by John Gillot and Manjit Kumar
(with additional information from Simon Faraday)
Is science the liberator of humanity, or the tool of despots? Is the attempt to control the laws of nature the handmaiden of progress, or the suicidal act of ignorant fools? These are the kind of issues being raised today, as the world’s pressing demographic and environmental problems make more people ask whether progress is such a good thing. What answers can we come up with?
Marxists support the unlimited growth of scientific knowledge and capacity. The dangers posed by the application of modern science arise from the nature of the societies in which it takes place not from the science itself. The system which dominates the globe – capitalism – is at best stagnant. Without the constraints this system imposes, the potential exists for fundamental scientific advances to be made and used for the good of us all. In opposition to the Marxist view, however, there is a growing belief among radical thinkers that humanity is inevitably threatened by technological and scientific advance.
This view has been put clearly by the modern Green movement. Discussing the environmental problems of today, Fritjof Capra has argued that these “manifold health hazards are not just incidental by-products of technological progress; they are integral features of an economic system obsessed with growth and expansion, continuing to intensify its high technology in an attempt to increase productivity.”
The Green view of science and technology as inherently dangerous makes sense to many people. Mention biotechnology, for example, and images of man-made mutants are more likely to come to mind than thoughts of a cure for genetic disorders. Such a reaction is understandable, given the misuse of scientific research. If people like Capra and his colleagues only wanted to expose the abuse of science by the capitalist system, we could have no objection. However, they go much further, asserting that “technological progress. . . growth and expansion” as such are the problem. This simply will not stand up to scrutiny.
Technological growth and scientific progress have vastly improved the state of human existence through the ages. A glance at Read the rest of this entry »