‘Science and business should never mix.’ How far do you agree?

Author: Ying
School: Raffles Institution
Year Written: 2020
Grade: A

As Albert Einstein once aptly quipped, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Indeed, Science, once founded on the basis of the noble pursuit of truth to benefit mankind, has become increasingly adulterated by the profit-driven motives of research giants all around the world. While some may swear to the notion that it is impossible for Science to exist apart from business, I stand by the view that the commercialisation of Science has destroyed the original intentions behind its development and also led to a host of undesirable ethical issues. For this reason, I believe that as far as possible, Science should not coexist with business.

The coexistence of Science and business has led to the destruction of the original noble intentions behind it, which is to benefit those who need it, the most – the poor. However, the profit-driven nature of businesses has caused the latest drugs and technology to be attached to hefty price tags making them impossible for the poor to attain. Genetically modified crops, including pest resistant and vitamin rich produce such as golden rice have been lauded as the most effected panacea to world hunger. However, profit-driven companies such as Monsanto have attached patents to the crops and engineered them to be infertile such that farmers will have to purchase new seeds at the end of each season. This, coupled with the exorbitant prices such crops were marketed at, caused many farmers in India to be mired in huge debt, causing a high number of farmer suicides in India. Another salient example is the sale of antiretroviral drugs for inordinate sums of money, at up to USD900 per month. Given the rapid proliferation of HIV/AIDS in developing countries such as sub-Saharan Africa, this resulted in most being unable to afford the drugs and thus having to go without treatment. Not only does the coexistence of Science and business lead to failure to benefit those in dire need of it, it also results in widening of the rich-poor divide, resulting in polarisation of society. While the rich are able to access treatment to illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, the poor are left to suffer without the aid of such drugs, simply because they are not as well to do. As such, Science should not coexist with business because it fails to achieve its original intentions – to benefit those in most dire need of it.

The association of science with business have also resulted in a myriad of ethical issues, some of which contravene the very value and dignity of life. In a bid to maximise profits and reduce costs, there have been instances where test objects were coerced and forced to undergo cruel human testing. As human testing is seen as a better research method to obtain more accurate results, there have been instances where scientists have conducted such tests to obtain better test results and hopefully be able to generate more profit in the process. The syphilis experiment in Alabama saw blacks being unknowingly injected with syphilis virus in order for scientists to observe its effects on the human body. Another example is Dr Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death” who conjoined twins and injected dye into prisoner’s eyes during the war. Though the latter example may have elements of vengeance in it, profit- driven motivations may have also played a part in it. As such, science should not coexist with business lest it results in such unethical behaviour.

Furthermore, the commercialisation of science may also result in instances of academic dishonesty. In a bid to acquire the wealth and fame associated with discovering the next blockbuster drug, this may lead scientists to fabricate their scientific experiments and results. Korean scientist and researcher Hwang Woo Suk was granted millions of dollars to conduct stem cell research, only to realise that results were fabricated. Therefore, science should not coexist with business as it encourages and provides an incentive for dishonesty in scientists.

However, proponents of the notion that science cannot coexist without business may argue to say that without the objective of profit maximisation, scientists would not be incentivised to continue researching about ways to improve the lives of mankind. After all, money makes the world go round. Furthermore, the commercialisation of science has provided an incentive for scientists to address the most pressing needs of society quickly. In a bid to line their pockets, scientists compete with each other to produce the most effective, cheapest cure to meet the most urgent needs of society. Such competition expedites the pace of research. Hence, the association of science and business has benefitted society by quickly addressing their most pressing needs.

However, though the marketing of science has indeed allowed the addressing of society’s most urgent needs, this has resulted in failure to address areas that are not as promising from the monetary perspective, but nevertheless, as important. The pace of development of antibiotics has slowed down dramatically over the past decades as the profitability of discovering the next antibiotic pales in comparison to discovery of new drugs to treat illnesses such diabetes, which will be required for a lifetime. This, coupled with rapid evolution of bacteria has resulted in a deadly problem—-antibiotic resistance, which has resulted in a large number of deaths due to inability of antibiotics to overcome these resistant bacteria. However, due to the fact that production of antibiotics is not as profitable, this is a problem, which remains unaddressed. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS, though responsible for over 5000 deaths daily, has not seen tremendous breakthrough in the area of research due to the lack of financial incentives. Clearly, financial incentives is not always accurate indicator of society’s most pressing issues and should thus not be employed in science.

In conclusion, as far as possible, science and business should not be mixed. The commercialisation of science cheapens its pursuit and adulterates the noble intentions it was founded on—- the pursuit of truth to help mankind. Scientists should instead learn from Physician Edward Jenner, who had a heart of gold and refused to file a patent following his groundbreaking discovery of the smallpox vaccine, saying that it would prevent the poor from gaining access to it. As the saying goes, ‘ the love for money is the root of all evil,’ it is imperative that scientists are not driven by motives of greed and profit maximisation, but by the genuine drive to help others.