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GRE Issue 59: Scientists Should Focus On Areas Likely To Benefit Us - With A Free Essay Review
Scientists and other researchers should focus their research on areas that are likely to benefit the greatest number of people. Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the recommendation and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, describe specific circumstances in which adopting the recommendation would or would not be advantageous and explain how these examples shape your position.
The statement claims that scientists should focus their research on areas that are likely to benefit the greatest number of people. Although this recommendation is well intentioned, there exist some problems in this suggestion. The answers to which areas are likely to benefit the greatest number of people may vary according to different circumstances since the world is changing every moment and the future is unpredictable to some extent.
It is true that some research may be beneficial to the greatest number of people under certain circumstances. Paying attention to these investigations is worthy and desirable. Take medicine for example. Currently, a large number of people die from cancer, AIDS or other serious diseases. Had these people been cured of these dreadful diseases, they would lead a happy life or even make great contributions to society. Apart from that, agriculture is likely to benefit most people if productivity of crops improves as plenty of people, especially those in Africa and Asia, are suffering huger for a long time. Therefore, paying attention to medicine might be advantageous to greatest number of people. And it goes without saying that this recommendation is favorable and commendatory.
Nevertheless, scientists also need to focus their research on some areas, even though these areas might not be regarded as one which are helpful to greatest number of people. It is because the future is unpredictable and thus any research may turn out to be rewarding in the long term. Take computer science for example. In the early 20th century, when the first computer appeared in the laboratory, no one could foresee that this invention would revolutionize the lives of human race dramatically. Nor could they envision that doing research on computers could make mainframes become much smaller and faster, which stimulated the emergence of personal computers helping them work more effectively and efficiently. Consider astronomy as another example. Though astronomy might not be the field which has benefited plenty of people hitherto, it is likely to become such an area as computer field because in the future, not only the earth may be overcrowded by people, but also the natural resources would run out. Until that time, the only way to solve this complication might be transferring people to another planet. Therefore, because of a little unpredictability of future, some fields would turn out to benefit most people.
In conclusion, under the current situation, focusing research on areas that are likely to benefit large numbers of people is rewarding for it would solve immediate problems. However, scientists also need to pay attention to areas that are seemingly unlikely to beneficial to most people. It is because future is unpredictable to some extent. Maybe in the near future, most people will benefit a lot from these research.
If you are going to argue that research in astronomy is likely to prove beneficial to a large number of people in the future, then promoting such research is not a position that contradicts the original statement. Note that you end up making the correct argument (I mean the argument that you seemed to be aiming at): “scientists also need to pay attention to areas that are seemingly unlikely to be beneficial to most people... because the future is unpredictable.” The examples that you’ve offered don’t really support that claim. Many suspect, as you yourself do, that research into astronomy will ultimately benefit very many people, in one way or another. I imagine many of the early researchers in computer science also thought their work would ultimately benefit many. But the claim itself is important, and I think you really ought to develop it. There are two types of argument that you can make here. In order to benefit very many people we need to conduct research into areas that in themselves appear unlikely to benefit very many people because limiting ourselves to obvious areas of research will mean we miss out on any number of fortuitous discoveries. But also we need to research into areas unlikely to be of benefit because we need to prepare for very unlikely events if there are a large number of such events (if there is a large number, then there may be a relatively high probability that one such possible event will happen).
There are other kinds of arguments that one could make here, however, if one is attentive enough to what the original claim really implies. If the recommendation were followed, we might do no research into diseases that affect a relatively small number of people. We would also do no research aimed solely at benefiting animals. These consequences of the claim might not be ethically justifiable.