Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Science, Technology, and Society, 14th Edition
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Issue: Should the Funding of Scientific Research Be Left to the Private Sector?
Yes: Terence Kealey, from “The Case against Public Science,” Cato Unbound (2013)
No: David Guston, from “The State Will Always Need Science,” Cato Unbound Response Essay (2013)
Terence Kealey argues that “the strongest argument for the government funding of science today is anecdotal.” Private funding is sufficient, as it has been for centuries. David Guston argues that without public sponsorship of scientific research, there would only be private sponsorship of research. Public sponsorship provides a necessary non-market way of setting priorities for R&D. "Knowledge inputs" (data or evidence) are necessary for the proper function of the state.
Issue: Should the Public Have to Pay to See the Results of Federally Funded Research?
Yes: Ralph Oman, from “Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Courts, The Internet, and Intellectual Property, Hearing on ‘The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,’” U.S. House of Representatives (2009)
No: Stuart M. Shieber, from “Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Hearing on ‘Examining Public Access and Scholarly Publication Interests,’” U.S. House of Representatives (2012)
Attorney and past register of copyrights Ralph Oman contends that “If the NIH [National Institutes of Health] succeeds in putting all of the NIH-related peer-reviewed articles on its online database for free within one year of publication, the private publishers will be hard-pressed to survive.” Allowing private publishers to continue to profit by publishing the results of publically funded research is the best way to ensure public benefit. Stuart M. Shieber argues that the concerns of traditional journal publishers that open access publishing will endanger their survival are not justified. The data show that publisher profitability has increased despite the recent economic downturn. Providing open access to the publicly funded research literature amplifies the diffusion of knowledge and benefits researchers, taxpayers, and everyone who gains from new medicines, new technologies, new jobs, and new solutions to long-standing problems of every kind.
Issue: Can Science Be Trusted Without Government Regulation?
Yes: David R. Franz, from “The Dual Use Dilemma: Crying Out for Leadership,” Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy (2013)
No: Robert Gatter, from “Regulating Dual Use Research to Promote Public Trust: A Reply to Dr. Franz,” Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law & Policy (2013)
David R. Franz argues that “when rules for the few become too disruptive to the work of the many, communities of trust can break down.” Exceptional research leaders create a culture of responsibility in which safety rulebooks can be thin and their laboratories will be safer, more secure, and more productive. Government regulation leads to thicker rulebooks and more wasted effort without increasing safety and security. Robert Gatter argues that the research enterprise must be trustworthy to the public at large. Because scientists share a bias in favor of discovery rather than public safety, they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. Government regulation is essential.
Unit 2: Energy and the Environment
Issue: Is it Necessary to Reduce Carbon Emissions to Fight Global Warming?
Yes: D. J. Wuebbles et al., from “Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I,” U.S. Global Change Research Program (2017)
No: Kevin D. Dayaratna, Nicolas D. Loris, and David W. Kreutzer, from "Consequences of Paris Protocol: Devastating Economic Costs, Essentially Zero Environmental Benefits,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder (2016)
D. J. Wuebbles et al. argue that, particularly given the tendency of climate models to underestimate the effects of carbon emissions (from large-scale combustion of fossil fuels and from deforestation), avoiding dangerous warming of the climate will require reducing net global CO2 emissions. Kevin D. Dayaratna, Nicholas D. Loris, and David W. Kreutzer argue that trying to meet the requirements of the 2015 Paris Agreement by restricting the use of fossil fuels would harm several sectors of the U.S. economy with little if any benefit to the environment. By 2035, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would lose $2.5 trillion, consumer electric bills would go up by 13 percent, and family income would lose $20,000.
Issue: Would a Carbon Tax Help Slow Global Warming?
