Effect of Scientific Pursuit on Economics and Morality

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 12:53   /   Views: 244
How is the pursuit of scientific knowledge adulterated by the influences of economics, morality and political beliefs?

Quite often we think of the pursuit of scientific knowledge as an exploration through which information is gathered solely from experimentation, but experimentation is only one among a variety of ways in which scientists gather information to be formulated into knowledge. Along with experiments, scientists may conduct surveys, or build on pre-existing information using assumptions and theories in order to obtain knowledge in any particular scientific medium. That which the scientists determine as knowledge, however, does not always mirror that which the public receives as new scientific knowledge. Along the path of distribution, the influences of economics, morality and political beliefs can adulterate pure scientific knowledge.

Almost all scientists seeking to gain knowledge in a new area have to overcome financial insufficiencies. Whether they need the money for lab equipment or field research or other such projects, sufficient funding is almost always unattainable. Because so little is known about this new field, few are willing to support it. Once more information is discovered and scientists acknowledge the importance of that field, more funding is gradually provided. As seen in the movie And the Band Played On, the AIDS researchers were not able to obtain adequate funding until the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic was thoroughly stressed. Even today, the amount of funding supporting AIDS research remains deficient. Typically, the same is true of any scientific study; the required funding is only provided after the scientists present data compelling enough to promote further studies in that particular area.

Next to interfere with the pursuit of scientific knowledge is political beliefs. In a society especially like the one in which we live today where everyone is striving to be "politically correct", it is in the scientists best interest to abide by such standards. Scientists would not want to release any unnecessarily controversial information for the simple reason that such information would not reach an entire spectrum of people. Certain groups of people would be avoided so that the members of these groups would not be offended or shocked by any of the information found by a scientist. For this reason, most of what we know as scientific knowledge has been "watered down" so that it would be tolerated and understood by the general public.

In And the Band Played On, the team of scientists used the discussion of AIDS among political leaders to gauge the impact of their research and newly distributed knowledge. Quite often, it was mentioned that Reagan "still hasn't said the word AIDS in public." Such a simple act as a governmental authority figure using a term in front of his nation could be completely pivotal in the accrual of scientific knowledge. When President Reagan finally mentioned AIDS, the public understood that AIDS was not only a "gay disease" but an epidemic that affected a variety of people regardless of their sexual preferences. Thus, the American public enhanced their knowledge of AIDS.

Finally, morality warps that which we perceive as knowledge. Just as information that is not "politically correct" cannot be released because it may be discredited, scientists cannot release immoral or scandalous information. Defining morality can be difficult and, for this reason, most scientists will opt to stay on the more conservative end of the spectrum, for they believe it would be better to withhold certain information from a select few than to offend the masses and chance all information being discredited. Scientists are "roped in" by the morals of their societies. For this reason, it is possible for information to be discovered in one nation and not in another. Morality sets the limitations within which scientists can accumulate and distribute knowledge. Should a scientist overstep such boundaries, he would put his own credibility on the line and could possibly jeopardize the distribution of vital information.

It appears as though the three factors of economics, morality, and political beliefs are intertwined and can affect one another just as easily as they affect the information being obtained. Insofar as much of the funding for any scientific research comes from the government, any scientist wishing to gain financial support of his project would want to remain politically neutral. Should he express extreme feelings he may lose the greatly needed support of a political party or establishment. Quite often, it is these such political establishments that determine the morality of certain issues. Political leaders may find themselves captured between that which is moral and that which is financially convenient as did that health officials in And the Band Played On. The health officials were slow to institute a blood screening for all donated blood because of the extreme costs which screening would demand. They did not seem to take into account the thousands of lives that such screenings would save.

The influences of economics, political beliefs and morality are not always negative. Any of these factors could keep a scientist from jumping to conclusions about his research. Such was shown in >And the Band Played On. The editor omits the word "homosexual" in the scientist's article concerning the unexplainable phenomenon (today known as AIDS) which was rapidly taking the lives of Americas. Had the editor left the term "homosexual" in the paper's title, several publications would not have published the article because of the link between the disease and gay men. Furthermore, not removing "homosexual" from the title would have limited further research in that scientists would have no reason to study heterosexual patients when dealing with a homosexual disease. Though removing the word from the title increased the ambiguity of the disease, it also increased the number of people the information about the disease reached.

Perhaps it is true that none can ever gain "pure" knowledge. Through the distribution process facts, figures and theories can be altered to better suit the society or to accommodate the individuals presenting the new information. Complex ideas may be trivialized so that their general concept is understood by those among the masses. Regardless of how the adulteration occurs, it appears at adulteration of knowledge to some extent is always common.

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