Abuse of scientific power

Other Names:
Uncontrolled scientific power
The extensive specialized knowledge and facilities available to the scientific community places groups of scientists in a very strong position to abuse such power, whether for their own interests or in what they conceive to be the best interests of their country or of humanity. Abuse may not only take the form of commission but may be omission as well. Scientists as policy-makers may withhold certain advances, whether theoretical knowledge or practical applications, and they may also be negligent and fail to adequately pre-test new developments and screen out those that are harmful or undesirable or those whose side-effects or consequences are unknown. Equally realistically, scientists may be co-opted by political parties or governmental regimes, so that available scientific power may be solely at the disposal of the state.
The emergence of preferred university centres and laboratories for key, government-supported research, places single institutions or possible consortia of scientific institutions in virtual monopoly positions concerning vital scientific knowledge. Such knowledge may deal, for example, with energy in its peaceful and military applications - including nuclear and non-nuclear high energy physics, genetic engineering, or behaviour modification. Abuses or manipulations of the nucleus of human personality, or other knowledge become easier when research is concentrated. Such concentration was seen in the former USSR, where the consortium was controlled through the Communist Party; in the USA where the Massachusetts, the Carnegie-Mellon and the California Institutes of Technology dominate with Defence Department assistance; in the UK with Cambridge University and the Imperial College among the leaders; and in a number of other world-power and non-world power countries (Israel with its Hebrew University). Another vehicle for powerful scientific concentration is in the 'prime contractor' system, such as employed in the USA, where applied armaments technologies are in the control of transnational firms. These firms, without government assistance, have already concentrated scientific work in a number at applied areas, notably medical drugs.
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
23.08.2001 – 00:00 CEST