Essay on Science and the Modern World

Outline:

  • Modern civilization’s owing its greatness to science
  • Scientists, greatest benefactors of mankind
  • The aim of science
  • Science’s role in widening the horizons of human knowledge
  • Science, a search for truth
  • Machines, first gift of science
  • Impossibility of material progress without the propelling force of energy
  • Science harnessing the forces of nature
  • The field of medicine
  • Science, a fairy as well as a fury
  • Destructive weapons
  • Excessive dependence on machines
  • Nuclear waste, environmental pollution
  • Science, a man’s servant or his master

We are living in the most highly developed and advanced age of science. Infact the modern civilization owes its greatness and universality to science. Science is overriding all human activities. Wherever we go, we carry the torch of science in our hands to light our path. It won’t be wrong if we say that we eat science, we drink science, we talk science, we live science. It is the only common denominator among the nations of the world; and, as such we can call science as the religion of the modern world.

Scientists may be called the greatest benefactors of mankind. When we are lost in the enjoyments and entertainment of the world or we are sound sleep oblivious of all the worries and woes, the men of science forego all their comforts and enjoyments of life, are engrossed in their experiments or pour over their research work continuously without rest, forgetful about even the demand of life and nature. What a noble sacrifice! What a great application! They have patiently devoted their lives to science and thus paved the way for the advent of

“…the crowning race of those that, eye to eye, shall look on knowledge; under whose command is earth and earth’s, and in their
hand, is Nature like an open book”

The aim of science is to reduce human sufferings and pains. Science has not only conquered time and distance but it has also invaded the space and tamed the forces of nature. It has given us more spare time or leisure by saving our time and labour; and enable us to devote our lives to the higher pursuits and to the service of mankind.

Science has widened the horizons of human knowledge. Wonder is seed of science and its achievements are the fruits of curiosity. As long as men hunted for knowledge in random way without testing, knowledge made little progress. A systematic study of facts established through experiments, is true nature of science. Science means systematic study and observation of the phenomena of nature, experiments under controlled conditions, classification and verifications, deduction and speculation, formulation of laws and hypothesis discovery, inventions, application of knowledge to the practical purposes of life and establishment of objective truth.

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Now science is both an end in itself as search for truth, and also a means of promoting human happiness. It must, therefore, be considered not merely as a technique but also as an instrument of great philosophic and social significance. As such modern literature reflects the growing tendency of dealing with science and technology – the bedrock of modern progress and prosperity. Infact the history of our civilization is the record of constant human efforts to make human life more comfortable, pleasant, beautiful and easier.

Science has confirmed immense boons on mankind. It draws a line between the old era of darkness and the present era of brightness, between human backwardness and progress, between the life of miseries and knowledge, between man’s foolish beliefs and scientific inquiry and research. The saying. “The more you do, the more you can do, applies better nowhere else than to the human achievements in the field of science”. It was for the men of knowledge that the poet Keats had remarked:

“Knowledge enormous has made a god of me”

The first and foremost gift of science are machines. Indeed, they are the offspring of science. Machines, big and small are constantly at our service. They have not only saved our time and labour, but they have also overcome human drudgery in daily life. They are just like our extra limbs. The various means of transport and travel are just like our extra legs, and the cranes and cargo carriers are like extra hands. The printing machines, the typewriters, the calculators and the computers are like extra brains, the last are the marvels of modern science. The giant plants and manufacturing machines, the wheels that are constantly turning and producing thousands of articles of daily use, the machines behind the mass production have completely revolutionized our lives.

We little realize how our forefathers suffered from above beliefs and handicaps, and take most of the gifts of science for granted. Even the educated do not take the pains to know the names of their greatest benefactors and their achievements. The electronic appliances serve us like Alladin’s wonderful lamp. We have simply to put on the switch the rest is done automatically. Life in the advanced countries has become wholly mechanized and mechanical. We have no more to suffer from the rigors of heat and the chill of the cold. The great cities of the world, the centers of fun and entertainments, their hustle and bustle and the dazzle of the nights all are unimaginable without electricity.

The lifeblood of all mechanical performance is energy or power. Power and progress go together. Power, in some form or the other, has always ruled the world. No material progress is conceivable without the propelling force of energy. But it may also spell the end of the world as the great 20th century thinker and writer Mr. Bertrand Russell has remarked:

“The west throughout last five centuries has displayed extraordinary energy – energy which has taken many forms, some good, some bad. It has explored the world from pole to pole. It has learned the secrets of atoms and stars. But all this, which might be vitiated by one fault, the love of power over other human beings”

Science has harnessed the forces of nature for more and more energy. The days of dark coal have passed, the world has witnessed a glut of oil, wind and water have become obsolete and electricity is now being tapped for producing greater energy in order to meet the ever-growing demand. Atomic energy and solar energy are gradually supplementing or replacing the old ones. Great are the potentialities of the atomic energy; but mankind has not still learnt any lesson from its misuse.

