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Thoughts on the Ethics of Science
by Michael Halm
(from March/April 1983 Morbius)
"Although the Daleks can create havoc and destruction for millions of years, I know also that out of their evil must come something good."
So said the good Doctor when he failed to thwart Davros' diabolical experiments on the planet Skaro. Does this in any way lessen Doctor Who's failure? Or is it truly better that such evil be allowed to exist in the universe?
The questions raised by the Daleks concern not only Davros, but us as well. He is really only an exaggerated example of what many see as happening already -- the use of people and the love of machines, rather than the other way around. Davros was undoubtedly a thoroughly unethical scientist, using both the Thals and the Kaleds to his own advantage, bitter and blinded by hate, but not so alien from any scientist.
Since Galileo first used a machine to see what man alone could not, technology has grown almost unhampered by considerations other than the attainment of greater knowledge and power. Would a Time Lord be right in trying to change that?
The point might be raised that the beings contained in Davros's walking wachines we no longer humanoid, or contrariwise, that they, however perverted, only reflected what evil had been potentially in their distant humanoid ancestors. Which is the best direction to take Which is the most honest
We Terrans have had machines for killing since Cain picked up the stone (or whatever) and killed Abel. We have weapons which destroy people and not machines (biochemical and neutron bombs). So what can we do, if the evil cannot be eliminated, should not be eliminated
Make sure that good will come of it. To do that requires more than new knowledge and new capabilities. It requires wise choices between those capabilities. It requires asking questions such as "What is best" Davron chose selfishly. Given the genius and equipment of Davros and the situation of the Thal-Kaled War, what would you do? What could any technology do against centuries-old hatred and fear?
Although Doctor Who's adventures usually involve saving some planet or other (mostly Earth), his primary motivation seems to be saving himself and/or his traveling companions. Does this imply that such lowly motives are the real basis for an ethical system? A presumably good ethical system? Is it not very much like Dacros? Uncomfortably so?
The difference seems to be that Doctor Who is willing to risk his own life to try to save another, while Davros and his like are not. Often what may seem like a risk to his companion is not to the Doctor, sometimes vice versa. The risk depends upon the amount of knowledge of the situation. Sometimes the Doctor knows what's happening or will happen, sometimes not. Someties something happens in an attempt to do good.
So why does Doctor Who say, "I know good must come?" Why did the writers put those words in his mouth? Because they too believe in life, strongr than evil. (As proven by every episode.) They believe in life, but more importantly, in living. (Davros, rave, only wanted to stay alive.)
Perhaps you have another point of distinction. Perhaps freedom and slavery? Belief in an afterlife? Perhaps the corruptibility of power?
If som how Doctor Who's action demonstrate such an ethical system? How free are his (vastly more ignorant) companions? Has he ever hinted at a life after death? Can he even die? Hs he ever abused or frivolously used his own more-than-human powers or those of the TARDIS ?