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Science and Civilization

English Essay on "Science and Civilization"

When we initiate a discussion on this subject — Science and Civilization — we have first to understand what is meant by civilization. To live a lavish life style; to travel by aeroplanes; to live in a computer controlled age; to construct multistoreyed buildings all air-conditioned and lavishly furnished; to put on the most costly clothes — are all these the aspects and the ambits of a civilized life? The chamber’s Twentieth Century Dictionary defines civilized’ as ‘having advanced beyond a primitive savage state: refined in interests and tastes; sophisticated, self-controlled and fair-spoken’. The definition has a lot in just a few words and presents a full picture of what a ‘civilized’ man should be.

Science has given us a world of ‘wonders’ — never ever even thought of or even imagined centuries ago. Except that death still does come and it could not be avoided or eliminated from the cycle of life, but the creation of life, its sustenance and its prolongation has indeed been controlled by Science. Birth and death were once considered as an act divinely destined, but now with the scientific developments birth can be controlled as willed but death still cannot. In more than many fields of human life, revolutionary advancements have been made by science. Remotely controlled devices make life magical. We can conquer what was unconquerable; we can reach considered inaccessible. Nothing seems impossible. Part of bodies can be replaced; the damaged one can be repaired, even the part of an animal’s body can be transplanted in a man’s body. The scientist proudly claims to have conquered nature and to have brought about a revolution in human thought. All this is true indeed. But does all this really mean that we have become more ‘civilized’?

Let us examine the issue point by point as per the definition given in the Chamber’s Dictionary. Having advanced beyond the primitive savage state’ — this is the first criteria. The savages lived in the woods; killed animals for their food; remained scantily covered with the bark of trees or animal skins; would sometimes ferociously attack each other and even kill without any fear of punishment. Such a man was called ‘Savage’. The Savages lived in the woods. Trees and their fruits served as their habitat and their food. The fresh and unpolluted atmosphere and environment kept them healthy and full of vigour and vitality. We, today, live in slums, drains of the dirtiest flow forcing us to inhale the most poisonous gases; those living in palatial multi-storeyed flats have hardly the chance to sleep under the clear open sky and breathe the fresh invigorating air; they have coffers full of money but tensions and tremors torment their bodies and minds. Contentment and calm of mind elude them. Depression, disenchantment and disease overtake them. Life for them is all artificial. T.S. Eliot, the great modern English poet, calls all this a ‘Wasteland’ and calls man as ‘Hollow men’. Whether ‘Savages’ were living a better life or the modem so-called ‘civilized’ men?

Savages killed animals for their food. We also keep killing them for food as well as for sport. In a recent survey, the population of the tiger species in the world is fast depleting. Their skins are being exported. their bones are being sold out to be used as medicines. Our jungles are getting thinner and thinner both in the sphere of the fauna and the flora. The ecobalance is getting woefully disturbed and misbalanced. The snake-skins are being used for exotic dresses. Are we then any better? Nature has arranged for striking a balance. The snake eats away the rodent, thus crops are saved from the rodent menace. Now when snakes would be killed at a mass scale in this manner for fashions hows, the damage to the crops would go on.

The Savages killed each other sometimes. It was only when some infuriation was caused. But how about the two world wars? This is what H.G. Wells wrote about wars — Hundreds and thousands of men, uniformly dressed, carrying diverse deadly weapons go the theatre of war, killing those whom they do not know and who have done them no wrong. And those who stay at home rejoice at the murder of men’. Is this a behaviour of a civilized set of people? The Savages killed only those who had given them some offence or caused them some harm, but these mercenaries kill those whom they do not know and who have done them no wrong.’ Science has given to mankind disastrous us weapons. The holocaust witnessed by Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the World War II is just recent history. The atom bomb not only killed soldiers on the war front but the entire population — the innocent women, the little children and ill and ailing patients In the hospitals.

It is science which has worked this havoc. We have hardly in any way advanced from the Savage stage’ as the dictionary lays down, rather have been more Savagely in our actions. We have only to hang our heads in shame rather than to raise them up in pride to call ourselves as ‘civilised’ beings.

The next part of the dictionary meaning says — ‘refined in interests and tastes’. Let us go back to the ancient age of our sages, saints, philosophers, poets and reformers of the world. Can we deny that those great minds were in any way less ‘refined in interests and tastes’ than what we today are? Wars were fought but there still was some method — fighting came to a stop at sunset. But today’s wars fuelled by Scientifically developed arms and ammunition has no method in its madness. Who were more refined in interests and tastes’ — the ancients or the moderns? ‘Self-controlled and fair-spoken’ is still an additional quality that a civilised man is expected to possess.

In this so-called modem world there is nothing like ‘self-control’ in human behaviour. A bar-maid could be killed by inebriated young men for not serving them liquor at the odd hour past midnight. A lady of a so-called respectable family could be thrown into the ‘Tandoor’ by her so-called husband and burnt alive. People living in big metropolitan cities do not care to know who their next door neighbour is or who is being robbed or murdered in the adjacent room.

One for oneself , this is the limited concept of social life. In the olden days, the whole village used to be a family and the sorrow or joy of one was shared equally by all. Nothing of this sort of sensitivity is now visible anywhere. There is duality in words and expressions — this is the shape of the modern politician. The greater the equivocation, the more successful the politician. All this is because life governed more by reason and less by conscience or emotion. Science tends to give a training in more rational thinking where emotion takes a back seat.

Let us judge for ourselves from what has been discussed above if we are more civilized with science as our hand-maid or were we more civilized when we were without much of it. We ultimately have to say that ‘Science without Conscience is the ruin of mankind’.

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