Science Is Only As Good As the People It Serves
Our constantly improving understanding of science is key to advancing our standards of living in a vast array of areas. There is not one facet of our lives in which we do not owe a major debt to modern science and its achievements.
From providing us with the means to communicate with each other with speed and ease on a huge scale (websites such as the one you are now reading being a great example), to helping us to secure the most fundamental of human rights such as access to food, clean water, shelter and basic medical care, science is the foundation stone on which our entire culture is built.
Unfortunately, scientific developments can only ever be as good as the people they serve, and as a species we're far from perfect. History is littered with depressingly similar instances where the potential of a new technology has been perverted and channelled towards less than egalitarian purposes. When one thinks of the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime supposedly in the name of science, it can be tempting to think we'd be better off ignorant. Of course, since the dawn of time those with great intelligence have been asked to use it to aid humanity in its more stupid endeavours. Even Leonardo Da Vinci, a key figure of the renaissance which helped paved the way for The Enlightenment on which our modern scientific values are largely based, spent a fair bit of his time designing war machines.
Indeed, sad as it is to say, much of the evil perpetrated by mankind would not have been possible without the work of scientists. What starts as a search for a better understanding of the incredible universe around us can, all too often, end up in its partial destruction.
Science is the place where mankind's odd duality, which pairs a constant striving for betterment with a perpetual capacity for violence and cruelty, becomes most poignantly tangible. The situation is encapsulated well in a quote from the most eminent of scientists, the endlessly eloquent Albert Einstein who said of our folly: "Two things are infinite: The universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the universe..."
At present it would be easy to argue that our treatment of the environment is a showcase for the stupidity Einstein is talking about. It takes a great deal of ingenuity to reach the point where you are able to, through your own actions, actively alter the climate of the planet that you inhabit. If it was something we were doing purposefully with a well intentioned aim it would be an incredibly impressive feat. As things stand we are practising geo-engineering on a global scale, but simply as a side effect of our habits as consumers. The results of this could be catastrophic. Indeed, many leading thinkers are in agreement that, if things do not begin to change soon, we may pass a point of no return after which the damage will be irreversible and the planet will be rendered more or less uninhabitable.
But, just as the unconsidered use of the technology available to us has allowed us to indiscriminately pollute and wreak ruin on the world's ecology, it could also help us to preserve the planet for future generations. Exciting advancements are happening all the time. Even now experts are toiling away to make nuclear fusion an economically viable energy source, an achievement that could help provide the world with clean affordable energy.
Whilst these big headline grabbing breakthroughs are amazing, the little things are just as important. You can use the good work being done by scientists to make sure your impact on the planet is kept to a minimum. You might shrink your carbon footprint by electing to drive a hybrid car, or you might use a dreamland intelliheat blanket to reduce your heating needs. However you go about it, it makes sense to use the power of science to consume less in more efficient and intelligent ways, rather simply letting it facilitate unthinking and wasteful habits.