Are There Any Obligations Science Has Towards Society? Term Paper

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¶ … obligations science has towards society?

All human knowledge in the past and present were painstakingly acquired for the benefit of mankind. Though the ancient philosophers sought knowledge for its own sake, they also took care to see that what they gained was disseminated among the masses. Ancient inventions and discoveries, from fire, wheel and those simple things we take for granted have been given to this world by enquiring minds in the past, and these advancements have benefited society. Modern science has undergone a change in the definition and in the method it seeks to gain knowledge. The basic quality of science is that it is based on empiricism. To elaborate, science arrives at the truth of a matter considered by observation, which then is used to create a hypothesis, and the hypothesis is then rigorously tested and verified to come to a conclusion or an irrefutable theory. That is why unlike other human methods of knowledge science is always said to have the most dependable method. (Young, 2001, pp: 4-5) the traditional methods of thought have been replaced by rationalism. That science does contribute to human civilization is a fact, although we cannot measure it in mathematical terms. (Wigner; Wightman; Mehra, 1998, p. 461) the 'little science was promoted by individuals, and even today the individual contributions or group contributions in science, and the 'big science' emerged in areas that required huge investments, and multidisciplinary collaboration. (Wigner; Wightman; Mehra, 1998, p. 460)Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Term Paper on Are There Any Obligations Science Has Towards Society? Assignment

The scientist however is not infallible and the scientist as a human being carries with him or her seeds of the upbringing, faith and the environment and society. The social and political climate of a country can have its own influence on science. For example research on the history of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in Germany revealed that where there was a profit or gain to the scientist, the ethics and professional codes of conduct failed, and the individuals collaborated with the system to create or conduct experiments that took on criminal dimensions. The demographic and racial studies of the Nazi regime for example caused extermination of a race of people... That scientist were involved in such experiments have been verified by the study. (Gruss, 2005) the scientists however are compelled by their faiths and mostly by the society they live in to abandon their morals and values, and at times act in a way that is detrimental to the society.

The Role of Science in Society Today

All societies have scientific contributions absorbed into their daily functioning. Science has added to the quality of human life. The welfare society today cannot hope to do without the medical, technical and information frontiers touched by science. Science provides the people with access to treatment, security, education, information and the necessities of life. Today the economics of science and the cultural impact of science on society are the major concerns. We can see science from four angles, namely as simply the storehouse of human knowledge, as the embodiment of human will to progress, as a means of questioning and adjusting natural phenomena, and as the most important tool to promote human welfare. (Safeguarding Scientific Culture: A Contribution from EIROforum, 2002)

So what is the definition of the scientists and how can we relate the service of science to society? Earlier scientific thinking was dependent o n the social norms, especially with the culture and faith. The scientist was expected to flow with the system. Over the course of his career, Thomas Huxley tried to create a role model for the scientist in the last century. The "Victorian man of science" how ever did not have a streamlined career pattern, and the early scientist was recognized not for the scientific contributions but for the assertions on social and cultural questions as the significant 'other'. Science then tended to borrow heavily from theology, literature, and the elitist thought in the British Empire. (White, 2003, p. 170)

There is nothing unique in the aspect of learning for science. All experience comes from previous knowledge and science is not in anyway unique in this regard. In science the division of labor is done in such a manner that the entire work results in a discovery and the correction of an erroneous belief. The greatest plus point of science is the minimal error that can creep in. The comparison of weighted averages or observations that was or is made by the laity is based on at times erroneous comparison or analogy. The scientist is aware that the results can be interpreted in many ways and that the thinking of the scientists will also bear down on the results. The prevalence of science today does not mean that it has replaced traditional thought patterns. The Afro-American herbal medicine is one such example which is nothing but the reorientation of the knowledge of the earlier generation that came in as slaves, and that the knowledge is growing and thriving without scientific study is proof to show that traditional knowledge thrives. (Ross, 1996, p. 180) Thus we can see the effects of science on the society in the development of the civilization as a whole.

The technology and the human comforts that we can afford today are all the result of scientific attempts at giving society value with knowledge. The problem comes when we find that science is also used for purposes that is either directed at personal gain or for the political will that the question of science and the responsibility of scientists to society come to the fore. There is a compelling belief among people that science has a special place and rationality and the commonsense which was revered before has been dislodged from its seat. However the setting of standards for truth and logic is fragmented among various disciplines and today science is simply viewed as yet another part of the story. The awe with which it was held as sacrosanct is disappearing. "Science' in the singular has come to be seen as bad shorthand for a vast plurality of practices, which are fragmented across many disciplines, niches, paradigms, and approaches. (Pels, 2003, p. 25)

The question 'What is so special about science' as raised by Feyerabend brings forth the answer that there is nothing really special it is an irrefutable argument that from the times of the Renaissance literature, fine arts and the masterpieces it produced have added to the progress of the culture and society. The refinement of culture occurred in aesthetic appreciation of these human outputs. While that contribution to society cannot be ignored, it is also true that the thinkers of those times gave an unverified and often erroneous theory on scientific truths. For example the works of Aristotle, Ptolemy, Hippocrates, and many others who studied and arrived at conclusions on major questions suffered from the drawback that there was no proper method evolved that could test their hypothesis and clear it of all doubts. (Pels, 2003, p. 25) Science can serve society in multiple ways and to a great extent it has, and the world and society today have two streams that flow with the time. One is the cultural and enjoyment based arts, which has common aims at entertaining and the other is the scientific information which while enhancing the quality of art, also gives a sure method of knowledge and a deep vision in the aspect under study. Science can open the doors of our past to rectify the beliefs, and shows a light into the misty future. (Thornton, 1939, p. 121)

Benefits of science and the obligation to society

It is science that brought about the satellites, communication, and even recreated the dinosaurs for us on celluloid. Science has largely changed the way we now view our world. The public awareness about environment and the problems of human actions have now percolated down to the common man and the desire is to change those functions that can harm the globe. We must point out that science in the beginning was used for military might and for economic aggrandizement of the wealthy in the past. (the Role of Science and Technology in Society and Governance, 1998) it was this unbridled use of scientific discoveries that has brought about the ecological disaster that we face. Therefore science, which brought about this situation, must now be used to aid the sufferers and set the environment right and remove the misery caused by the misuse of science earlier by including in its stream the philosophy and the wisdom of the "indigenous societies and philosophers from all cultures can be very important." (the Role of Science and Technology in Society and Governance, 1998)

Scientists have to address policies and aid in creating public awareness in issues where profit motives could derail charitable sentiments. The common good ought to be the scientists aim rather than profit and recognition form sponsors or governments. Scientists must take care that their endeavours reach and benefit the marginalized people, and justify the expenses in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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