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The Impact of Science on Society

The Impact of Science on Society

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Published by cabralyc
The Impact of Science on Society, by Prof. Padmanabhan Krishna, Rector of the Rajghat Education Centre, of the Krishnamurti Foundation India.
The Impact of Science on Society, by Prof. Padmanabhan Krishna, Rector of the Rajghat Education Centre, of the Krishnamurti Foundation India.

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Published by: cabralyc on May 10, 2009
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12/04/2010

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The Impact of Science on Society
by Prof. P. Krishna
 
Ex-Rector, Rajghat Education Centre, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Varanasi 221001,IndiaThough modern science is of relatively recent origin, having started with Galileo about 350years ago, it has made very rapid progress and completely transformed outwardly themanner of our living. It is said that our life outwardly has changed more in the last onehundred years than it did in thousands of years earlier, because of the scientific knowledgeaccumulated over the last three centuries, and its application in the form of technology. Sothe impact of science on society is very visible; progress in agriculture, medicine and healthcare, telecommunications, transportation, computerization and so on, is part of our dailyliving.In spite of all this progress, the consequent development of technology and industry, andthe conveniences, comforts and power we have got through this knowledge, in no part of the world are human beings happy, at peace with themselves, living without violence. Itwas hoped that the development of science would usher in an era of peace and prosperity,but that has been belied. On the contrary, if we look at the level of violence throughout theworld during a ten-year period, from 1900 to 1910, or 1910 to 1920 and so on, in everydecade, in every country, the graph is going up. So, on the one hand, greater prosperity —so-called globalization — and, on the other, greater violence, sorrow, tension, and newerdiseases.Krishnamurti raised the question: Has there been psychological evolution at all in the lasttwo or five thousand years? Have we progressed at all in wisdom, or the quest for truth,inwardly in our consciousness? Science has generated tremendous power; knowledgealways gives power and is useful because it increases our abilities. But when we do nothave wisdom and love, compassion or brotherhood, which are all by-products of wisdom,then power can be used destructively. Sixty- five percent of all the scientific research beingdone currently is directly or indirectly meant for developing weapons, and supported by theDefence Ministry in every nation. In the last one century, 208 million people have beenkilled in wars, which is without precedent in any previous century.So, does humanity deserve to have the knowledge which science is generating? We do notlet children play with fire, for they might set the whole house on fire or burn themselves.
 
And is not humanity in that state, without wisdom? There is hatred in our motivations; weare badly divided into groups — caste, national, linguistic, religious and other groups. Is itthen responsible for scientists to generate knowledge, giving more and more power, withoutthe wisdom to use it rightly? Responsibility from a theosophical point of view is universalresponsibility. It means not saying: ‘I am only responsible for generating scientificknowledge.’ You are also responsible for the whole of society, all of humankind, and eventhe earth. We are living in a scientific age, but what is so great about the scientific age?Have we used the discoveries of science to be more protective, kind and gentle, to bringabout greater prosperity and peace?We have been at war for thousands of years, but we now have nuclear weapons. Joy Millsin her talk said: ‘It is important to watch your next step, but before you take the next step,make sure that you have a long vision, which gives the direction to that step. Is the newknowledge, which is a new step, in the right direction? Through genetic engineering wemight develop new power, but can we ensure that we will use that power for the benefit of mankind and for the earth at large? We cannot ensure that. If we cannot, is it responsible?Yet, all the nations of the world are spending huge amounts in developing scientificknowledge, as if that is our priority. Are the problems of humanity today caused by nothaving sufficiently fast aeroplanes or computers? Of course not. The problems existbecause of lack of understanding of life and the psychologically primitive state in which wefind ourselves.Einstein is on record saying that had he known that his equation E = mc2, which stated agreat truth about Nature, that mass is just another form of energy — will be used to makeatomic bombs and kill large numbers of people in Japan, he would never have done thatresearch or published the findings. That is something which has already happened in thelast century. So, why do science?Of course, we should distinguish between science and technology. Science is the quest fortruth about Nature. Its aim is not to produce technology, but to understand how Natureworks and discover the tremendous order and intelligence operating around us. If Naturewere chaotic, if sometimes a stone went up and sometimes down, then there would be noscience. But definite causes produce definite effects, and that is why science is possible.The scientist does not create order, he merely studies it. We are living in a very intelligentuniverse. A million things take place in perfect order within our body without anyconscious voluntary effort on our part, but we have not discovered order in consciousness,which is virtue, peace of mind, love, happiness, compassion, freedom from conflict, non-violence. Socrates wrote that there is only one virtue — that is order in consciousness,though we may describe it in different words in different situations. And the quest for truth,and wisdom, which is the essence of Theosophy, is the quest for order in consciousness,and coming upon virtue.So humanity has succeeded in the quest for science, because there is order already there.Newton only discovered gravitation, which existed a million years before Newton and willexist a million years hence. The laws of Nature are independent of the scientist. If you ask why Nature is ordered, the scientist cannot answer. He can only say: ‘I am a student of Nature. I observe and find that order there and I am studying the laws that govern that
 
