Even seven thousand years ago, with the start of the Vedic Age, considered to be the best civilization, the age of scientific development responsible for the Indian diaspora, we had the basics of the laws expounded by the Great Chanakya. It was an age of logic and progression, an age of culture and spirituality and the perfect breeding place for science.
Science and civilization are two sides of a coin and without questioning and rational thinking science cannot develop. This is why the Medieaval Age is known as the dark age. When new theories could not be propounded, when feudal lords treated any idea, new or different, as blasphemy or madness, when the philosophers were forced to drink goblets of poison because they thought differently, science was kept in the dark dank cellars, in a static state, away from spying eyes, the age could be nothing else than the most primitive.
It is Science that has transformed countries like England, Russia and America, basically agricultural and rurally compassionate states, into urbane and competitive societies. It was the developments in the field of science which revolutionized the very concept of socialistic thinking and social norms. Unfortunately there are countries who are rich in mineral wealth but due to dogmatic religious thinking have been restricted to the back alleys in scientific development. It is only their close proximity to more civilized nations that have introduces materialistic trends, all due to their buying power. All technologies there are improved and their contribution to science has been zero. Without the power of their old reserves, they would have remained nomads and camel traders.
The power of scientific theories, deductions and development have had effects on literatures of recent ages, specially English literature. The theories of Darwin, his evolution theories, that of Herbert Spencer and Wallace completely revolutionized the contemporary views about man and society. Faith in the Biblical view of cosmology and creation was shaken and was replaced by the Darwinian theory of evolution through struggle for existence. This effect made a gradual impact and was the cause of weakening of religious faith.
Science influenced literature of the Victorian Era and fostered a spirit of restlessness and by increasing man’s material resources, it commercialized contemporary life. The effects of geological and biological discoveries shook to its depth the old cosmogony and resulted in general spiritual unrest, testified by the skeptical tendencies, all evoked due to scientific research.
Today, the concept of God has under gone a radical change ad science has been the foremost factors, joining hands with religion. Science has opened up vistas, staring with the basics, like Archemede’s Principle, to the mysteries of electrons, neutrons and protons. We are now informed that a atomic division results in the spreading of unlimited energy. But the experiments and nuclear tests have brought forth dangerous factors like the fact that the atom, once diffused abruptly cannot be controlled by man. Scientists have now formed the theory that the balance maintained in our galaxy is the manifestation of energy in a balanced manner.
The deductions leave our scientific discoveries and theories in the infantile stage. The vast sea of energy in the galaxies are bewildering compared to this, the total production of energy by man upto date is just infinitesimal. All pride in our scientific advancements come to a grinding halt in the face of this superlative manifestation of energy. The energy is infinite – infinity is zero, which has no dimension. This is beyond our comprehension and far more powerful that us mortals.
However we do find drastic changes for the betterment in human lives due to Science. From the small matchbox which was a revolution in its own time, to dynamite to blast rocks ad clear paths for mountainous road, to fuel meant for blasting rockets into outer space, all have been a part of the continued research and development in marketing the world a better place to live in and the inhabitants more knowledgeable about the universe. The advent of Television and Computers are the Stars which have definitely enhanced the possibilities of making our world a Global Village, in the true sense of the word.
Internet is one of the most remarkable achievements of modern day computer science and software development. The e-mail and website are a very exciting phenomenon, a boon for all, right from high profile business, to aspiring students in colleges, to simple housewives surfing the net for value based products from all over the world. Instant replies are possible from the other party sitting thousands of kilometers away in a totally different and aliene set up, in a different country. It was saved the necessity of making expensive telephone calls, sometimes futile. It has been a wonder solution to parents who can communicate with their children studying or married in distant countries.
There are several items of regular use developed by science which has definitely made life easier for humanity. Right from the mundane washing machine, toaster and micro oven, to the motor, scooter, calculator and pocket organizer, they have all been instrumental in reducing our work load, improving our calculations and memory, to enabling the middle class to make use of their own transport instead of being dependent on public transport. The list is endless and they have so intertwined with our regular routine, that we shudder to think of doing without them. A slight disruption in electricity tends to make life difficult for us.
But there is the other side of all this too. The gases which are cycled in refrigerators and air-conditioners to keep food and our rooms cool, are creating havoc. They are responsible for the gaint hole in the Ozone layer covering our world. The layer which filters harmful radiation from the sun. The world is living in fear of total annihilation from any of the thousands of multi-megaton nuclear bombs now in ready stock with the selected members of Security Council of the UN. Besides them we have several other countries like ours who are proclaimed nuclear powers and others who are stocking it in a surreptitious manner.
Nuclear bombs and fission material are now in danger of falling into terrorist hands. Chemical bombs or the ‘Dirty Bomb’ as it is known have already been used in the Vietnam War and by the Iraqis against Kurds. The master terrorist Osama Bin Laden, is supposed to have been in possession of several of these to be used against religion and countries which are non-islamic.
