The Value of Science: Is Science Predominantly Good or Bad?

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13/10/2008Name: Barend Lutz
Subject: Philosophy of Science

Tolstoy, in his 1885 book, My Religion, said: “In vain do science and philosophy pose as the arbiters of the human mind, of which they are in fact only the servants. Religion has provided a conception of life, and science travels in the beaten path. Religion reveals the meaning of life, and science only applies this meaning to the course of circumstances” (Tolstoy, 2003). Even though science cannot give us all the answers in life, it has still has a gigantic influence on our world. In recent history science has taken the forefront in the provision of human knowledge. Before this knowledge was gathered much differently and giant sectors of knowledge was in past times prescribed by the church. Scientific knowledge has been shunned continuously throughout history, scientists has been prosecuted and even executed for their radical beliefs. With the passing of time we have become more accustomed to scientific “truths’ about the world. Humans have begun to accept science as a provider of trusted, accurate knowledge. As this transformation of the acceptance of science has progressed the impact science has had on the world, to use a Newtonian analogy, has been gaining momentum and speed and its inertia has become immense. The question now beckons what impact this scientific revolution has had on human kind. This impact has been universal and has had positive and negative effects for humans and nature alike. A rational question that one might ask is whether this impact has been positive or good if you look at science in its totality? Are we better off than we were before this revolution? Is science predominantly good or bad? This essay believes that it not as simple as merely stating that science has been good or bad for the world. This essay will examine these questions and explain why it is difficult to make such a value judgment on science. First one must understand how the world sees science today and how this view has evolved. The next section will therefore be on the worldview of science. The subject explained above has an obvious value judgment imbedded within it seeing that the “goodness” or “badness” of science will be examined. This moral judgment will be examined in the light of the moral philosophical areas such as Utilitarianism and Kantian ideas such as the Categorical Imperative. Following this a section will be devoted to the positive and negative sides of science. Concluding the essay a defense of science will be given and an explanation why this essay believes that science is predominantly good. The world view of science

There are some differing views of science available today. Two main groups stand out above the rest according to Kitcher (2003) namely the "scientific faith-full" who describes science as the search for objective knowledge and the apogee of human achievement. Then there are the “debunkers “who sees science as a giant instrument of oppression used by the powerful. Kitcher in his book, Science, Truth and Democracy, poses another view of science that he adheres to. He perceives science as an artisan or a worker that can deliver something of value to the general community, but that is broadly responsive to critique and social standards. Examples of this type of science will be provided in the section below on the positive impact of science. Another interesting view of science is that of Wilbur Zelinsky (1975:123). According to Zelinsky science in the past four hundred years has escalated to the position of the dominant religion. Among the lay population the word of the scientist is truth. With a mere formula provided by a Doctor or even better a Professor the truth of a matter can be prescribed to the masses. He believes that this iconic view of science will not be able to hold on to its position for much longer though due to the negative influence it has on...
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