order.’ The technologist takes the knowledge which the scientist discovers and uses it tomake guns, or a motorcar, or generate electricity. Technology is a by-product of science,but science itself is the quest for truth about Nature.Before Faraday, who discovered electromagnetism, it was thought that electricity andmagnetism are two completely separate things. But he discovered that if you push a magnettowards a metallic wire, a current is generated in the wire, as shown by a galvanometer’sdeflection. He was very excited about this new discovery. After he demonstrated this in abig hall, somebody asked: ‘All this is very well, but of what use is this discovery?’ And hereplied: ‘It is a new-born child. Of what use is a new-born child?’ Today we know thatdiscovery has made possible this microphone, these lights and fans, motorcars andaeroplanes and so on. But that was not the reason why Faraday discoveredelectromagnetism; he was just studying Nature.Human beings use the knowledge gained by science and decide what kind of application tomake of it. If there is wisdom, we will not use knowledge for destructive purposes. And if there is no wisdom, we are violent and selfish, and use knowledge in a destructive way.History shows that man has used it and is still using it primarily for destruction rather thanfor construction, bringing our planet and our lives to a level of danger which never existedbefore. Scientists are pointing out that the third world war would be the last, if it takesplace. So is there anything we can learn from science as Theosophists interested in wisdom,in coming upon a deeper understanding of life and of ourselves? Science, or scientificknowledge, does not deal with values per se, with what is right and what is wrong — itdoes not say that you should be kind. Scientific knowledge is said to be value-neutral. Butone must discover what is called the scientific spirit, for the spirit is always more importantthan the technique, the knowledge or the method in any activity.Although in society we have valued scientific knowledge and its application as technology,we have not really valued the scientific spirit, without which it is wrong to call ours ascientific society. We are an unscientific society. Science says that the whole earth is one,that we are all citizens of this planet, but it is we who divide ourselves and say, ‘This is myculture and this is my country and I will work only for this.’ For the benefit of our nationwe have armies to exploit other nations. All this is not scientific. War is not scientific inspirit.This is also true of many things in our life. There is the spirit of religion, which is wisdom,and there is the outer form or structure of religion: the rituals, the manner of praying, thebeliefs and so on. Without the spirit, rituals become hollow, empty. There is the spirit of art, which is the sensitive perception of beauty in sculpture, painting and so on, and there isthe technique. You can learn the technique, but if you do not have the spirit, you do notbecome a true artist. There is the spirit of education, the vision, and there is the technique of education, depending on whether education is regarded as merely training somebody toearn a living, or as meant to draw out his entire potential. If there is no vision, thetechnique, the method, and the steps go wrong. The path becomes mechanical.So what is this scientific spirit? What can we learn from science which is precious? Tounderstand this, let me take the example of the particular science I am familiar with, which

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