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Is Science a Boon or Bane?
by T. A. Ramesh Bookmark and Share

Modern Civilisation 
Human freedom, human rights, advancements about the knowledge of our Solar system and other Stars in the Universe, inventions of new machines for transportations, communication, etc., invention of new methods of doing surgical operations with the aid of video camera monitored by TV and electronic devices and new medicines for curing diseases, discovery of new elements, semiconductors and super conductors for various applications in industries, vehicles, etc., creations of new residential apartments to harness Solar energy for domestic purposes, etc., creation of sky labs to observe and discover new galaxies, quasars, pulsars, Black Holes and exploring the existence of human life or possibility of it somewhere in the Universe, etc. are indeed some of the achievements of the modern civilization due to science and technology.

In everything fast forward has become the policy of modern civilisation. Man is competing with Time in order to go ahead of future before it comes! Speed, speed, nothing but speed has become the formula of human activities in all fields. He is trying to reach other Stars and planets though impossible now may be possible sometime in the future. By forgetting the present, modern man is aspiring too much for the future. But to these fast activities in the name of scientific development man has become mad and the world is also in a mad rush after nothing, which cannot be called as civilisation. So, man by acquiring new habits like mad rush after something which is not clear, is behaving in a strange manner creating new psychological problems and unbecoming of a human being in the modern world. 

Scientific Advancements only for External
but not Internal Developments 

Modern civilisation, which has evolved with the advancement of knowledge in science, applied science i.e. engineering and technology and industries, is only a material civilisation of man. D. H. Lawrence in his novel, Women in Love says that the symbols of this civilisation, “factories, jazz, cinemas” have made man’s life quite meaningless and that means the denial of sex which is nothing but degeneration and destruction of human life in the world. 

T.S. Eliot in his poem, The Waste Land says that the modern world has made man’s life unproductive and unfulfilling due to the offshoot of materialism and ideological conflicts and the result is that there is no love, faith and hope but only death wish.

E.M. Forster also dislikes mechanical life and “motion.” In his novel, Howard's End he says that “merely growing industrialisation is not enough” and merely running “a motor car” using “heavy luggage” while travelling and wearing “good clothes” are not at all called civilisation. His wish is that there should be reconciliation between natural and philosophical life of man and synthesis of the life of the body and the life of the spirit. According to him civilisation is the sum total of culture based on Music, Dance, Art, Letters and Education. 

Science – Analysis of Parts, and Philosophy
– Synthesis of Parts to know the Whole Truth   

Modern world is scientific world.  Science is becoming everything.  Nonbelievers of God, soul, etc. and those interested only in materialism and the utilities of everything without bothering about human values and ideals totally rely upon science and scientific truths only in everything.  First man was under the control of Nature.  Now he almost controls Nature with the help of Science.  He invented machines to reduce physical burden, save time, increase comforts in order to use his leisure for better thoughts and better works giving importance to human values, making the world a better place to live and exploring the Universe to enhance his knowledge and satisfying his curiosities.  At first he was just monitoring the machines.  But now machines monitor the affairs of men!

The theory and practice of science to discoveries or inventions or detections or diagnoses or remedies, etc. follow the method of experiment, observation and inference though logically the process may be inductive or deductive and express the results mathematically through formulae since mathematical truths are self evident absolute truths.  This is possible only if the field of search is clear and well defined.  Otherwise the methods of philosophy only are helpful to solve the problems.  However science starts as philosophy and ends as art i.e. it begins with hypotheses and completes in achievements.  

Therefore in this respect science is very easy, helpful and reliable for analysing and solving many crises in the modern world as far as material or physical things are concerned.  But science cannot even touch or solve the problems of good, evils, life, love, God, Soul, Spirit, etc. which are of great value, meaning and ideals for man.  For science physically there should be something, then only it can be understood and something can be created or destroyed.  In short as far as science is concerned microscopically and telescopically parts only can be explored to understand the whole truth, whereas the case is reverse for philosophy and arts.