Yes: James Rydge, from “Implementing Effective Carbon Pricing,” The New Climate Economy (2015)
No: Robert P. Murphy, Patrick J. Michaels, and Paul C. Knappenberger, from "The Case Against a Carbon Tax,” Cato Institute (2015)
James Rydge argues that the case for using carbon pricing (via a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system) as an important component of efforts to bring carbon emissions and their effects on global climate change under control is strong, momentum is growing, and effects on competitiveness can be dealt with via international cooperation. Therefore all developed and emerging economies, and others where possible, should commit to introducing or strengthening carbon pricing by 2020, and should phase out fossil fuel subsidies. Robert P. Murphy, Patrick J. Michaels, and Paul C. Knappenberger argue that the economics of climate change reveal that the case for a U.S. carbon tax is very weak, partly because reining in global warming cannot be justified in cost/benefit terms. Even a well-designed carbon tax would probably cause more harm than good.
Issue: Is Home Solar the Wave of the Future?
Yes: Peter Bronski et al., from “The Economics of Grid Defection,” Rocky Mountain Institute (2014)
No: Peter Kind, from “Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business,” Edison Electric Institute (2013)
Peter Bronski et al., of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) argue that the combination of home solar power with storage technologies such as batteries offer to make the electricity grid optional for many consumers, perhaps as early as the 2020s. Utilities have an opportunity to exploit the spread of “distributed electricity generation” to provide a robust, reliable electricity supply. Peter Kind, executive director of Energy Infrastructure Advocates, argues that increased interest in “distributed energy resources” such as home solar power and energy efficiency, among other factors, is threatening to reduce revenue and increase costs for electrical utilities. In order to protect investors and capital availability, electrical utilities must consider new charges for customers who reduce their electricity usage, decreased payments to homeowners using net metering, and even new charges to users of “distributed energy resources” to offset “stranded costs” (such as no longer needed power plants).
Unit 3: Human Health and Welfare
Issue: Do We Have a Population Problem?
Yes: Dennis Dimick, from “As World’s Population Booms, Will Its Resources Be Enough for Us?” National Geographic (2014)
No: Tom Bethell, from “Population, Economy, and God,” The American Spectator (2009)
Dennis Dimick argues that new projections of higher population growth through the twenty-first century are reason for concern, largely because of the conflict between population size and resource use. The environmental impact of population also depends on technology, affluence, and waste, but educated women have smaller families and technology (electric lights, for instance) aids education. Controlling population appears to be essential. Tom Bethell argues that population alarmists project their fears onto popular concerns, currently the environment, and every time their scare-mongering turns out to be based on faulty premises. Blaming environmental problems will be no different. Societies are sustained not by population control but by belief in God.
Issue: Can Vaccines Cause Autism?
Yes: Arjun Walia, from “Scientific Evidence Suggests the Vaccine-Autism Link Can No Longer Be Ignored,” Collective Evolution (2013)
No: Harriet Hall, from “Vaccines and Autism: A Deadly Manufactroversy,” Skeptic (2009)
Arjun Walia argues that the scientific consensus on the safety of vaccines may be suspect because “the corporate media is owned by the major vaccine manufacturers.” He describes 22 studies that suggest that the connection between childhood vaccines and autism is real or that suggest possible mechanisms for the connection. Harriet Hall argues that the controversy over whether vaccines cause autism has been manufactured by dishonest, self-serving researchers and physicians, ignorant celebrities, conspiracy theorists, and the media. The result is a resurgence of preventable diseases and childhood deaths. Vaccines save lives. Autism's causes are probably genetic.
Issue: Should We Worry That Cell Phones Cause Cancer?
Yes: Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie, “How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe: A Special Investigation,” The Nation (2018)
No: David H. Gorski, “The Nation Indulges in Fear Mongering about Cell Phones and Cancer,” Science Based Medicine (2018)
Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie argue that the true hazards of cell phones have been covered up by the telecommunications industry in a way similar to the way the tobacco industry covered up the hazards of tobacco and the fossil fuels industry covered up the climate implications of carbon dioxide emissions. David H. Gorski argues that Hertsgaard and Dowie, despite their disclaimer denying that they are saying that cell phones cause cancer are clearly and misleadingly stoking fears that cell phones do precisely that. The research to date does not demonstrate that wireless phones cause cancer or have other adverse health effects.
