pp. 211-213 in Human Genome Research and Society
Proceedings of the Second International Bioethics Seminar in Fukui, 20-21 March, 1992.

Editors: Norio Fujiki, M.D. & Darryl R.J. Macer, Ph.D.

Copyright 1992, Eubios Ethics Institute All commercial rights reserved. The copyrights for the employees of the US Government, are subject to other copyright arrangements. This publication may be reproduced for limited educational or academic use, however please enquire with Eubios Ethics Institute.

Ethical Feelings in Promoting Sciences

Kenichi Fukui,

Director, Institute for Fundamental Chemistry, JAPAN

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. First of all, I must admit that it is my great pleasure to be addressing this sort of international seminar at its reception party. The reason why I was invited here is never due to my name which is coincidentally the same as that of the meeting place. As a matter of fact, I was asked by Professor Fujiki to be here to give a few words just as a scientist, as belonging to a non-medical community, about my opinion on the responsibility of a scientist.

Science was born out of the pure human desire to solve the mysteries of Nature. But when human beings started applying scientific achievements to Nature, they discovered that Nature could transform easily. Science thus developed gave birth to new technologies, which in turn fostered the development of new fields of sciences. In this way, science and technology have accelerated each other's progress, establishing the twentieth century's civilisation that we see today. As a result, we have diminished hunger and disease and won great comfort and conveniences in daily life.

On the other hand, we have also voraciously consumed the resources and energies of the Earth, radically altering the natural environment. Moreover, human desires are being further stirred toward infinity, bringing endless competition. Consequently, a furiously competitive society based on science and technology has been born. It has provided many negative effects, one of which is the uneven spread of science and technology around the world. Another is the sense of alienation felt by human beings at the emergence of numerous materials and phenomena not found in Nature but created by the enormous power of modern science and technology.

Above all, one of the most easily recognizable effects may be that the global environment and the resource and energy situation have changed. In this way, adverse effects wrought upon the natural environment by the scientific civilisation have begun to weigh heavily on human beings. Now we have to become to be fully aware of our being part of Nature. It becomes quite clear that future science and technology should constitute the main direction of our creative pursuits. It is quite understandable that we should try to live in harmony with Nature, rather than try to conquer it. Such an idea has been gaining dominance recently.

We easily see that efforts toward solving these global problems are not complete without tolerance and self-restraint on the part of the entire human race. This requires, more than anything, appropriate workings of the human mind, which recognises the finiteness of the Earth.

At this point anyone should wonder whether there is a fundamental discrepancy between the infinite pursuit of happiness by human beings and the finiteness of the Earth. Unlike other biological desires, the human desire for intellectual creativity, which promotes science and technology, has not been known to us for a long period of time. It emerged out of the social life of people in the modern scientific civilisation a relatively short while ago. Therefore, unfortunately, we have not yet arrived at the stage at which we hereditarily acquire the ability to control such a sort of desire.

In order to have such control in promoting science and technology, we must rely on our judgement, based on the workings of the mind which resemble ethical feelings. This judgement arises from our encounter with the surrounding technological society, as we learn to adapt to it and fell, with natural intuition, in what direction society should henceforth progress. Our view about this century's science and technology is contributing unconsciously to the formation of our judgement through the functionings of our brain in its contact with the cultural and social environment.

Ethical feelings originate from the human nature to adapt one's behaviour to one's surroundings. This is to say, the object of our self-restraint is to fit ourselves to the change of surroundings. In the case of likening the control of the direction of science and technology to ethical feelings, then what are the goals we should have? I believe we should aim at the preservation of this Planet's assets, including this unique Nature of the Earth. By doing so, we could ensure the lasting survival as far as possible of the human race, the masterpiece of the Nature of the Earth. We can expect that the preservation of the unique Nature of the Earth could be expected by doing our best with the science and technology we have created so far. And we will see that uniqueness of Nature more clearly and more deeply as science progresses further. If not turning against the uniqueness of the Earth and Nature is the very best we can do, the whole human race must have self-control in our involvement with science and technology. This is the price we must pay to preserve humanity, the most precious gift we have as human beings. Human beings as well as other living things are products of the uniqueness of the Nature of the Earth. No matter what progress we might make with our knowledge, we must understand that we exist entirely within the framework of this uniqueness. The uniqueness of Nature is most deeply ingrained in human beings as well as in other livings things. Even human beings cannot be free from its influence.

I hope that the future progress of science will gradually make clear how we should harmonize with the finiteness and uniqueness of the Earth and Nature. Human beings will sense this direction and strive to promote it. This is the very wisdom of the human race as an animal that is part of Nature. I am one who believes that it will work out. In this context, it is necessary for us human beings to grasp, as quickly as possible, the uniqueness which links all things in the world in an intricate network, and to embrace it as a spiritual support for ourselves. It is not impossible for humans to recognize that the way to maximize the potential of humankind for good in the future is to feel the uniqueness of Nature and try to achieve harmonius coexistence with it.

Living things are characterized by their intuitive ability to choose an appropriate direction in which to adapt themselves to the environmental conditions around us, though there is no logical proof of its appropriateness.

In order to effectuate the creation for tolerance and restraint in modern life, human beings have to make science advance to a much more elaborate level than it is now, since conditioned technologies usually require much greater creativity than unconditioned.

In closing, permit me to extend to all participants my best wishes. May we all have a good and fruitful time here. Thank you for your attention.

To closing remarks
To contents list
To book list
To Eubios Ethics Institute home page