Debates over Deliberate Release: Disciplinary Fault Lines
We are not Luddites or alarmists, but merely skeptics who wish to consider what the hidden costs of this promising new technology might be.
Frances E. Sharples, 19871
In trying to assess the potential dangers, the experience of ecologists with transplanted higher organisms is less pertinent than are the insights of fields closer to the specific properties of engineered microorganisms.
Bernard Davis, 19872
In the development of science, two types of disorders or crisis may be distinguished. Disorders of the first kind refer to the crises that arise over scientific theories or what Thomas Kuhn has described as paradigm conflicts. 3 A theory confronted by anomalous data or two theories competing for hegemony in a divided discipline are examples. Sometimes a critical thought experiment may elicit a contradiction in a theory that places its credibility in question. Other times the theory may be faltering under new experimental evidence. Disorders of the first kind originate from within science and often bring critical attention to foundational issues. Resolutions of the crisis may involve tinkering with theories, paradigm shifts, or a full-fledged scientific revolution.
Disorders of the second kind surface when science is outer-directed, that is when theory is used to solve problems arising out of a social context. An important class of problems in this category are the applications of science for the assessment of technological risk. Scientists have been divided on the risks of chemical carcinogens, nuclear power, ozone depletion, and carbon dioxide buildup, along with many other outcomes of modern technology.
In 1975, disorders of the second kind were highlighted in the debates over the potential hazards of research involving recombinant DNA molecules. Molecular geneticists turned scientific theory on itself, namely, to study the risks
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Publication information: Book title: Biotechnics & Society:The Rise of Industrial Genetics. Contributors: Sheldon Krimsky - Author. Publisher: Praeger Publishers. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 133.
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