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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession III: Biology, medicine, and the future of mankind
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View the documentIntroduction
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Open this folder and view contentsLa maîtrise de la vie: Pour quoi faire?
Open this folder and view contentsRestructuring a framework for assessment of science and technology as a driving power for social development: a biosociological approach
Open this folder and view contentsHuman aspects of medical sciences: Medical technology and the responsibility of the physician


Gregory Blue

In the first paper of this session, Dr. Ribes gave a brief sketch of the state of play in biological research in general and considered a few of the factors pushing this research forward. He then linked present research prospects to underlying theoretical and philosophical themes, demonstrating in turn that questions of social ethics are inherent in the life sciences and suggesting a series of basic guidelines pertinent to the utilization and application of biological knowledge. Questions of evolutionary theory were at the heart of Dr. Ribes' paper, and related ones were likewise crucial to Dr. Mori's presentation of the views of the Japanese ethnologist and anthropologist Imanishi Kinji, who has developed a "big-sociological" approach to evolution in contrast to the approach of Darwin. Dr. Mori began with a quite interesting exposition linking recent developments in biological and behavioral theory with changes in political and social relations; he then went on to attempt an extension of Imanishi's "big-sociological" approach in order to explain the generation of conflicts within contemporary human societies. That his efforts in this last attempt were perhaps less than satisfactory was pointed out sharply by Dr. Pandeya in the discussion. Dr. Pandeya warned of the dangers of obscurantism and insisted on the importance of formulating concrete analyses of specifically social and political problems.

The third position paper, by Dr. Rakic (presented by Dr. Milanovic), spoke of the necessity of redefining the nature and scope of the responsibility of the physician and stated that it is now necessary to conceive of the physician's duties in terms of social rather than merely professional obligations. During the discussion Dr. Pandaya observed that the improvement of health-care systems around the world is being hindered mainly not by physicians' conception of their responsibility but by transnational corporations dealing in pharmaceutics and medical equipment who are motivated by considerations of profit rather than of health. Dr. Tsurumi agreed with this point but suggested that physicians are called upon to make a choice between serving the transnational and serving the people. In the last intervention of the day, Dr. Rakic argued that adequate understanding and treatment of many major diseases nowadays requires the implementation of a multi-disciplinary approach, incorporating knowledge not only from the medical and pharmaceutical but also from the human and social sciences.

In an intervention scheduled originally for the first session, Dr. Furtado made the theoretical point that particular technologies are important not in themselves but as sources of power for changing the world. He also noted that since 1945 scientific-technological progress has been dominated by the arms race but during the same period the overall balance of world power has increasingly been shifting in favour of Third World countries.

Finally, Dr. Holland noted that many new technologies have the capacity to reduce boring work greatly but in certain circumstances they may also bring about widespread unemployment. Dr. Holland also mentioned the pressures for protectionism in certain industrialized countries which are faced with foreign competition based on technological innovation.

Anouar Abdel-Malek, Celso Furtado, Stuart Holland, A. N. Pandaya, Bruno Ribes, and Kazuko Tsurumi took part in the discussion.