Adventures in Ethics and Science

As mentioned before, I’m currently at the Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (or SERMACS if you’re in a hurry) in Greenville, South Carolina. I got in last night, just in time to catch the last 25 minutes or so of Dick Zare’s plenary address on “The Chemistry of Propulsion”.

Where I arrived was when he put up the slide that asked, “Is Global Warming Happening?”

Having looked closely at the published research, Zare’s answer was, not surprisingly, “It sure seems to be!”

He then followed with some consideration of whether global warming is good or bad. Of course, this will depend on where you are and what you’re interested in doing. However, Zare noted that things like sea level rises — even of only several meters — would have predictably challenging impacts for countries like China whose largest population concentrations are settled along coastlines, and for countries like Bangladesh that might well end up under water.

As I watched and listened to Zare’s own Inconvenient Truth-style presentation on the subject, I couldn’t help but marvel that it was even necessary, here in the closing months of 2007, to answer global warming doubts in a room full of trained scientists. Do chemists not get out much?

Money quote from Zare: “I used to be a skeptic, but now I’m worried that we’re doing an experiment with no control. In science, you can never be completely certain, but I don’t want to gamble with the Earth.”

The second surreal moment from last night: On my way from the plenary address toward the elevators, the Michelin Man lumbered silently toward me.

Needless to say, I fled.

The session I’m in, “Science and Ethics: Current Issues and Future Directions”, is this afternoon. I’ll report on it after it’s happened.


  1. #1 Mark P
    October 25, 2007

    It is rather odd that he thought it appropriate to present what was apparently a high-level examination of an issue that everyone in the audience should already by thoroughly familair with. What’s the makeup of the ACS at that meeting? Are they more engineers or more scientists?

  2. #2 Super Sally
    October 25, 2007

    Aaaawwwwww. And I so wanted a picture of the Michelin Man hugging you. Guess I didn’t get enough of that sort of thing years ago.

    Keep those chemists on their ethics!

  3. #3 J-Dog
    October 25, 2007

    Is the Michelin man still cohabitating with the Pillsburry Doughboy?

    Good luck with the talk, I mean break a leg. And have fun!

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