This essay discusses the merits, virtues and pitfalls of contemporary advancements in science with close reference to its effects on the modern world, people’s worldviews and current mindsets that societies have. This essay aims to give a holistic overview of the impacts the progress in science, and about the alterations made on mankind’s mindsets of a great number of things. Through this, the essay concludes with a delicate, balanced wrap-up that summarises mankind’s awareness of the rapid changes to his environment, and raises pertinent questions and suggestions for further consideration.
The modern world is developing at a rapid rate. Scientific breakthroughs and innovations are not uncommon in our daily news. We even see talented students in their teens – budding scientists and researchers – occasionally featured in the news for their scientific achievements and accomplishments. Technology is inseparable from mankind today. Science is extremely significant in the improvement of life on earth and in many other aspects, yet scientific progress has increasingly been criticised to harm instead of help us humans, damage the environment and most considerably intrude into the controversial issues of ethics and morality. While scientific progress undoubtedly bestows countless benefits, the pursuit for scientific knowledge and technologies may very well bring about serious consequences when misused.
It is an irrefutable fact that science allows us to understand more about ourselves and the environment we live in. By applying knowledge and technologies derived from scientific research, we can then make changes that improve human life and our environment. For example, medical advancements help prevent and cure people of ailments and diseases; military and weapons technologies strengthen the defence of a nation to achieve social stability and the effect of deterrence on potential intruders, while simple yet effective innovations make our lives more convenient. Such motivations for scientific progress are unquestionable for it is merely about investing time, effort and resources into benefiting everyone. However, with modern technologies readily available and invaluable knowledge at our fingertips, there are times when though the motivations are justifiable, the means to achieve projected ends and the issues that are involved spark off controversial debates about the true spirit of scientific progress.
An extremely pertinent example in the scientific progress discussion is that of stem cell research. Stem cell research has been acclaimed by numerous scientists and researchers as the next major breakthrough in medical science because technologies derived from stem cell research are slated to be able to treat a variety of diseases and impairments such as spinal cord injuries and Parkinson’s disease. The essential idea is that stem cells are highly adaptable and can possibly be cultivated to grow human organs for those in need. Stem cells are also characterised by their ability to self-renew, making its discovery phenomenal.
The controversy lies in the obtainment of embryonic stem cells which is argued by opponents of stem cell research to violate the sanctity of human life. The deliberate destruction of a human embryo is also typically interpreted as being incompatible with Roman Catholic doctrine. The arguments by both sides in this debate are comprehensive. This is one situation where the initial, harmless motivations for scientific progress are met with disagreements based on ethics. From this, and other similar cases such as with genetic engineering and cloning, scientific progress is indeed for the good. However, in such endeavours, it is invariably important to make sure scientific progress does not intrude past ethical borders – that we pursue science and its potential benefits with a consciousness of research’s consequences.
With the immense possibilities science and its progress can provide us, there is also a likelihood of the use of science resulting in negative outcomes. For instance, the nuclear bomb was first used offensively against Japan in a bid to end World War II. Being able to release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of reaction matter, it is unquestionably a weapon of mass destruction. Many Japanese were killed during the bombings and even more have died from the long-term effects of radiation. The United States’ research and use of these bombs may be justified, for there were suspicions that Nazi Germany was developing such a deadly weapon and claims that the war was ended more quickly and with less bloodshed by using the bombs on Japan.
While technologies in nuclear energy are certainly exceptionally efficient in generating electricity, nuclear energy is most importantly an aspect of science that poses a genuine risk to mankind and the environment – proven by past incidents such as the Chernobyl accident. We may say that weapons – especially one as devastating as the nuclear bomb – are not for the good of mankind as they allow wars thus numerous deaths to happen. Military progress is however, justified for it boosts a country’s defence and helps to deter others from attacking. While the technologically advanced weapons and military tactics are not inherently the root causes of these fatal conflicts, we as humans must nonetheless have the responsibility to handle such powerful resultants of scientific progress.
As scientific progress has been such a common aspect of our lives, we may not be fully conscious of where it is leading us and affecting our culture and way of doing things. Disagreements about certain issues relating to science and technology may strain international relations such as that about North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and testing. All in all, scientific progress will definitely enhance the quality of our lives, yet we must be cautious in utilising our newfound knowledge and ultimately making sure we do not disregard the initial motivations for scientific progress resulting from our abuse of science or technology.