Privileged Position of Science
Woodhouse delivers the idea of privileged position of science though the example of nanotechnology. Woodhouse suggests that it is incorrect to cede authority to scientists without procedures for holding them accountable. I agree with his point, but I also think that scientists can make a step not abusing their privileges.
Compare to the governments or investors, scientists seems staying in a weaker position because scientists always ask permissions/funding from them. It seems that scientists are employees who listen to their bosses. This is not exactly the fact, however. In many cases, "employers" have to listen to or ask advise from scientists because scientists have the most powerful weapon, which is knowledge. Knowledge is the fundamental factor of the privileged position of science. Why so? For example, if people are facing some issues that they do not know, they cannot make a decision about it. Under such premise, people usually consult others who have specific knowledge and probably follow the advises. In a word, scientists' privilege is that their advises can strongly influence and guide others' decisions. Furthermore, this privilege is even more powerful in USA than any other country. USA is probably the most developed country in many perspectives. It has a mature market, advanced technology and comprehensive infrastructure. Here I am going to compare China to USA. In China, if the government wants to invest something or if a rich person wants to start a new business, there are many options. They can do trades and sells. They can build factories to take orders from foreign companies and manufacture merchandises. They can also build parks, highways, apartments, subways, malls and theaters. However, in USA, all the above fields are mature, and a start-up is not as competitive against some companies which have done businesses for years. Thus, money is driven to innovations, new ideas and new technologies since these are far more promising. Such social background promotes the privileged position of science.
How does such privileged position of science become a problem for the society since it is an inevitable product of current social structure? In my opinion, privilege blinds and even corrupts people inevitably. Since everyone is so relied on scientists knowledge about what to do in the future. Scientists might start to use their privilege in their favor -- gets funding and attentions in their research directions. They might exaggerate the advantage of certain technology or present part of the facts in order to skew people's opinions. Such misuse of privilege can be prevented by the people. As Woodhouse suggests: people should not completely cede authority without carefully examining what's been told.
Aside from the responsibility of people, scientists should also realize that the privilege, more or less, is based on people's trust of the correctness of their knowledge and morality that scientists must not, under any circumstances, abuse other people's trust. When scientists present technology (to the public), they should be more cautious about the materials is delivered informatively rather than persuasively, because it is their obligation is to adhere to pure facts but not to advertise or market.
Another factor that also draws my attention is about unintended consequences. It is not because that scientists abuse their privilege, nor that people follow advises blindly. Maybe some materials presented are misunderstood by the people. Maybe certain technology released is deviated from its original design goal. For example, social networking was brought up to bring people closer, but now, sometimes when people are sitting next to each, they don't necessarily talk to each other. Instead, they stare at their phones and text to someone virtually 100 miles away. I still believe that all technologies are designed for good sake even though some of them becomes inappropriate later on.