Issue: Should Genetically Modified Foods Be Labeled?
Yes: Todd Daloz, from “Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, Hearing on ‘A National Framework for the Review and Labeling of Biotechnology in Food,’” U.S. House of Representatives (2015)
No: L. Val Giddings, from “Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, Hearing on ‘A National Framework for the Review and Labeling of Biotechnology in Food,’” U.S. House of Representatives (2015)
Todd Daloz argues that Vermont's legislation requiring labeling of genetically modified crops (GMOs) is amply justified by the public's need for factual information about the food they eat, and that federal preemption of state labeling laws, without providing a suitable substitute, is unreasonable. L. Val Giddings argues that there is no scientific doubt that GMO crops are safe to eat, the federal government already has sufficient authority to regulate the sale and labeling of GMO foods, and the push for labeling laws is a thinly disguised effort to ban GMOs in favor of less safe and more expensive alternatives, such as organic foods.
Unit 4: Space
Issue: Should We Try to Stop an Asteroid or Comet Impact?
Yes: National Science and Technology Council, from “National Near-Earth Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan: A Report by the Interagency Working Group for Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-Bound Near-Earth Objects,” www.whitehouse.gov (2018)
No: Clark R. Chapman, from “What Will Happen When the Next Asteroid Strikes?" Astronomy Magazine (2011)
The Interagency Working Group for Detecting and Mitigating the Impact of Earth-Bound Near-Earth Objects of the National Science and Technology Council (NEO) argues that NEO impacts pose a significant challenge to society. Dealing with that challenge requires national and international cooperation to detect potential impacts, devise ways to ward them off, and to devise procedures for coping with and recovering from NEO impact emergencies. Clark R. Chapman argues that though the consequences of an asteroid or comet impact would be catastrophic, efforts to prevent the impact would be futile. It is far more appropriate to incorporate such impact disasters into more conventional disaster planning.
Issue: Will the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Ever Succeed?
Yes: Seth Shostak, from “Using Radio in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” U.S. House of Representatives (2014)
No: Peter Schenkel, from “SETI Requires a Skeptical Reappraisal,” Skeptical Inquirer (2006)
Radio astronomer and Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) researcher Seth Shostak defends SETI and argues that if the assumptions behind the search are well grounded, “it is not hyperbole to suggest that scientists could very well discover extraterrestrial intelligence within two decades.” Peter Schenkel argues that SETI’s lack of success to date, coupled with the apparent uniqueness of Earth’s history and suitability for life, suggests that intelligent life is probably rare in our galaxy and that the enthusiastic optimism of SETI proponents should be reined in.
Issue: Should the United States Continue Its Human Spaceflight Program?
Yes: Committee on Human Spaceflight, from “Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration,” The National Academies Press (2014)
No: Amitai Etzioni, from “Final Frontier vs. Fruitful Frontier: The Case for Increasing Ocean Exploration,” Issues in Science and Technology (2014)
The National Research Council’s Committee on Human Spaceflight argues that the combination of the pragmatic benefits of and the human aspirations associated with human spaceflight are great enough to justify continuing the United States’ human spaceflight program. Professor Amitai Etzioni argues that the Earth’s oceans offer more potential discoveries, more resources for human use, and more contributions to national security and disaster preparedness than outer space. The exploration of space should be replaced by the exploration of the oceans, and the necessary budgetary resources should be taken from NASA.
Unit 5: The Computer Revolution
Issue: Do Artificial Intelligence Research and Applications Need to Be Regulated?
