Many scientists and technologists practice their trade thinking that the results produced of their work are amoral or neutral - there is no moral baggage associated with the findings. Just because F = ma doesn't mean the result has moral implications. This is decidedly untrue. There are four reasons that come to my mind (and there are likely more):
- First, because we know, we can use. Laws of science can be used to do many tasteful and distasteful things (like cook a nice meal, or develop a chemical for war).
- Second, data have import for people's lives, especially in cases like climate change.
- Third, the processes of scientific and technological development rely on what is available. Technology is not possible without science, but science is also not possible without technology. Where does technology come from? Technology is not made out of thin air, but is rather constructed through the same violent processes that we like to blame for causing ecological and social degradation, like mining and burning fossil fuels. And is this technological development that further allows us to investigate science, and so on, and so on...
- Fourth, just because we cannot see or immediately feel the effects of many of our choices does not mean that the effects are not present. This culture has done a wonderful job of separating ends and means, with technology playing a key role. As Aidan Davison has written about in Technology and the Contested Meanings of Sustainability, the flipping of a light switch just to illuminate a room invokes massive technological and social infrastructures that we cannot see, and therefore, it is difficult to assign a moral value to the action.
What does that mean for our daily lives? It means that we must try to take as much accountability as possible for our choices. It means that decisions cannot be made in isolation, but ought to be made with a full respect for forces at play. It means that we must question what is thrown at us, regardless of how "neutral" something may seem. Assigning moral values to our choices and decisions may allow us a much needed introspection.