兑现基因组承诺

维也纳—对大部分人来说,承诺是期望获得某物的理由,是不言自明的合理希望。我们来看一个这种类型的承诺,它将科学与社会联系在一起:公众相信,科学和技术进步是迈向更好世界的不确定性之路上的指南针,未来子孙后代能活得更长、更健康、更幸福。

这一承诺的起源可以追溯到近400年前现代科学实现制度化之时。在发现数学可以用来理解物理世界后,一小撮自然哲学家转向了带实用目标的实验经验主义。在这一小撮人的带领下,科学革命横扫欧洲,并在随后传向全世界。

现代科学最坚定的支持者弗朗西斯·培根在其著作《大复兴》(Instauratio Magna)中描绘了一个新世界,这个世界来自对自然现象的系统性研究。培根说,通过效仿和改变大自然,它的秘密会被披露——并能加以操纵从而改善人类生活。培根对利用自然原因的科学理解来“影响所有可能的事物”——即现在所谓的创新——的务实目标是科学对社会的最初的承诺,后来成为启蒙时代的核心。

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