Monday, 3 November 2014

Dual role of science in Society-Emancipatory and Oppressive Role

Dual role of science

Prepared by
M.Sc., M.Ed., JRF & NET
Assistant Professor in Physical Science, Arafa Institute for Teacher Education
Attur, Thrissur.

Science is often considered to have dual role in society
Emancipatory role of science
Emancipation refers to liberation or setting free of the society or people. The predominant role of science is to free society from restriction and liberate them from bondage of superstition, prejudices, and cult practices. In the modern world, we have come a long way from the dark period of oppression to freedom. Science now looks at relieving people from hardship of day-to-day activities, making life as comfortable as possible. For example in the agricultural practices science and technology, the invention of machines and gadgets have made man more productive and efficient, enabling him to earn more and lead better lives.
A car starting up simply with a turn of a key, a computer that does enormous work with the press of a button, and an ATM giving the money any time anywhere are good examples of science providing a man freedom from discomfort.
The role of science is not restricted to bringing comfort to people, but is now extended to offering justice to those needed. For instance, digital technology has been used lately to blow whistles to reveal grave injustices, such as videos of US soldiers torturing prisoners of war, that occurs thousands of miles away are brought to light through social media. This helps in raising of voice even by people of other end of the world for such discrimination.
Science connects people from different corners of the world to share the feelings with loved ones through cameras in the touch phones that captures the expression and pass on them or with business partners by doing business through emails, social media and so on without even seeing or hearing their clients.
Science has worked wonders in people’s lives by liberating them from deadly and contagious diseases through the invention of modern therapy, medicines and equipments.
Science in food industry helps people to adopt and use advanced methods of storing, packaging and using them without contracting deadly diseases. Genetically engineered crops are another boon accorded by the science to humankind, which has offered better variety of crops and yield.  Thus, science plays a greater role in emancipating mankind.
Oppressive role of science
Oppression is a state of being kept under the force or authority. Science and technology developed can be used either for oppression or liberation. Most of the time the inventions made cause more harm either directly or indirectly to the society. Science and technology thus can perform an unexpected negative role in keeping the man under its authority. The weapon based technology enables conditions of oppression in the first place. The inventions of nuclear weapons, hydrogen bombs, TNT  hadled to mass destruction has resulted in great loss and fear in human lives.
Chemicals such as DDT and cyanaide have a strong adverse impact on the environment resulting in diseases that were once not present. The ability to process illegal drugs such as MDMA, heroin, cocaine, etc., has destroyed the lives of the younger generations.
Mobile phones and computers though some of the best inventions of the century, they have had serious implications on the lives of the teens, in particular, affecting their personal growth and development as a responsible citizen in the society.
Synthesis of xenobiotic compounds such as CFCs, polychlorinated biphenyls and synthetic polymers has been a greater threat to the environment, which eventually has brought about global warming and ozone layer depletion allowing penetration of harmful rays into the earth, which not only threaten the living beings on the earth but also very survival of the earth.
Science is a two-edged sword that has to be handled responsibly. It is not one man’s fight, but it should be a collective effort of the society as such, to educate and enlighten the generation to use science cautiously with a concern towards our fellow being.
Science in Dark Ages
Dark ages are a historical period in the middle ages, i.e., the period between about 500 and 1000 AD. Middle ages were a time of ignorance and superstitious beliefs which armed the people to suppress science. During this middle age period, certain myths and believes that people followed suppressed the growth of Science. Science is often used as a tool for oppression in dark ages.
Examples for Science as a tool of suppression in Dark ages:
·         People believed that the earth was flat and certain scholars proved that the earth is round and the circumference of the earth was also measured as a proof of it. Christopher Columbus, who floated this idea, was vehemently opposed by the Church.
·         Controversies regarding the age of the earth, people believed the earth was only 6000 years old and it was made in a week but where many scholars opposed it and believed that the earth must have come into existence over incredibly long periods of time.    
·         Copernicus’s heliocentric theory was controversial and went against the catholic belief that the earth is geocentric. The Church suggested that the sun is the one that moves, and the earth stays stationary, whereas Copernicus theory proved that the earth moved around the sun.
·         The Church further opposed autopsies and dissections during the middle ages, which ceased the growth of science.

The work by John William Draper’s History of Conflict between Religion and Science in 1874 and Andrew Dickson White’s History of Warfare of Science with Theology in 1896 discusses how the medieval Church actively suppressed science. During this age, oppression by religious heads and feudal lords led to decline in the scientific thoughts.