Nature, Universe
– A great wonder to Poets, Philosophers and Scientists

Nature is a great fascination not only for the poets and the philosophers but also for the scientists and the intellectuals because of its hidden mystery.  The Universe with all its twinkling Stars and planets is a great wonder and a puzzle that remains yet to be solved.  Though there are natural laws to explain the phenomena of Nature yet many laws have to be discovered to explain the phenomena like Black Holes or Magnetic Balls, fast expansion of the Universe, etc.  In fact the door of the Universe was first opened by Copernicus to explore and discover the secrets of Nature.

Yes, Copernicus first said to the world that the Earth is not the centre but the Sun is the centre of the Solar System!  Then Kepler discovered that the planets are not revolving round the Sun in circular orbits but in elliptical orbits.  After that Galileo established that Ptolemy’s Geocentric theory is wrong and Copernicus’s Heliocentric theory is correct by inventing the telescope to show to the world the position of planets and Stars of the Milky Way and shattered the old notion that man with the unmoving fixed Earth is the centre of the Universe.  Then it was discovered that Sun is only the centre of the Solar System in the Milky Way or the Universe.

Then Industrial Revolution changed the world.  Steam engine was invented.  Aeroplane was invented.  And Rocket was also invented.  Movements of the people increased along with speed.  Speed increased on and on, but it was not enough for man to reach distant Stars and planets!  The discovery of Space goes on and on and yet the curiosity to know the mystery of the Universe is not still satisfied or finished. 

Discoveries and Inventions

After Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo successfully fought for truth and died as heroes achieving immortality and permanent places in the annals of science; superstitions and fear began to lose their ground permanently in the world.  Brave new world was born and bold achievements were made by Newton, Michael Faraday, Max Planck, Heinrich Hertz, Thomson, Louis Pasteur, Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Einstein, etc.  Without the progressive achievements of Electricity and Electronics perhaps mankind would have been blind and lame in a primitive world of the past even today!

Really what a progress the world has made!  When we think about Gravitation we remember Newton, for Electricity Michael Faraday, for Electromagnetic Waves Heinrich Hertz, for Electron Thomson, for Quantum Theory or Photoelectric Emission Max Planck, for Theory of Relativity Einstein, etc.  But whatever be our thoughts, words and deeds in the world, Nature, Universe, etc.  everything is enclosed and bounded within Space and Time, beyond which nothing can escape. That is our position in this mysterious Universe.

Space, Time and Matter 

Next what we have to see is what mystery, power, beauty, wonder behind this Universe is.  What is this Universe?  When has this started?  How long has this been going on like this?  How long will this go on so further?  By thinking over these questions it is possible to say that the Universe is after all nothing but Space Time continuum only.  The thing is we don’t feel that a thing called Space with Time was existing in the past, is existing in the present and will be existing in the future too!  This is because we think Space, Time and all kinds of Matter in it as separate entities and separately.  But in fact Space, Time and Matter are related things.  Even the Laws of Newton’s Mechanical Physics or Classical Physics are based on the assumption that Space and Time are dual things in an inertial state.  But the reality is otherwise!  That is why Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Modern Theory of Physics has successfully come into vogue to explain various phenomena in Nature.

Energy = Matter

According to Classical Physics it was felt as said earlier that Matter and Energy are two distinct forms.  While Energy was associated with Matter its nature was considered as distinctly different from matter.  Albert Einstein found this dualism not only unnecessary but also quite absurd.  He while developing his Theory of Relativity made the startling suggestion that Matter may be converted into Energy and vice versa and wrote down the famous Mass Energy equation, E= mc2, which became the secret formula for the Atomic Bomb!  Indeed with the actual explosion of the Hydrogen bomb this equation was proved experimentally as well as really to be correct.  With that the ideal dualism between Matter and Energy came to an end, which is a revolutionary development that totally changed the course of physics in the recent times.

