Are we protected from harmful effects of scientific innovations?

Monday January 27 2020

I n science, just as it is in any business, the most important thing to know is what we do not know.
It is also said that the more we come to know the more we realise that there is a lot more we do not know.

Admitting ones ignorance or limitations is said to be the beginning of wisdom, and it sure can be such a powerful inducement to action.

Logically, this observation should be construed as a benevolent call on all those involved in innovative scientific work around the world, who remain patriotic to nature and humanity to recognise this as a reality and develop a mind of democratic hospitality to view points that may challenge even what has long been authoritatively established as facts.

Science has over the ages unlocked many puzzles and widened the scope of our understanding and interaction with nature, but to date, there are still as many controversies in science as there are challenges.

Looking at for and against arguments on the pros and cons of many scientific innovations and the rather speculative viewpoints such as the benefits and negative effects of genetically modified foods, some electronic gadgets such as mobile phones and computers, automobile and industrial pollutions, environmental degradation, we need not make conclusions based on half truths – especially if it is a pro conclusion.

Such a conclusion should see the light of day only when all shades of gray areas have been illuminated and authenticated because we may not know what we end up unleashing on ourselves.


We just do not know how long the decisions we make now may continue creating molecular level toxic garbage that floats in the air, seeps into the waters, lodges into our foods and eventually into our bodies, targeting our immune system, genes and interacts with the biological evolution before life and the cosmos as they are supposed to be are irrevocably altered.

This may be happening now, may happen tomorrow or far into the future, no one knows for sure, but the caution is that when we eventually do, we never know, it may just be too late.

Arguments such as there being no evidence of negative effects of an innovation today may not be an automatic guarantor of safety tomorrow.

Sound prospective as well as retrospective projections basing on the existing authentically established scientific facts should inform and guide the debate into policy grounded on merit.

Uniquely, some of the exposures we are subjected to today are hitherto alien to our environment such that finding appropriate references are impossible.

For example, our genome and other body systems have not been exposed to mobile phone radiations or genetically modified foods long enough for anyone to draw any reliable scientific conclusions, but our children of tender age, constituting over 60 per cent of our population are using mobile phones today. Who for sure knows what the result and effect of this wild experiment will turn out to be after 20, 30 or even 50 years to come?

If it turns out inconsequential, we shall thank our stars, but what if it turns out to be detrimental? What will our accountability be?

I hope it will not state that we did not know that it would be that detrimental. There will be no excusable excuse for our inaction.

Reason based on the available knowledge of the negative effects of mobile phone radiations on brain tissue and other body systems should inform some guidelines on mobile phone use and safety that is acceptable call durations and considering the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) before buying a phone or importation.

It is our responsibility to hand over to the next generation not only a world or environment much better than what we inherited from our predecessors but it is also our cardinal duty to ensure that the next generation is better protected from the possible harmful effects of our innovations and environmental degradation.