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Rusings
Modern science and technology—the triumph of human wit and ingenuity? Or the bane of culture, the scourge of the environment, humanity's ultimate, cunning trick on life itself?
Though intrinsically valueless themselves, science and its handmaiden—technology—nonetheless pose increasingly vexing questions that go to the heart of what we humans claim to value most.

Musing the tradeoffs (e.g. do we quit making more sophisticated tools that better show us how we're polluting the planet?) is the preoccupation—and occupation—of philosophers of science.

In his 36-year career, Michael Ruse has found plenty of opportunity to write and talk about the various conundrums presented by modern life. Some of the more popular issues that concern him, and why >>

Genetically modified food—In general, Ruse endorses it. He believes it's perfectly legitimate to move forward with research into latter-day, genetically-modified agriculture because of its potential for producing better, safer and more abundant food crops. "It's a great opportunity for the third world, although it's hardly a panacea for all ills," he said. Trying to stop it now, he says, is not only futile but possibly even dangerous. "It is always dangerous to try to stop technology as such. It's much better to embrace it and to control it as much as you can. If you don't then others will do it for you—and not always in ways you might like."

Stem-cell research—Using human stem cells in the fight to cure such truly dreadful illnesses as Parkinson's disease, strokes and kidney failure seems a good thing, says Ruse. But the moral rub is that today, stem cells–those cells theoretically capable of replacing damaged or missing cells anywhere in the body—are most readily available from human embryos, in particular discarded embryos from an abortion clinic.

Even for those who see no problem with abortion, Ruse acknowledges that harvesting cells from such a source may be the first step down what he called "a very steep and slippery slope, to a strange and morally frightening new world." But he feels that in the long term, the risks involved in stem-cell research are acceptable because prospects for alleviating untold suffering are bright.

Research with animals—Ruse said he finds it "ridiculous" not to use animals for legitimate experimental research, adding that lab animals shouldn't be needlessly hurt. "It's morally wrong to cause anything pain," he said. On the other hand, using animals to gain an understanding of how nature works is clearly the greater good, he feels. Contrary to the preachments of animal protectionists, he holds that animals don't have rights in any sense akin to human civil rights. Nonetheless, humans are morally obligated, he said, to treat animals humanely and with respect.