Author: Nivya Elizabeth Kuruvilla
Importance and Relevance of Scientific Awareness in our society
Man is at the zenith of the evolutionary chain. He is the epitome of civilization. This is attributed to his unique ability to transform data into information and usable knowledge. Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge. It is a way of understanding the world that begins early in one’s life.
Modern civilization has become so complicated and sophisticated that one has to be competitive enough to survive. Mankind has capitalized its capacity to generate the ideas in order to empower itself. How else would one trace one’s journey from being the inventor of wheel to the architect of nanotechnology. The quest to expand the area of known vistas drives humanity into newer vistas. However, with the area of known, the area of unknown increases exponentially. Scientific advances over the last sixty years have led to revolutionary changes in terms of health, nutrition and communication transforming the socio-economic credentials and the standard of living of the people.
The march of science and technology has made an ocean of difference in the life of common man. ”Technology has been a rapid heartbeat, compressing housework, travel, entertainment, squeezing more and more into the allotted span”, says noted social historian Theodore Zeldin. Common people are unable to appreciate beauty in science, which is quite different from their capability to appreciate artwork, a piece of good music or beauty of a poem. This illiteracy of the general public on scientific subjects sometimes even amongst politicians and decision-makers reflects poor activity in science popularization and mystification of scientific work and data. It is essential for the well being of our society that all citizens develop ‘science literacy’ or in common parlance scientific awareness. Much of the progress that humankind has made till now is associated with science. Science has made not only material progress but also influenced the mental outlook of human beings. We have tried to unveil the mysteries of nature to the fullest extent. We have been successful in shortening distances in the world and reached out and beyond. Science has made it possible to explore the greatest depths of ocean and the widest extent of space. We have been able to increase the longevity, arrest the gradual decay of human body and control the spread of lethal diseases by making extraordinary life prolonging drugs and medicines. Thanks to science, a number of fatal diseases are now curable.
The food production levels and quality have improved by multiple factors. Industry and agriculture have progressed to higher production and productivity levels through scientific knowledge. On a more mundane level, electricity has dispelled darkness and heat thereby making the life of ordinary humans more comfortable. Technological innovations have changed common man’s way of life. Gas stoves and biogas lighting have brought a different feel to more and more villages. The discovery and development of large number of powerful energy resources like coal, petroleum, natural gas have enabled humanity to conquer nature. Science has virtually annihilated distance, developed faster modes of transport and enhanced connectivity thus transforming the world to a global village.
The singular invention that has become omnipresent today is the computer. An invention of miraculous dimension, computers have revolutionized our lifestyle. In less than fifty years, they have influenced practically every field of activity. The cyber age has become a reality today. Automation in banks and railway stations have provided a great relief to the public and staff alike. Ticketing and reservation have become more efficient and convenient and eased the travails of travel. Business transactions and high volume of associated data could be easily managed using computers. In medical diagnosis, they are deployed to accurately identify any abnormalities or defects. Tele-medicine and tele-conference have revolutionized modern living. Computer is also the backbone of information technology whose major application lies in internet. Internet provides the fastest and cheapest solutions to many day to day problems and queries. Mobile phones are an outcome of information technology. So, in a nutshell we can say that what appears as a ripple today is emerging as a giant wave. The boon of science has raised us to the heights unimagined. We can now easily keep pace with changing time. But at the same time it cannot be denied that the boon in many cases has turned out to bane by misusing it. It is here that the relevance of scientific awareness comes into forefront. An appreciation of science, the benefits of technology, and the potential risks associated with advances in both needs to be understood in every sense. Science literacy does not imply detailed knowledge of any of the basic sciences like physics, chemistry or biology, but rather a broad understanding and appreciation of what science is capable of achieving and, equally important, what science cannot accomplish. Scientific awareness enables the public to make informed choices and to reject superstitions, blind belief, unproven conjectures, and to avoid being mystified into making wrong decisions, where matters of science and technology are concerned .
Lack of awareness and using the gifts of science in the wrong way has resulted in the boon turning into a bane. Television, a gift of science provides information as well as entertainment. Programmes that promote violence and destruction have extradited the moral values and wiped out the ethical concerns of the society as a whole. This has resulted in elevated crime rates in the towns and cities. Guns, revolvers and fighter planes that were invented to develop a strong security system to protect the innocent masses are now crushing humanity. Adding fuel to the fire are the terror outfits which use them randomly to create terror in the hearts and minds of innocents. Biotechnology is a great boon for fighting against chronic diseases but along with medicines lethal bioweapons have been developed. At this juncture the importance of scientific awareness needs to be propagated. Science literacy helps us to demarcate between the good and bad; the right and wrong. It teaches the appropriate way to use the gifts of science so that it appears as a blessing and not a curse.
Scientific awareness also aims to develop two broad goals of promoting literacy in science, mathematics and technology among the general public and to attract future generations to careers as researchers, entrepreneurs and teachers on whom the nation’s continuing economic health and national security will depend. Society makes progress in addressing critical issues by having both a skilled, creative, and productive workforce and a citizenry able to judge the risks and enjoy the benefits of advances in science and technology. Without the creative utilization of science, the future will be bleak and baseless.
‘Let not their efforts be wasted,
For the rise of mankind, who perished.
Let their vision, dream and passion
Be realized and cherished.”