Ethical Dimensions of Science and Technology
J.R. Oppenheimer was the theoretical physicist who directed the Manhattan Project during World War II. Sometimes referred to as the “father of the atomic bomb,” Oppenheimer reflected on the relationship between science and the larger society in an address to the American Philosophical Society in 1946:
This core assumption, that knowledge is a good in and of itself, has long served to legitimize science as a good, in and of itself, and to inform the manner in which science then relates to the rest of society. No matter how terrible the effects of the atomic bomb were, regardless of our retrospective questioning of the necessity of their use, and independent of the admittedly “evil” nature they embody, the inherent good and the value of the underlying science is not in question. Likewise, business has generally adopted the stance
that science leads to technological innovation, lending itself to new and better products, enhanced competitive edge, expanded markets, and higher profits. In support of both science and business, government has adopted a similar stance that extends the benefits of science and technology to general economic prosperity as well as global dominance and national security.