowledge.”

“Humans have discovered secrets hitherto kept hidden, but not learned to use them well.”

In the early 1950s, it was good sport for cliché collectors to count the number of times a week they heard assertions of this sort. The threatening science was nuclear physics, and the shock of Hiroshima was still producing understandable moral queasiness. What we now call life sciences were thought of as, on the whole, benign. Forty years on, things have changed. Though there are those who argue that nuclear weapons should be scrapped, and civil nuclear use disallowed, hardly anyone holds that scientists ought never to have made the discoveries they did. Few believe that physicists should have been content to rest with atomism, alongside Lucretius or Locke. Significantly, the moral critics of science have turned their attention away from the physical to the...

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