Science and Society

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What was Life like without Modern Science?

You might today just be in your pre-teens or teens, so you probably have no reasons to reflect on how your life would have been like fifty or a hundred years ago, let alone 500 years ago, when modern science was barely starting. Let’s take a step back in time to understand that –

50 years ago – there was no internet, no smartphones, not even mobile phones. Only fixed line phones for communication!

100 years ago –radios were the main source of entertainment (no television sets, no talking movies), no microwave ovens (they’d only invented toasters), commercial aviation had just begun, there was no nuclear energy.

500 years ago –electricity hadn’t been invented, nor steam engines, and the world believed that the sun and all planets went around the earth.

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Our World is built on the Principles of Science

Science has brought about remarkable changes to our lives and to societythat we live in. Science has become so useful, powerful, and reliable, that it has pervaded all spheres of our lives –

  • from comfort to computing
  • from telecommunication to transport
  • from better health and nutrition to automated services
  • from electricity to entertainment at the flick of a switch

Not a single moment goes by without you relying on science in some way. Even when sleeping you rely on the heater to warm your bed or your alarm clock to wake you up on time.

What are some of the major impacts of science on society in recent years? Let us explore both the positive and negative sides of some scientific breakthroughs.

The Internet

The most significant development in recent decades has been the use of the Internet. It is now the preferred medium of communication for every single aspect of life, from ordering pizza to texting a friend, from buying milk to getting instant news updates. It has changed every single aspect of everyday existence. The benefits to individuals and society are truly immense – freedom, convenience, collaboration, speed, knowledge, learning, entertainment, and so on.

But you should also be aware of the dangers or ill-effects –

  • Screen exposure – children are exposed to bright screens from a very early stage. This could affect their eyesight and overall health.
  • Internet addiction – children, and even adults, get addicted to their devices. They might stop social interaction with friends and family and isolate themselves from society.
  • Privacy loss – inadequate controls or misuse of the internet can result in cyber-crimes such as online fraud, identity theft, and other loss of private information.

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Social Networking

The Internet has spawned the growth and availability of websites and apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and many more. We often use these to interact with friends, family, even strangers.

This too has tremendous benefits to society – instant communication, ability to acquire knowledge, ease of developing new hobbies and pursuits, building professional careers, and even becoming popular in your friend circles. However, there are downsides to the use of social media too –

  • You may be subjected to cyber-bullying based on what you share on social media
  • You may get influenced by unfavorable people or groups that are focused on crime or racism or worse
  • You may developmental and emotional trauma from the pressures of wanting to “belong” to a certain group or media circle

Genetic Engineering

Another remarkable discovery has been our ability to map the genes of humans, plants, and animals and to artificially reconstruct the DNA in them. This has created a new field known as Genetic Engineering. It has led to remarkable advances in food and medicine in the following ways –

  • Grow food with more health-giving qualities
  • Make food taste better, last longer, and be more nutritious
  • Make plants more resistant to disease
  • Make insects breed less, such as mosquitos, which spread diseases

Genetic engineering has created the ethical issue of whether scientists should interfere with nature and create “artificial” food and animals. If a human experiment were to go wrong in the laboratory, it could have disastrous consequences for life and society.

Science has a Duty to Society

The advantages of science have been tremendous. Our housing, food, clothing, health, comfort, security, everything has improved dramatically due to science.But there are downsides too. With science, we have created nuclear weapons, polluted our environment, depleted natural resources, displaced populations, destroyed forests, and much more.

We need to maximize the benefits and minimize the ill-effects. Duty to Society is an important Ethical Practice that we should apply in our scientific inquiry and applications of science. (See also: Ethical Practices)

Check Point

  1. Which statement is NOT true?
    1. Science has pervaded all spheres of our lives
    2. Science has made our lives easier and more comfortable
    3. Science is useful, powerful, and reliable
    4. Science has many advantages and no disadvantages
  2. Which statement is NOT an advantage of science to society?
    1. Rapid means of transport
    2. Remote means of communication
    3. Depletion of natural resources
    4. Novel means of entertainment
  3. Which statement is a negative impact of the Internet on society?
    1. Freedom and convenience
    2. Knowledge and learning
    3. Screen exposure
    4. Entertainment
  4. Which statement is NOT the use of genetic engineering?
    1. Connect with friends and family
    2. Make food healthier and more nutritious
    3. Make food taste better and last longer
    4. Make plants more resistant to disease

Answer Key

  1. d) Science has many advantages and no disadvantages
  2. c) Depletion of natural resources
  3. c) Screen exposure
  4. a) Connect with friends and family

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