Good discoveries can produce dangerous and horrific outcomes, a message which chemistry Nobel Laureate and University of Toronto faculty member John C. Polanyi explained in front of 200 students and faculty in the Phyllis p. Marshall Center Ballroom on Thursday night.
“Science is a very human and fallible pursuit,” Polanyi said. “It has morality at its core, since it teaches us devotion to truth.”
By exploring the discovery and implications of the atom bomb, Polanyi emphasized how important the relationship between scientists and political figures can be.
“This was the culmination of an engineering effort by an international group of the world’s leading scientists, under American leadership,” he said.
An underlying problem between science and politics is differing agendas.
Political leaders need to make a point of listening to scientists and allowing time for them to explore the implications of new technologies, said doctoral candidate and mass communications faculty member, Lowell Harris.
“One of the largest threats to science is from people who are hungry to apply it,” Polayni said.
Aside from offering examples of scientific progress gone wrong, Polanyi emphasized a notion of hope.
“Surely everybody wants scientists to make discoveries, but those who pay for research want to guide it.” Polanyi said. “In doing so, they can easily impede research.”
However, it is still important that science continues to move forward.
“It is an ongoing pursuit that never ends,” USF graduate student Drew Rebar said.