Government Should Not Fund Any Scientific Research Whose Consequences Are Unclear


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Scientific and technological advancements over the past few centuries have had mixed influence over our society. On the one hand, it has raised the standards of living, increased average life-span through superior medical facilities, connected the world together through faster means of transportation and communication. On the other hand, it has given the human kind its deadliest of weapons and arsenals which are capable of destroying the world itself and hence created a sense of insecurity and fear. Considering that a vast majority of scientific researches are carried out under the funding of the government, it becomes germane to ask whether the government should fund a research the consequences of which are unclear and may as well provide a deadlier weapon in the hands of the terrorists.

Before considering this question further, let us look back at some of the examples. The most popular example cited in this context is often nuclear fission. The important scientific discovery that nucleus of some atoms can be split under suitable conditions and huge amount of energy can be released in the process has led to development of nuclear bomb. The N-Bomb has devastation of two cities already written to its name. But the same technology has also been used to develop nuclear power plants that promise to be the next generation source of energy and hence eliminating the highly feared energy crisis of the future when all the natural oil and coal reserves are exhausted.

Another example to cite here can be the industrial revolution. During the 19th century, mechanical devices were developed which were capable of performing the work with reduced cost and increased performance and quality. It was feared that use of these machines will deprive majority of workers of their jobs resulting in unemployment and widening of the rift between the rich and the poor. But all these fears proved to be baseless. Industrial revolution created more jobs than it replaced and paved the way for a brighter future for next generations to benefit from. Had the governments banned the industrialization based on the fears of unemployment and social instability, we would probably still be using horses for commuting and pigeons for communication.

Recently there have been concerns regarding the legalization of human-cloning which promises development of artificial organs in the laboratory which can be used to save precious lives. There have also been proposals to ban genetically modified seeds even if they promise a crop immune to pests and diseases and promises better yield with superior nutritious value.

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All these concerns have the "fear of the unknown" behind them as we do not know as yet the consequences of these technologies. But history tells us that the discoveries that benefited us the most were revolutionary in that their potential was not obvious when the discoveries were made. Imagine the prehistoric humans not pursuing their discovery of fire based on the fear that it may burn them. The world could have been different.

To summarize, unclear potential can not justify not funding a scientific research. The consequences may be much more rewarding than those from researches with predictable results.


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