Evolutionary Biology, Science, Industry, Education, Warfare, and Ethics

-Vaclav Smil, “Detonator of the Population Explosion,” Nature 400 (1999): 415.
-William Pepper, “The Children of Vietnam,” Ramparts, January (1967): 45-68.
-Thomas Fuller, “4 Decades On, U.S. Starts Cleanup of Agent Orange in Vietnam,” New York Times, August 9, 2012.
-Viet Thanh Nguyen and Richard Hughes, “The Forgotten Victims of Agent Orange,” New York Times, September 15, 2017.
-Russel, Edmund, Evolutionary Biology: Using History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth (2011), Chapter 9 (All readings available on Blackboard).(PFA)

As the academic disciplines of Science and Engineering forged intimate relationships with commercial industry and world governments, myriad ethical questions naturally arose. Examining the role played by non-human actors in the history of industrialization has also served to broaden our understanding of the Industrial Revolution while at the same time revealing the breadth and scope of the of the historical lens offered by the history of technology. Based on the readings by Russell, Smil, Pepper, Fuller, Nguyen and Hughes, as well as the in-class presentations, please discuss the following five (5) points in a well-written, 300-400 word essay (as always, feel free to exceed that amount if you have more to say):

  1. During the U.S. Civil War, cotton exports from the American south to the Manchester, England textile mills declined considerably — resulting in what many in England referred to as a “cotton famine.” According to Russell, why did the search for an alternative to American sourced cotton prove to be so difficult — even futile — for use in the Manchester textile mills?
  2. The advent of what has come to be called the “second” industrial revolution resulted in an increased interconnected relationship between the institutions of science, commercial industry, higher education, and government. This growing interconnected relationship between these institutions fundamentally changed each one of them in a number of ways. How did this relationship impact college curriculums — particularly with regard to Engineering departments?
  3. Environmental scientist Vaclav Smil has designated the Haber-Bosch process as “the most important invention of the twentieth century.” The commercial deployment of the Haber-Bosch process in September of 1913 resulted in immediate as well as long-term political, economic, and environmental impacts. Identify at least three (3) consequences that were a direct result of the Haber-Bosch process.
  4. Both William Pepper and Dr. Benjamin Spock present an argument claiming that the U.S. government is responsible for the lives of those injured or killed by collateral chemical weapons damage during the Vietnam war. In a New York Times article, Thanh Nguyen and Richard Hughes document the effects that Agent Orange continues to exert upon the population of Vietnam to this day. In your opinion, should the U.S. government pay for the cleanup of areas in Vietnam that are contaminated with Agent Orange? Why or why not? Should Dow Chemical, the producer of Agent Orange, be required to contribute financially to the cleanup efforts? Why or why not?
  5. Review the Code of Ethics which is posted on the website for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (you can access it via the following link: https://www.aiche.org/about/code-ethics). Is there anything in the Code that explicitly prohibits or condones the involvement of chemical engineers in the production or development of chemical weapons? Do you think the Code should be amended in any way, or do you think it is sufficient as is?

Sample Solution