Science for Construction and Destruction

The use of scientific knowledge in the constructive side i.e. in industries, agriculture, transport, health, etc. has done a lot of good for the whole of mankind.  But in the destructive side scientific knowledge in the form of Nuclear Weapons, intoxicating drugs, electronic video tapes, CDs, DVDs and games of immoral nature, etc. has done and is doing a lot of harm beyond human imagination which has to be curbed at any cost.  There are also works of knowledge having both good and bad effects which have to be balanced by education or otherwise for the healthy progress of society and development of the world as a whole.

First, Industrial Revolution changed the world.  As a result Agricultural Activities reduced, mush rooming of harmful labour came up and environmental pollution appeared and is doing great havoc now.  Second, Technological Developments have modernised the world but have resulted in cultural decay with change of human culture, in the creation of pollution in air, land and water, in the deforestation, the building of congested cities with unhygienic conditions, in the exploration of natural resources thereby creating long periods of droughts or bringing in flash floods during the times of cyclonic storms and untold destructions everywhere, etc.  Third, Electronic Developments capturing all fields of human activities in the form of electronic devices such as calculators, Televisions, Computers, Robots, musical instruments, etc. have totally changed the face of the world and as a result, a lot of time is saved but man is made a slave of machines and if anything fails in the electronic system, nothing can be done.  

Finally more than all these things the production of Atomic energy for good i.e. for power generation and the nuclear proliferation for bad use i.e. for the stock piling of Nuclear Weapons have brought the world either to the creation of One World State for solving all the problems of mankind by fulfilling the dream of the most welcome or expected Utopia or the destruction of the world civilisation! 

The Use of Science

Science which is supposed to be ruling the world is sub serving politics. Science which has conquered the places of both religion and philosophy is just waiting to conquer the places of politics which may happen in the future. Religion is about spirit, philosophy is about mind and science is all about matter. Science has almost conquered the world and is already in the direction of conquering the Universe. With the aid of science man is capable of doing anything except bringing back life to the dead body. Otherwise, many mummies sleeping in the pyramids of Egypt would have regained life and would have been functioning alive with the vanished classical splendour of the past! 

Service of Science Necessary 

Scientific thinking is based upon facts and hence there is sureness in man’s action and his works proceed in time and complete within the programmed schedules. Scientific approach has helped immensely to find suitable solutions to many problems which were previously believed to be insoluble. Science is doing great service to mankind in the field of industries, agriculture, medicine, psychology and physiology. Science has indeed unraveled many mysteries of Nature and the power of nature is harnessed in all the fields for the benefit of mankind. 

Constructive Use of Science Necessary 

While doing so many new problems are coming up as big threats to human life and achievement in the world. They are the problems of Nuclear Weapons in war, air and water pollutions spoiling the environment and new diseases affecting the physical condition and the psychology of men. How are these problems to be tacked? These problems have to be viewed in the global perspective and the things that lead to such threats have to be eliminated as a whole. Actually the main threats to mankind in general are poverty, disease and ignorance. Science and technology should be used to eliminate these threats first so that real peace, development and prosperity can be achieved in the world. The use of science should be in that direction and that is the way by which human culture can be maintained. 

Wise Use of Science to uphold Human Culture Necessary 

Science is only a means to achieve certain desirable ends in order to enhance the dignity of human life and is not there to replace man by its inventions in the form of Robots, Computers, etc. to monitor man’s activities and become master of man. Computer brain cannot understand human feelings and replace human brain whose myriad functions are simply superb, unique and wonderful and are beyond the scope of any mechanical devices of man’s own inventions. Therefore it should be noted that this is the scope and the limitation of man which everyone should remember and use wisely the scientific knowledge in order to uphold human culture so that everyone can think, live, love, enjoy and die honorably as a human being and not as anything else. 

More by :  T. A. Ramesh
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