Yes: Matthew U. Scherer, from “Regulating Artificial Intelligence Systems: Risks, Challenges, Competencies, and Strategies,” Harvard Journal of Law and Technology (2016)
No: Amitai Etzioni and Oren Etzioni, from “Perspective: Should Artificial Intelligence Be Regulated,” Issues in Science and Technology (2017)
Matthew U. Scherer argues that concerns about artificial intelligence‘s (AI's) impact on society warrant legislative action, perhaps in the form of an Artificial Intelligence Development Act that would create a regulatory agency "tasked with certifying the safety of AI systems" and the competence of practitioners. The Act would also create a liability system to allow existing legal systems to ensure compensation for victims of AI and motivate increased attention to safety. Amitai Etzioni and Oren Etzioni argue that neither artificial intelligence (AI) nor its risks are well defined. What is needed is oversight systems or "AI Guardians" and a Cyber Age Commission that would examine the situation and promote public dialogue before seeking regulatory solutions.
Issue: Must Self-Driving Cars Be Safer Than the Average Human Driver?
Yes: Gill Pratt, from statement on “Self-Driving Cars: Road to Deployment,” before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy & Commerce, Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection (2017)
No: Robbie Diamond and Amitai Y. Bin-Nun, from statement on “Self-Driving Cars: Road to Deployment,” before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy & Commerce, Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection (2017)
Gill Pratt argues that even though self-driving cars will be safer than human-driven cars, people will not accept them until they are much, much safer than human drivers. Robbie Diamond and Amitai Y. Bin-Nun argue that the deployment of self-driving cars will reduce traffic deaths (most of which are due to human error) and should be permitted as soon as the safety of the vehicles exceeds that of the average human driver.
Unit 6: Ethics
Issue: Should Animals Be Considered Persons?
Yes: Karen Davis, from “The Provocative Elitism of 'Personhood' for Nonhuman Creatures in Animal Advocacy Parlance and Polemics,” Journal of Evolution and Technology (2014)
No: Richard L. Cupp, from “Human Responsibility, Not Legal Personhood, for Nonhuman Animals,” Engage (2015)
Karen Davis argues that it is not only the "higher" animals that we should consider "persons." “Lower” animals should not be considered nonpersons and doomed to exploitation. Richard L. Cupp argues that there is no need for radical restructuring of our legal system to grant animals personhood. Rather, we should focus on human legal accountability for responsible treatment of nonhuman animals.
Issue: Should Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Be Released into the Environment to Fight Disease?
Yes: Hadyn Parry, from “Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Hearing on ‘Science of Zika: The DNA of an Epidemic,’” U.S. House of Representatives (2016)
No: Eric Hoffman, from “Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes in the U.S.,” Friends of the Earth (2012)
Hadyn Parry argues that genetically engineered mosquitoes hold the potential to reduce mosquito populations and control the spread of diseases such as Zika and dengue. Eric Hoffman, a biotechnology campaigner with Friends of the Earth, argues that a great deal of research remains to be done to prove the safety to both the environment and public health of releasing genetically engineered mosquitoes. In addition, medical ethics require that participants in a medical trial must be able to opt out at any time, which means that a single resident of a release area must be able to call a halt to the release program.
Issue: Is Gene-Editing of Human Embryos Coming Soon?
Yes: Antonio Regalado, from “Engineering the Perfect Baby,” MIT Technology Review (2015)
No: Elizabeth McNally, from “Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Research and Technology, Hearing on ‘The Science and Ethics of Genetically Engineered Human DNA,’” U.S. House of Representatives (2015)
Antonio Regalado describes recent progress in using the new CRISPR technology to edit the genes of mammalian cells, including embryos. He argues that although many people involved in the research are cautious, what was until recently only a theoretical possibility is now a very real possibility. We are very close to being able to engineer the genes of human embryos (for a variety of reasons) and most people have no idea of what is coming. Elizabeth McNally agrees that the technology is developing rapidly and has much to offer but is more reserved in her evaluation. She argues that it is necessary to regulate the technology and its uses, including limiting or prohibiting uses where changes would be passed to the next generation. However, “the justified use of this approach is certainly conceivable and may one day be appropriate.”