The list of social and ethical issues in science and technology is vast. Scientific achievement often advances faster than man’s ability to emotionally, socially and politically catch up.
There are many ethical issues faced in the field of science and technology. (Credit: reilly.nd.edu)
Moral and ethical dilemmas arise when people do not understand the pros and cons of scientific advancements. Two interesting research paper topics you could write about are the ethics of nanotechnology and the modern day eugenics movement.
Social and ethical issues
In 2013, The John J. Reilly Center at University of Notre Dame created its first annual list of Emerging Ethical Dilemmas and Policy Issues in Science and Technology in order to “present a list of items for scientists and laypeople alike to consider in the coming months and years, as new technologies develop. We will feature one of these issues on our website every month in 2013, giving readers more information, questions to ask, and resources to consult.”
Reilly Center list of topics:
- personalized genetic medicine
- data collection and privacy
Other ethical topics in science and technology:
- cloning – animal and/or human
- designer babies (eugenics)
- chemical and biological warfare
The ethics of nanotechnology
One of the many issues of ethics in technology for your research paper is the development and proliferation of nanotechnology, which involves the manufacture of electrical and mechanical devices on the molecular level. According to Andrew Chen in “The Ethics of Nanotechnology” posted at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, the advantages include toxin cleanup, nanomachine-assisted surgery, pharmaceutical creation and precision manufacturing. However, disadvantages could be weapons manufacture, monitoring and tracking of the population, and self-replicating nanomachines.
For our moral dilemmas, Chen advises: “We should go through the exercise of formulating solutions to potential ethical issues before the technology is irreversibly adopted by society. We must examine the ethics of developing nanotechnology and create policies that will aid in its development so as to eliminate or at least minimize its damaging effects on society.”
The ethics of eugenics
Another topic of ethics in science and technology for your term paper is eugenics (meaning “well born”). Back in the early twentieth century, many countries experimented with eugenics programs, in which men and women with desirable traits were paired so they could produce a superior human population. The Nazis had the Lebensborn breeding program.
Today with genetic manipulation, cloning and in vitro fertilization, so-called “designer babies” are a reality. The ethical question is: Is it ever okay to genetically design a baby? The British Medical Association (BMA) answered yes in 2003 when it officially sanctioned the use of fertility treatment to create a designer baby if it will save the life of another dying child. The case involved a couple in Derbyshire, England, who underwent preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGA) of their embryo hoping that they could implant it and bear a child who would be an exact genetic match and prospective donor for their four-year-old son who suffered from a rare form of anemia.
Pros and cons
Dr. Peter Dangerfield of the BMA said, “Do we have the right, as a caring profession, to deny treatment to someone where it is scientifically possible? If we do not accept this then we run the very real risk of this science going underground, overseas or being carried out in back street rooms where there is no professional ethical or governmental control,” reported in the article, “Doctors Back Lifesaving Designer Babies” by Madeleine Brindley in Western Mail July 4, 2003.
Meanwhile, critics called this “eugenics with a vengeance” saying that PGA embryos “will be allowed to be born only on the condition that they supply stem cells or bone marrow to their [siblings]—if they don’t fit that category then they are disposed of,” said Birmingham-based doctor Gregory Gardner. He worries that it is only a matter of time before parents genetically design babies for physical characteristics or abilities.
Research sources for ethics in science and technology:
- Center for Ethics in Science and Technology, http://www.ethicscenter.net/ – San Diego-based organization that offers a forum for discussion and dialog on various issues.
- UNESCO – http://www.unesco.org/new/en/cairo/social-and-human-sciences/ethics-of-science-and-technology/ – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization offers an Ethics of Science and Technology website.
- Nuffield Foundation, http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/science-society/activities-ethical-issues-medicine – focuses on education, research and innovation.
For more information, check out Questia’s library on Ethics.
What are some other ethical concerns in science and technology you’d like to debate?
We have all faced ethical dilemmas
Although we may not have called them that. In philosophy and psychology courses, sometime they are also known as ethical paradoxes. By way of a simple definition, a situation involves two conflicting moral principles. To follow one means that a person is violating the other. These types of situations often become the topics of ethical dilemma essay assignments.
In psychology classes particularly, the personal ethical dilemma essay is a common assignment, and students are asked to form an opinion on which option to choose, even though both will violate some moral standard, either societal or person. Here are some ethical dilemma questions that are common topics for such essays:
- Jane has been told by a good friend at work that she (the friend) has met the man of her dreams, they have been dating for a few weeks and will now be taking a weekend trip together. Jane sees the new boyfriend pick her friend up outside of work and realizes that he is the husband of another good friend of hers. That friend has recently told Jane that she is really upset because she thinks her husband is having an affair. What should Jane do? Should she tell her worried friend the truth?
- A father has no health insurance and his daughter has a form of epilepsy that requires a really expensive medicine. He cannot afford this week’s dose; his credit cards are maxed out and his checking account overdrawn. He has exhausted all efforts to borrow the money. He decides to break into the pharmacy at night and steal the medicine. Is he justified?
- A young woman is working late and discovers she accidentally deleted an email days ago with data she needs. Her “trash” bin has been emptied. She know that her co-worker has the information on her computer and she also knows the password, which she discovered by accident. She goes into her co-workers computer and sees that the co-worker is engaging in online gambling, strictly forbidden by the company because they handle a large casino account. She has also violated a strict company policy against using someone else’s computer without their knowledge and could be fired for such an action. What should she do?
These essays require that the writer take a stand and defend his/her position. Generally, these types of essays force the writer to prioritize the two moral principles and then persuade the reader that the prioritization is the correct one.
Writing the Ethical Dilemma Paper
A paper, by its definition, is lengthier than an essay, the moral dilemmas to be handled are usually more complex or larger in nature – things such as embezzlement because of a pressing personal matter, etc. These types of assignments will require the writer to either create or use an existing ethical decision-making process in order to determine the appropriate path to follow in resolving the dilemma. In other instances, the ethical dilemma paper will involve a case study – a situation that made national news. One example of such a dilemma is the recent drone attacks by the U.S. of ISIS strongholds in Syria. Innocent civilians are being killed by those drones, and yet if these ISAS targets are not hit and destroyed, other innocent victims will die at the hands of this terrorist group. Applying moral principles to this dilemma is a difficult and complex matter.
Need Some Help?
If you are unsure about how to write an ethics paper, or need assistance in applying the decision-making process to your assigned dilemma, there are philosophy and psychology experts at TrustMyPaper.com who can assist.
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