IMPACT OF SCIENCE ON MODERN MIND
Man, the animal, has worked his way up in the world and ha s gained primacy by virtue of his success in the struggle for existence. He has adjusted himself better to the conditions than his competitors in the cosmic strife. For his successful progress from the savage state, he is largely indebted to his curiosity and desire to penetrate the mysteries of nature and to gain knowledge of hidden things. It is his curiosity, manual dexterity and scientific imagination out of which science has gradually emerged.
To the Greeks, science was knowledge, not merely of the material and physical world, but of all that concerned man. The feeling of wonder in men originally gave rise to philosophy. Their interest was first excited by obvious problems and then advanced little by little to the phenomena of the moon and the sun, the stars and the genesis of the universe.
The advance of science transformed man’s outlook on life and had we an impact on every branch of intellectual activity. Newton’s genius was such that for long men felt that the Universe had been fully explored. Copernicus and Galileo revolutionized the history of scientific thought by giving a new conception of man’s place in the universe.
Science explores the unknown world and leads to discoveries, which transform the world and make life more interesting. It deals with the domain of positive knowledge in the field of nature and universe, man and society.
With the help of science, space has been conquered, water has been controlled and fire has been yoked to the service of man. All forces of nature, which in primitive ages, were worshipped as cruel masters, have now been trained as useful servants. The aeroplane, the railway, the telegraph, the telephone, the gases, the steam engine, the spinning and the weaving machine, motor cars, bicycles, canals and bridges, all these are products of scientific knowledge. Distance has been shortened, time has been saved and material prosperity has been promoted beyond measure.
The object of science is to study nature. It deals with concrete phenomena. It is the search after truth. It encompasses all branches of knowledge. In its restricted sense, it means physical science, the branch that deals with matter and material things. The study of science makes a man exact and precise.
In the sphere of practical knowledge the world owes much to India in the realm of mathematics, which was developed in the Gupta times to a very advanced stage. Indians had a clear conception of the abstract number, while Greek mathematical science was largely based on mensuration and geometry. Varahamihira, the great astronomer of ancient India says: “The Greeks are barbarians, but the science of astronomy originated with them, and for this they must be revered like gods” Hindu astronomers had discovered that the heavenly bodies were spherical and shone by reflected light; they were aware of the motion of the earth on its axis and had calculated its diameter. 9Brahmagupta in 628 A.D. anticipated Newton by declaring that all things fall to earth by the law of nature, for it is the nature of the earth to attract and keep things”.
The Vaisheshika School of physicists propounded the atomic theory. In mathematics the theorem of Pythagoras was understood and a rule was laid down for the solution of equations. In course of time, Indian mathematical, astronomical and medical theories found their way to mediaeval Europe through Baghdad.
Describing die positive achievements of science, Jawaharlal Nehru said; “It made the world jump forward with a leap, built up a glittering civilization, opened up innumerable avenues for the growth of knowledge and added to the power of man to such an extent that for the first time, it was possible to conceive that man could triumph over and shape his physical environment. There is no visible limit to the advance of science.
The gifts of science have added greatly to the dignity and sublimity of human civilization, and science has been acclaimed as an ‘angel’ of creative ideals. But, at the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to the other side of the picture.
The destructive role of science has its own horrors. In fact the dehumanizing role played by science in the modem age is more significant than the creative one. Discovery of nuclear energy would have been hailed at one time as a boon to mankind, but in the modem age, scientists have misused this great discovery. We all know how in a few minutes, one atom bomb, thrown by the American pilots on the city of Hiroshima, created a hell of devastation, killing more than half a million innocent men, women and children.
The atom bomb was perfected and its power of destruction increased hundredfold. The hydrogen bomb was invented, and not content with it, modern scientists developed the technique of mass-slaughter by producing the megaton nuclear bombs. As we dwell upon the impact of science on our modem society let us consider the question as to who should be held responsible for the horrors of destruction created by science—Science/ scientists or someone else?
We cannot attribute vicious motives to science because it is a colossus without a will of its own. The scientist is almost always a man with a good and humanitarian purpose. The glorious example of Einstein, the most eminent among scientists, is there to prove that a scientist can be as much a spiritualist as any other person on this earth. He said, “The fate of the human race is more than ever dependent on its moral strength. The way to a joyful and happy state is through renunciation and self-limitation everywhere.” In other words, the fate of mankind is dependent on the moral strength of its leaders who are politicians and it is they of whom renunciation and self-limitation are demanded.
Who is not aware that in a modem State, it is only at the instance of the government in power that nuclear energy is produced? Nuclear plants everywhere are State-controlled. If a President or a Prime Minister is enamoured of displaying his own nuclear weapons to the world, you can easily imagine the sorry state of affairs it will create.
The crux of the matter is that the scientist today is not an independent being. He has to work under the control and sometimes the coercion of the State. As such, he cannot exercise his own will and assert his noble motive in the matter of the use of nuclear or other deadly stuff. He has to keep aside his conscience. The State works through politicians. It is they who misuse science and in the ultimate analysis, are responsible for the sorry state of affairs in the world.
Dissociated from ethics and philosophy, science becomes a religion of power. Its function is to harness the forces of nature and it teaches its devotees to discover more and more sources of power. Just as a miser takes delight in laying up heaps of gold, in the same way science takes delight in the achievement of more and more power. Now, power can be exhibited both in constructive and in destructive terms. One of its expressions is the motor car or the railway engine and the other, the machine-gun or the tank. Both are symbols of power which man has gained through the knowledge of science. The railway engine runs dragging a load of hundreds of tons. The machine-gun can kill a hundred persons in a few minutes. It cannot be denied that each exhibits in its own way the power which science has given to man. Man’s journey through life is an odd mixture of joy and sorrow. The avail of the soul is tragic and lonely, where science cannot yet penetrate. It has been said that ‘much science, much sorrow’. Science is madness if good sense does not cure it. Science has been called inhuman. It has little to say about those creations of the human spirit which also are immortal, such as exaltations, agonies, love and man’s unconquerable mind.”