In the National World War II museum, it is easy and even triumphant and pride-ge nerating to look back and

see some of the scientific advances made during World War II. There’s no doubt that science is advancing. But I wonder if our ethics c an keep pace. I am fairly proud of Teflon. And synthetic cortisone is widely used and may hav e saved plenty of lives. It’s a steroid that knocks down the action of the immune system. When a medical substance becomes cheaper and easier to use and known to the public, then it runs a real danger of getting overused. Most concern about overuse is focused on illegal steroids taken by athletes. Nevertheless, everyt hing that can be helpful and fast may make things worse. One example would be th e over-prescribing of steroids to kids with allergies. Penicillin had been invented before WWII, but its use did not become widespread until WWII. Of course, it took people awhile to find out about the ability of b acteria to develop resistances to antibiotics. This has led to newer and strong er antibiotics, which would not be the worst thing in the world. Unfortunately, the excessive use of antibiotics has led to untreatable infections, such as meth icilline-resistant strep and an untreatable strain of tuberculosis. Nevertheless, we had advances. I think several had something to do with German scientists escaping to our nation. If someone asked, I would have been hard-pressed to identify scientific advances from our presence in wars such as the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, I recently found a bunch of press releases about advanced plastic surgery repair of veterans. I am sure the appearance of these press releases has more to do wi th the proximity of a national election than it does with anybody’s hunger for sci entific advancements. My favorite is the one about lab grown genitals and spray on skin. These are adm ittedly great advances. Skin grafts can be damn hard to get to “take,” so the idea is seductive beyond words. I have heard of new ears. They seem to be talking e xternal ears — more cosmetic than functional — but this is a really good thing. Bad limbs are getting fixed or replaced, which is good news. The most mind bogglin g project described is men who have lost their penises and are growing new ones. This hypothesis, including functionality, has been tested on rabbits. All research, human or animal, has to go through some kind of committee to deter mine scientific merit as well as how humane it is. It is hard to imagine anyone permitting research that involved castrating rabbits. I am not one of your ant i-vivisection folks, but all I can imagine here is Bugs Bunny grabbing his crotc h and giving new meaning to the query of “What’s up, Doc?” I’m happy to say I can get p ast that one, as this is obviously a great advance in medicine for humans. Has nobody noticed that these advances come at a level and frequency of war casu alty that is pretty damned scary? We are sending people — young and healthy peopl e — to a place from which they run a non-negligible risk of losing body parts. Ba d idea. Psychologically, this could give us new advances in kinds of suffering, such as a subset of post-traumatic stress disorder. Even though new plastic sur gery methods have been described as still experimental, I expect they will be ab used any minute. It’s unlikely to hit the press, but I believe that any minute th e scion of one of the moneyed families currently ruling this nation will look do wn between his legs, decide he needs more than what his creator gave him, and be nefit from this extraordinary bit of medicine for the most mundane and egotistic al of reasons. Until now, those who consider their “male endowment” too small have been limited to displacing such urges by buying themselves a monster truck that can crush smaller ones, or similar acts of sublimation. Sure, we can advance sci ence. But advancing ethics? That may be much harder work.