Conflict between science and society has existed throughout history. Much of the conflict stems from the disagreement between society and scientist as to what is dangerous, unethical, or immoral. But there is overwhelming agreement that we would be living in far worse conditions, with less safety and with more death and suffering if it were not for the scientific advances that have been made in the past century.
There are concerned humans who want to know that the unintended effects of genetic plant modification will not create permanent disruptions of the ecology that all life depends upon. There are patients who are not happy to find out that the makeup that they are wearing, or that the over the counter medicine that they are taking can was tested on animals.
From exposing hundreds of thousands of people to lethal and destructive radiation, to the Tuskegee experiment where Black men with Syphilis were denied treatment, just to see what would happen, science has earned some bad reputations. The fictional depictions of “Mad Scientists” who were bent on world domination did not come forth as pure works of the imagination. There were enough examples in the real world of sociopaths and psychopaths who used their wealth and science to create the real stuff of horror fiction.
The Nazi experiments, where scientists violated all of the laws of religion and man, are prime examples of how far failing to regulate society and its tolerance for experimentation can go. But the moral imperatives have been wildly varied, and in some cases, difficult to understand. From leaking the secrets to nuclear power, so that everyone could have it, to fighting for effective protocols for safety and ethical conduct, there have been ongoing battles within and outside of the scientific community. Externally, scientists must face a volatile environment of societal resistance as the resistance is weighed against the incredible benefits of stem cell research and new, but very toxic cancer treatments.
Religious imperatives for or against science are based on just about anything that a charismatic religious speaker can convince someone about at any given time. And religious interests have been in a perpetual battle with scientific and commercial interests for the power to control the immense societal change that new technology and understandings bring. Religious leaders become concerned about secular matters as they attempt to guide their flock to moral decisions in the face of increasingly new choices and ideas.
Generally, the average person must engage in internal battle over their conflicting religious, moral, social and progressive natures when deciding whether to embrace, or to protest the more controversial scientific advancements. While we are living safer, better, longer, and healthier lives due to advances in science that were born in a desire to improve life for all, we wonder if the costs are worth it.