The energy released by nuclear bombs gave the scientists brainwaves in harnessing the energy from atomic fission, into electricity generation. The developed countries took the step of building atomic power plants, as the need for energy was more there, to run electrical gadgets, room heaters and air-conditioners. The initial bravado gave way to apprehension after several instances of radiation leak right from the 1957-58 disaster in Ural Mountains of the then USSR to the 1986 Chernoby1 Disaster. An independent study had pointed to more than 200 accidents in the last 50 years which have taken place in 14 different countries including USA, Europe and North America.
Unfortunately, even as the developed countries widened up, they motivated the developing and not so developed countries into erecting their dismantled plants. It is mind boggling that, even after so many accidents, there are still around 450 nuclear plants spread over 26 countries, which are still in use for generation of electricity. 450 plants which are radio active and danger to life and environment. In India there have been leakages at Tarapore, Kalpakkam and Rajastan.
A group if intellectuals who have thoroughly studied the factors have arrived at the conclusion : “The radiation hazard was intrinsic to and inseparable from atomic power generation, as irrespective of their design and construction all reactors were liable to routinely release radio-activity and harmful radio-nucleides.” This should have been taken with all the seriousness it deserved but no, our nuclear scientists are planning for more of them.
Even after all the UN sponsored meeting for checking pollution by the CFC-12 and CFC-113 gases used in air-conditioners and refrigerators has not fetched concrete results. The Ozone layer continues to be depleted till it has reached the size of USA and the depth of Mt. Everest. Europe and USA are the culprits using the world’s total of 88% Ozone eating chemicals.
The benefits if science are innumerable and they must be seen as the positive aspects, which for outweigh the negative factors. As is obvious, we are responsible for changing tracks and going in for scientific research in instruments of destruction, pollution and luxury. All this for power, greed, hegemony and a wanton, luxurious way of life.
It is our fault that instead of keeping science harnessed in our service, we are giving it the opportunity to become our master and why? To prove supremacy over others and hegemonic tendencies by countries. It is also due to sheer absence of far sight and also callousness. Why else would we prepare radio-active material like Plutonium 239? The radio-active waste of Plutonium 239 remains active for nearly 25000 years and Plutonium 242 remains active for nearly 350,000 years. Have we thought about this waste management, lasting over several millenniums?
A singular case in our country will highlight the callousness and negligence of our scientific waste management. Thousands of tones of radioactive waste from Indian Rare Earths, Kerala, were dumped into the Arabian Sea, in the 60s. The result is there for all who are interested. The famous Periyar River is suffering from severe contamination with the investigations highlighting 20,000 deaths in Kerala, of people suffering from Cancer. This is double the national average.
All our researches should be for the benefit of both humanity and the world, we have inherited. Or is it the other way round? We should consider our life on the planet as a loan from our children and future generations. We should ensure that we use and leave the planet in the same or a cleaner state than what we received. We humans should start behaving as responsible inhabitants of our world and use science, scientific research and knowledge for the benefit of a better world and a more knowledgeable world tomorrow.
Let us use the knowledge of scientific advances for bettering human lives. The marriage of computing, engineering and polymer science will ensure correct and instant diagnosis in serious cases of heart and kidney malfunctioning. Biometric sensor will be the new stethoscope for doctors. The study of human genes will soon make it easier to determine the mechanisms of disease.
After decades of preparation and research, scientists have finally succeeded in decoding the information in a human chromosome, the unit in which genetic information is stored. DNA testing is now a miraculous method of testing genes. Also known as De-Oxy Ribonucleic Acid it is also used in forensic investigations. Scientists have cloned the first sheep named Dolly and the next step is closing of human organs, necessary for replacements and transplants. There will be scientists who are already trying to clone human beings and we should be prepared for another Frankestien.
DNA is a double-helix molecule in the cell nucleus that determines heredity, Unraveling the genetic code, in humans, plants and animals has thrown up a dazzling potential in fighting disease. In the next decade or so, there could be a therapy for cancer, heart disease, haemophilis diabetes and many other fatal disorders. But the dilemma of human cloning is thrown up to negate all positive aspects.
In-vitro fertilization resulted in the first test tube baby Louise Brown, over two decades ago. This has given hope and joy to thousands of childless couples, all over the world. Couples who were earlier, totally without hope. But moral questions are now being raised where grandmothers are acting as servers, carrying the fertilized egg of their daughter and son-in-law in her womb, to give birth to her own grandson. What exactly is the relationship to be called.
Human values can never be ridden rough-shod and has to remain one of the foundation stones of a civilized society. It is within the sphere of civilization, keeping principles, ethics and morals in the forefront, that we should harness the power of science.