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Ethical questions

Ethics is deciding what’s right or wrong to do in a particular situation and it’s something we all ‘do’, though we probably won’t think of it as that at the time.

At a practical level in the supermarket, we might decide to buy locally produced apples in season to reduce the climate impact of flying fruit across the world, or fair trade chocolate and environmentally friendly washing powder. We’ve made an ethical decision.

But we also ‘do’ ethics when we have an opinion about a big (usually social) issue of the day - such as euthanasia; nuclear power; or the use of animals in testing.

Ethics and nano

Humans have been altering nature for our own purposes since the earliest times from breeding plants for better yields to the invention of electricity. As modern science has developed the tools, we have been able to delve deeper and deeper into the secrets of nature.

But the scope of what we can do has greatly increased, to the point where something of a revolution is at hand. We may be able to significantly alter our bodies, accurately predict health problems, change plants or animals at the atomic scale to suit our own purposes. These things create real dilemmas for us all, which do not have simple right or wrong answers.

However, some of the areas which could be debated are nowhere near coming to fruition and in fact may not. When is the right time to start this debate, when are we wasting our time on something which won’t happen and when are we leaving it too late so the ‘damage’ is done?

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