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GRE Issue 72: Governments Should Not Fund Any Scientific Research Whose Consequences Are Unclear - With A Free Essay Review

“Governments should not fund any scientific research whose consequences are unclear. Write a response in which you discuss your views on the policy and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider the possible consequences of implementing the policy and explain how these consequences shape your position.”

The statement claims that governments should not fund any scientific research whose consequences are unclear. It is true that some outcomes of scientific experiments may be very dangerous, having a negative influence on countries, even on earth. However, it also goes without saying that some scientific research whose consequences are unpredictable leads to positive results at last, helping people overcome some serious complications. Thus, government should fund scientific investigations whose consequences are not clear; in the meantime, it also should pay much attention to the latest situations of these investigations.

In some cases, scientific research engenders serious side effects, even though the aims of research are well intentioned. Due to these unfavorable results, government has to spend tremendous money handling these troubles. Otherwise, it is likely to be detrimental to society as a whole. For instance, maybe the introduction of alien species for the purpose of research causes the number of local creatures to reduce since these alien species have no enemies in these areas; maybe experimental research would unconsciously create a new dreadful virus, killing large amounts of people immediately; maybe using particle accelerators is likely to bring about tiny black hole production which would devour the earth finally, even though the real intention of this experiment is to test some hypotheses. Therefore, sometimes, these research activities are very dangerous. Any careless action during experiments might lead to undesirable and terrible consequences. Thus, government should pay much attention to fund these scientific research activities.

However, unclear consequences could mean favorable results and positive effects under some circumstances. Sometimes, the benefits are so great that they far outweigh the funds the government once spent. The X-ray is an excellent example of this point. After Rontgen discovered mysterious rays termed “X-rays”, he began taking great pains to do some research on them in his laboratory despite the fact that he did not know what consequences would come. After finishing experiments, he found out some unique properties of X-rays and took the picture of his wife’s hand by using X-rays. At present, as we have already known, X-rays have made great contributions not only to physics but also to medicine, assisting surgeons and doctors to figure out what is wrong with patients’ bodies. Thus, some scientific research whose consequences are unpredictable might become the most valuable one. So, governments should fund scientific research regardless of its unclear consequences.

In conclusion, admittedly, scientific research whose consequences are unclear is likely to produce unfavorable results, which takes a heavy toll on society. However, these kinds of investigations may also produce unbelievably positive results. With the help of research achievements, ordinary people could benefit a lot from breakthroughs. So, government should fund scientific research whose consequences are unclear, but meanwhile it must focus on the latest situations of these investigations.



Your essay is based on a fairly limited consideration of the issues relevant to the evaluation of the policy. The issue for you is whether governments should fund research that might have dangerous consequences, and so you imagine the withholding of funding as a possible way of preventing dangerous consequences. You argue, then, that that is not what government should do; instead, it should fund such research but, essentially, keep a watchful eye on what is going on. That’s a reasonable argument on the face of it, although the articulation of the argument is awkward (especially the last sentence of the second paragraph, which ought to be completely rewritten), and it’s not clear why you think (if the possible danger of research is the real issue) the government would ever be in a position to keep a watchful eye on the state of the research; that would seem to be, like so many things, outside its realm of competence.

In any case, I think you ought to try to imagine other issues relevant to the policy proposal. Remember that this is a proposal about funding, not regulation. One of the issues that is always relevant in proposals about funding is whether financial resources are being appropriately used. If one imagines, for instance, that the government has a choice between funding research whose consequences are relatively clear (e.g., solar panel technology) as opposed to funding research whose consequences are less clear (e.g, cold fusion [perhaps that’s a poor example, but I trust you see my point]), then it might be argued that the government, in order to be good stewards of a country’s wealth, ought to only fund the former. What are the possible arguments for or against that position?

One could also argue, perhaps pedantically, that the consequences of scientific research are generally unclear. Scientists undertake research in order to determine what the consequences of a particular action (knocking out a gene, taking a drug, smashing hadrons together at close to the speed of light) will be. So if the policy were implemented strictly, the government would perhaps no longer ever be involved in funding scientific research. That of course wouldn’t necessarily prevent the research from happening. Private enterprises might fund it. Typically, private enterprises, however, fund projects where the possibility of a profitable outcome is reasonably high. One could argue that we need, for that reason, governments to be especially willing to fund research projects whose consequences are uncertain (understood now to mean “not obviously likely to have positive outcomes”) as a countermeasure to the role of the self-interest of private enterprises in the progress of scientific knowledge.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: hahaxiao66

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