Science: Power, Limitations & Ethics

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson discussses the fundamental power, limitations, and ethical questions pertinent to science. You'll learn how science can help us as well as its shortcomings.


Without science, there's a very good chance you'd have a tough time surviving right now. Without science, there would be massive food shortages, tremendous outbreaks of disease, and an inability to treat people for even some of the most basic yet deadly problems. Forget about the fact that you wouldn't have the internet, laptops, and smartphones. You'd be fighting to stay alive without science.

That's the power of science; it has given the world a tremendous deal. It does, however, have its limitations and even ethical concerns. All of this will be discussed in this lesson.

The Power of Science

Science can be defined in many ways but it can be simply referred to as knowledge gained through observation and experimentation.

Science is powerful for a variety of reasons. It stresses the objective collection and testing of data to ensure that which may deceive our eyes and brains is true (or not). Science is also powerful because its knowledge is not dogmatic. With a new finding, science changes its course instead of stubbornly sticking to outdated beliefs.

Science allows for people halfway across the world to test the same ideas in order to verify a piece of knowledge. There is no need to simply trust one text or person's word. With science, you can test if claims are true.

This ability of science to constantly and objectively reinvent itself with newer and better knowledge is exactly the reason why you are able to turn on the A/C during a hot summer day. It's the reason why you can use your phone to video chat with your grandmother in a different part of the world. Science is the reason why you didn't die from a simple but infected scrape on your knee as a child. Science has given the world the ability to feed more people and so much more.

Limitations of Science

Of course, science has its limitations. Science can save lives, but it cannot force a person to live one according to a certain principle. While plenty of scientists use scientific findings to help guide their morals and ethics, science is still just a tool. It is up to the individual to use or ignore its findings.

Science doesn't tell you what is right or wrong. Thus, science does not create moral or ethical rules, laws, or judgements. It is people who do this, sometimes with information gleaned from science but nothing more.

As you learned before, science is objective. Thus, science can tell us if a musician is singing a certain note. But science cannot judge aesthetics for us. You may believe the musician has a wonderful voice, but the person next to you is putting in earplugs. Science cannot distinguish beauty. As the old cliché goes, beauty is in the eye (or ear, in this case) of the beholder.

Science also has no power to judge or question faith. While many people use scientific findings to question supernatural events or beliefs, this isn't always appropriate. Science deals with the material and natural world. By definition, science does not and cannot answer questions beyond the material and natural world, like those about God. Again, people can use information from science to make judgments about concepts like God, but science itself has no capacity to do so; only people have that ability.

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