On Genies and Bottles: Scientists Moral Responsibility and Dangerous Technology R & D
Science and Engineering Ethics
Vol. 16, Num. 1
Koepsell asks if it is ethical to jump down every scientific rabbit hole one comes across and, if so, does the need to pursue ones craft in an ethical manner suggest these scientists should at least evidence some moment of restraint or reflection about the possible implications of their ideas. He takes to task the idea that science is inherently neutral, and that only technologists and engineers need worry about the application of their findings. Koepsell sees this as false, especially in cases like smallpox and mousepox where ethical concerns were an afterthought that scientists need not concern themselves with when serving the greater good, even when (as when the US and USSR refused to destroy their stockpiles of the otherwise-eradicated smallpox) the greater good does not seem to benefit in any appreciable way. Whether the study in question is smallpox, Kurt Vonneguts fictional ice-nine or nanotechnologys quasi-fictional grey-goo scenario, it is incumbent upon scientists to not just pursue greater understanding of the natural world but to do so with their intent in mind, as ethics demands that they think before they research the human race off the face of the earth.