Should knowledge be defined as being free of ethical judgment
Knowledge. The term “knowledge” is one of the few in the English language that requires the reader to pause and think about the power if its meaning. Knowledge is an experience, or an understanding of a concept. Experience is achieved through studying, whether formal in construction such as that the English z101 course, or informal such as understanding where to find limited parking on the USC campus. The statements derived from experiences must be accepted as truthful.
Statements such as “Essays do not require thought” or “Parking is readily available” are not knowledge since most people know in respect to the English language or parking availability that these statements are false. Listening to a lecturing parent, studying mathematics, or indulging in the twenty-plus nightspots at five points, are all various ways of gaining knowledge. Knowledge resembles a figurative double-edged sword in that it can both aide and encumber humanity. Knowledge is often created with a beneficial purpose yet has the potential to cause pain and suffering.
The science of chemistry aims to study the structure of behavior and structure of matter. Research is conducted to increase the knowledge on all aspects of the universe. In the creation of the Zyklon method of preparing pesticides brought a break through in farming in the early 1920’s due to the fact that it allowed the hydrocanic acid in pesticides to be stored in a safe, concentrated, and suitable manner (Wikipedia). This innovation allowed farmers success against pests and vermin, which leads to a strong crop yield.
The higher yield led to countless benefits such as leverage against the economic depression of the late 1920’s and a better standard of nutrition (Gianessi 15). The elimination of vermin curbed the spread of disease in crowded cities. The knowledge of safely storing and reducing chemicals in the form of the “Zyklon” method also lead to the death of millions through the Nazi gas chambers during the Second World War. This method was unfortunately the most effective way to annihilate a large number of human souls due the safety it bestowed its handlers.
The high concentration of the hydrocanic acid “Zyklon B” allowed for swift death of a living organism. The chemical specifications of the agent made it the “most efficient killer” of humans. The Leuchter report states that if the knowledge of Zyklon hadn’t been available, the number of humans eliminated would have decreased greatly (Stormfront). The benevolent motivation behind the discovery of knowledge in chemistry for the “Zyklon” was forgotten when the compound was used as a tool in the massacre of millions. On the other hand, knowledge created with harmful incentive may benefit humankind.
The need to create powerful weaponry with the capability to eradicate entire cities led to an intense accumulation of knowledge in the science of nuclear physics. During the Second World War, American, Russian, and Nazi scientists scrambled to understand nuclear fission in order to create an atomic bomb. The motivation behind the knowledge gained in nuclear fission can be credited to the need for destruction and annihilation of an enemy. Scientists such as Enrico Fermi were appointed with the task to arrive at such a weapon (Truman Library).
The concepts of nuclear fission were later refined and applied to non-destructive uses. Under correct maintenance, nuclear power plants are a cost-effective and ecologically friendly source of power. Nuclear medicine is “a safe, painless, and cost-effective way of gathering information that may otherwise be unavailable or require more expensive and risky diagnostic test” (About Nuclear Medicine. ) The science of physics has seen new formulae and advances due to studies in nuclear fission. Advances in nuclear fission have provided more help then harm.
The moral use of any knowledge does not depend on properties such as the system of knowledge used (i. e. mathematics or science) the knowledge type (i. e. emotion or reason) or its nature. The moral use depends upon the people who exert control on a certain form of knowledge. Since knowledge can be used towards any potential, it would be absurd to apply moral judgment upon it. All knowledge regardless of category has equal potential benefit or harm humankind. There is no category of knowledge that should be avoided due to a human-perceived association with harm.
As stated earlier, the meaning of knowledge is vast and has numerous possible meanings, but moral judgment is not included in those meanings. Conversely, there are arguments that knowledge used for malicious purposes must be controlled. The internet is a media in which tomes of knowledge are readily available through a few clicks of a mouse. The readily accessible “information highway” constantly worries many civilians and governments. The recipe to create a pipe bomb is available to anyone with basic computing skills. When a person studies the recipe for a pipe bomb and gains such knowledge, nobody is hurt by the act.
When a person accumulates even more knowledge and proceeds to build the bomb nobody suffers by the act. Should the person use the pipe bomb to harm another person, the act of harm is attributed not to the knowledge, but the intent of the person using such knowledge. Knowledge has no will of its own. Suppose the internet derived pipe bomb is accidentally set off and the creator is hurt. There was no malicious intent, yet someone was harmed in the process. The accident was caused not by knowledge, but by the lack of it. If the creator had enough knowledge, he could have prevented an accident.
Knowledge allows the avoidance of accidents. In the state of South Carolina, a person is required to learn to drive before being permitted to do so. All drivers must prove their knowledge of driving through proof of driving knowledge and a mandatory road knowledge exam. These precautions are taken to ensure that lack of knowledge on part of the driver is avoided. The knowledge of driving is not dangerous, only the intent or lack of knowledge by the driver can cause harm to others. When an accident or road rage happens, the harm is credited to the intent of the driver.
Preventing the knowledge of driving would indeed eliminate road accidents and crimes, but at the same time cause a strong obstacle to humanity. Possessing knowledge itself does not harm nor help a person. Even though the risk of knowledge causing harm does exist, it does not overcome the potential to benefit humankind. If nuclear research was abandoned because of the risk of a meltdown, then nuclear propulsion would be not be discovered. People control both new and old knowledge. Any new knowledge is no different than pre-existing knowledge.
Each new concept or experience uncovered leads to a decision: helpful or harmful. Seeking new knowledge opens possibility for further harm and further benefit. Alone, knowledge cannot help nor harm. The manipulation of knowledge is done by human beings; it is only people with knowledge that use it to benefit or hinder others. The person, not the knowledge itself, is responsible for the harm done by his interpretation and manipulation. Every type of knowledge has the ability to either aid or hinder humanity, and therefore should be pursued. Knowledge does not conform to man’s system of moral judgment.