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In a world that thrives on discrimination and bias, knowledge is the most important area of life to be inclusive to those of all backgrounds. Specifically, when discussing the issue of equality and science, it is a known fact there is a gender and racial bias in the field. The National Science Foundation reported in a 2015 study that minority women earned more than half of the science and engineering degrees when compared to their racial male counterparts. However, only 11% of the workforce is made up of minority women compared to 21% of minority men, 18% of white women, and the 49% of white men (NSF).
If there are large groups of unique people, ideas, and perspectives that are biasedly looked down upon and therefore, not getting the correct credit and opportunities they deserve, then the public is not getting the most out of scientific research. Inclusion is the most important in the fields of science because to have the most accurate results, every type of person needs to be considered.
When looking at the breakthrough of the double helix, Roland Franklin’s discovery of the shape of DNA was swept under the rug and credit was given to her male counterparts (Maddox, 2). When credit is disproportionately given based on race or gender, the world of science loses credibility. Eventually not only will the discredited scientists dedicating their lives to research lose the motivation to continue, but future woman/minority scientists will be discouraged as well from pursuing the field. Without women and minorities in science, the field becomes indirectly bias.
The bias credit system limits scientific ability because only the opinion of white men remains, and their experiences have no way of speaking for the women scientists or scientists of color.
When there is underrepresentation in the workforce due to a bias credit system, the research conducted without perspectives of many backgrounds will inevitably hurt the public. In 2017 an article published by Harvard Medical School concluded that women are more likely to suffer and have fatal repercussions than their male counterparts because diagnoses are based on the functions of the male body type. There are millions of horror stories on the internet when “gender bias in pain treatment” is searched on google. In addition, there is a racial bias in treatment. White doctors are more likely to assume that their black patients do not require as much care for their pain as their white patient’s do as found in a 2016 study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When there is such a large bias in the science credit system that the workforce becomes underrepresented, bias becomes present when it is applied to the public, which can lead to its endangerment.
When considering the world of science and its relation to the public, there are usually two sides of the spectrum when analyzing the true reason behind the drive for furthering science. On one side, there are people who agree with Martha Crouch, a former botanist that quit her job because she believes the way science is controlled makes it unethical. Because research is funded by wealthy investors, Crouch believes the funders have the wrong intentions when using new knowledge and is it therefore, the scientist’s responsibility to not participate in what could be a hurtful consequence (Crouch, 1). While her justification is compelling, many would argue that despite scientists discovering new knowledge that may later be used with a negative impact, it is not the scientist’s fault but rather the fault of those who take advantage of the discovery as Lewis Wolpert discusses in his essay “Is cell science dangerous?” When considering the rationality of the two sides, Wolpert’s argument is more reasonable than Crouch’s argument because scientists are not trained or may not know the serious repercussions that follow a new discovery and scientists will not be able to reach the full potential of knowledge if they are in fear of losing their jobs because of how their discovery is used.
The job of a scientist is to explore the world of the unknown. In Wolpert’s essay, he distinguishes the fine line between science and its technical application to the world. He states that science is the explanation for how the world works, and the “technical application” is how it is used (Wolpert 345). To put it in simple terms, it is unfair to blame the caveperson who discovered fire for the crimes of arsonists. Science is discovering factors that already exist in nature, explains Wolpert, but those who use it negatively are the ones who should be punished (Wolpert, 345). When scientists further their education, their curriculum consists of classes surrounding the functions of science such as physics, biology, and chemistry. However, they are not required to take courses that concern large groups of people like politics, economics or other government-related classes. Martha Crouch concedes to this idea as she mentions in her essay that “Most scientists are unaware that their research interests are shaped directly by funding…” (Crouch, 1) If scientist are not trained and therefore not expected to know how to lead large groups of people, they should not be responsible for the impacts their discoveries. The true intention of science is curiosity, not destruction.
Science is essentially improving everyday livelihood and the advancement of humankind. If scientists are held accountable for the misuse of their discoveries, they will not be able to research to the fullest extent due to fear of losing their jobs. People depend on scientists to actively search for knowledge they would not being able to find on their own. They depend on science to ensure the safety of the community, and to ensure that humans are continuing to intellectually grow as much as possible. In her essay, Martha Crouch argues that the reason science is so corrupt is because the people who have money to invest in research are in control of what is discovered and what is not (Crouch, 1). Wolpert does agree with the fact that if scientists have full disclosure that their discoveries are intended to be used for harm, they have a moral obligation to the public (their main beneficiaries) to walk away (Wolpert, 348). But how can a scientist ever know the true intentions of their investors? While the scientist may have good intentions, their employers could very well be lying. But if there is a threat placed against scientists because of what their employer’s secrets are, science will never be able to function at its full potential.
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