Science has confirmed greatest boons in the field of medicine and other ancillary sciences. It has not only reduced the death rate, but has also insured us against the enemies of human health and increased expectancy of life. It has achieved miracles in the field of surgery. Even the most delicate part of human body, the brain can be operated upon and new internal organs like lungs, kidneys and heart can be replaced through mechanized and computerized surgery. Plastic surgery has given new hopes to the disable and the disfigured.

Atomic energy has proved the greatest blessing for the medical world. Life saving drugs has now become the property of the whole of mankind though they may have been invented or perfected by any particular nation. Thus, science has united the nations for the sake of suffering humanity.

Science is always dynamic and progressive. The world has now come out of the machine age and the atomic age, and it has now launched on the space age. Space travel that had been only a dream some decades back, has now become a reality. American and Russian scientists are now trying to conquer the space and land on the distant planets. The Queen of Night has already been vanquished; and they are now planning to launch inter-planetary rockets and establish space stations.

The inventions of science have also caused the modern information explosion. The nations are no more like closed boxes; but now the whole world has become like a big box and there is so coming and going and exchange of ideas and of information, that the sides of the box are on the verge of busting, Radio, Wireless, Cable and Television have been vitiated by the international satellite stations. The world is now in the grip of plethora of information and entertainments. There are no limits to scientific inventions for the service of mankind.

One can compile a big book if one wishes to pay homage to science and its services. Science now rules the land, the seas and the sky. Great and glorious is her kingdom. Everything has two sides – the bright and dark, so has science. Science is a fairy as well as a fury. Science no doubt, is creative, but much depends on the user of the gifts of science. The scientists create but the politicians and statesmen — the wielders of power have put science to misuse. Everything can be put to good or bad use. The former has been called as ‘dharam’ (duty) by the famous Indian Dr. Rabindernath Tagore. He condemns modern civilization for the great misuse of science.

Take the example of a knife. It is used for cutting fruits and vegetables – good use. But the same knife can be misused if it used for cutting the throat or rip open the belly of some one. The most destructive and sinister use of scientific inventions and techniques is made in war. War is blight on our civilization. War calls in beast in man and he takes pride and pleasure in inflicting untold pains and miseries on his fellow beings. The last Great War has shaken the conscience of: mankind. It took a tremendous price for peace by the Allies. The Germans and the Japanese lost 13.6 and 2.5 million souls respectively. . Another world war shall mean complete wiping out or annihilation of the human species from the surface of the earth. The present Arms race among the major nations of the world, is the most unhappy augury. Modern scientific techniques have made the modern warfare most deadly and expedient. There is no limit to human folly. The examples of Iraq-US and Afghan-US wars are there.

Science must be stopped from being used as an instrument of nationalism if humanity is to survive.

Another human weakness is excessive dependence on machines. In the first place machines have displaced human labour and thus accentuated the problem of unemployment. Machines are meant to be our servants but unfortunately they have become our masters, the strict taskmasters. We are completely at the mercy of machines. Thus industrialization and mechanization are not unmixed blessings.

Again, scientific techniques have resulted in excessive spare time or leisure at the disposal of man, but we do not know how to utilize it productively in the best interest of mankind. It is not being used for the good and glory of mankind but in thoughtless pursuits, in worldly enjoyments or in killing time, above all in moral decay. We can say that modern man has a stunted soul in a gigantic body.

Science has cost dark shadows on the future of mankind. The world is now threatened with deadly effect of nuclear waste, environmental pollution and population explosion. Human life has become very cheap. More human lives have been lost in mechanical accidents than in all the battles and wars fought on the surface of the earth. Science has no soul, as it is materialistic. It has nothing to do with moral values.

This brings us to the defects of modern civilization based on science. The question of human quality has been too much neglected in Western civilization. Mr. L. P. Jacks has wisely remarked in his essay. “The use of scientific knowledge’.

“Our intellectual development in the field of science has outstripped our human development in the field of character. Science has built up for us enormous stock of knowledge, but our power of putting it to best use – another name for morality, is relatively undeveloped and behind hand. Our civilization, in consequence, is lopsided affairs, over weighed on the side of knowledge and machinery, and under weighed on the side of character or self control”.

There are five words of the poet Tennyson which well describe the lopsidedness of modern world:

“Knowledge comes but wisdom liners”. One gets the impression as if the world has gone mad. The major currents of Western civilization, of its thoughts, energy and ambition, have turned in the machine direction and have followed it ever since in ever-increasing volume. The results is our mechanized civilization with its wealth, its power, its feats of engineering, its enormous productive capacity, the great cities and crowded populations, its social and international problems, its mechanical habit of thought, and over it all, the shadow of that incredible following which proves that knowledge came but wisdom lingered.”

In the past years, there has been growing disbelief in man’s ability to use science only for human good and increasing belief that science is rapidly becoming not man’s servant but his master. The present ills of our age are due to the disproportionate development of human faculties; such an unevenly balanced development of various faculties is not only a danger for an individual but also catastrophic for the society and the mankind.

In conclusion, it can be said that science is the acceptance of what works, and rejection of what does not work. That needs more courage and wisdom. Knowledge without morals is always destructive. In this troubled period of human history, religion and humanities are as vital as a science for the education of good members of a good society.

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