Essay on Science and Technology in India

Published: 20th December 2011
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There exist all sorts of challenges to excite the keenest minds in our vicinity and in our surroundings. To meet these challenges one would have to. Devise new techniques, new instruments and new approaches, which could easily open a window into the hitherto unknown areas of nature, and lead us to work at the frontiers of science and contribute to the world pool of knowledge. It is extremely important for the developing nations of the world to understand that all problems at the frontiers of science are not necessarily those dictated by fashions set elsewhere in the world.

The vital aspect relating to the establishment of sciences is a living vital force in society itself, making it truly secular and classless. With an advent of an upward spiraling nuclear armament race, many scientists all over the world began to realise that they should concern themselves with the fate of mankind in the atomic age.

As a result of this realization, several scientific associations began to play an active role in trying to establish an important and effective channel of communication between scientists of different nations, particularly between scientists from the great power blocs of the east and west Individual scientists, well- known and otherwise, have in response to their conscience, come out and taken a stand on questions relating to science and society.

But the PUG-WASH movement born out of the awareness that mankind might have to face a nuclear holocaust, was the first international group of scientists to come together, in answer to their social conscience - not just to warn society but to strive for co-operation, for betterment of international understanding and relations, for disarmament and to ensure that the type of understanding that led to the growth of science might be fostered for other endeavors, vital to human survival, for the creation of a secure world in which the beneficial application of science can be fully developed.

It is agreed that we must make a conscious effort to decrease the value in society of white- collar work, increase the respect and regard in which we hold the farmer, the artisan and the craftsman, and the man who can actually do a productive, professional and technical job.

It is this lopsided value system in society which is creating a mad rush on artificial type of higher education which does not represent true education for the human being in any sense of the word. It enables the individuals, through the acquisition of the pieces of paper such as degrees and diplomas, to be classified as scholars and to obtain white collar jobs. It is clear to everyone that the educational system inherited from our ancient tradition and the colonial past cannot be the environment for organic scientific growth, and that radical changes are called for.

Throughout man’s history, there has always been an attempt to bring about increasingly a rational approach to life and living. There is of course, a considerable degree of irrationality in all of us as human beings, who are moved by impulse and emotion.

A lack of understanding of the environment and inability to control it, introduced basic elements of fear and superstition. With the steady growth of science and improvement in one’s understanding of the way nature functioned many of the fears and superstitions of the earlier period of man’s history have disappeared, though to some extent they perhaps remain part of the subconscious. But from time to time new elements of fear, superstition, and mysticism build up.

Apart from the human being as an individual, we have to remember that as a collection of them, the society has many other traditional and structural features, which are rigid and archaic, belonging to past periods and are inappropriate to contemporary conditions.

In India, we also saw the introduction of rationality through religion by Ram Mohan Roy. But basically the path to the national spirit is through science and undoubtedly Jawaharlal Nehru was me of the foremost political thinkers of this century in this regard, He once said: “I too have worshipped at the shrine of science and counted myself as one of its votaries.

I realized that science was not only a pleasant diversion and abstraction but was the very texture of life, without which our modern world would vanish away. Politics led me to economics and this led me inevitably to science and the scientific approach to all our problems and to life it-self... Science ultimately is a way of training the minds, and of whole life functioning according to the ways and methods of science.” And throughout his life Jawaharlal Nehru strove to inculcate the importance of the scientific temper in the Indian people.

More recently, human society has come to regard the advance of science and techno1or with a certain element of fear and trepidation. Science indeed has known sin. Mankind has witnessed the destructive powers of nuclear weapons.

One attributes to the growth of science and technology a variety of ills that society is beset with; the population explosion; the rapid depletion of natural resources, including energy, the increasing pollution and degradation of the environment and ecosystem. Suddenly, society is beginning to ask whether the advance of science and technology s indeed desirable and the right way to proceed.

There are many who demand a halt to the growth of science and technology, but they fail to realize that solutions to the problems we face can only come through further development of science and technology, a development with a direction which is chosen wisely to enable us to discover the true nature of the problems and then to find the solutions. There is no question of retreating to the past or of halting progress of science in India, even if this were to be possible; the world will not stand still but will degenerate even more rapidly.

We, therefore, have to face future with optimism and ensure that the interactions of society and science are appropriate to ensure the selection of wise value systems and options. In order to consider this question of the future, we have to ask ourselves, where human happiness lies and what are the values - material as well as intellectual that we cherish and would like to develop.

The setting up of a value system for society is not something which is in the hands of science. It is a matter in which those concerned with politics, economics and the social sciences have a greater role to play - all of them trying to arrive at the appropriate values and in educating society at large to accept this. It is not a matter for an order from the elite to masses but one that can only be evolved in an alternative process. The role of scientists in this was .expressed by Cecil Powell in his first Homi Bhabha Memorial Lecture in Bombay:

They are in a unique position to solve appropriate early problems, the dangers and the advantages likely to follow from scientific developments and to make their findings known to governments and to people. Of course, the solutions to many of our problems depend upon great political issues in which most scientists have no particular competence—bringing before the people of the world the immense possibilities of human advancement, which are now within our grasp, if science is rationally employed in a peaceful world.

Science represents ‘knowledge as accepted through unceasing critical process of experiment, theory and evolution and search for methods for this research. Knowledge and the power that stems from it can be used both for good and evil. It is for all of us to ensure that it will be used solely as a means to move towards the goal of human happiness.

Tintumon Thomas is a freelance writer and has written content for several web & print media projects. He also writes optimized content for better Search Engine Ranking.

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