Proper Assessment of Science and Technology

3 December 2529

Proper Assessment of Science and Technology

With such obvious advances in science and technology, man should have achieved physical freedom. However, on the contrary, it turns out that despite all the scientific and technological achievements, the problems of human suffering, even at the physical level, instead of decreasing, are on the increase. This seems to be the dilemma of human progress. The answer lies partly in the disenchantment of man with the wish-granting power of science and technology and partly in the readjustment of man’s relationship with the same.

So far, man seems to have put too much trust in science and technology, as if they were the sole designer of his ideal life, and to have increasingly been dependent on them to the ignorance and neglect of the development of himself. He does not realize that the fulfilment of a good life depends on himself, the one who created and who is served by science and technology. He himself needs to be so developed that he can master the service and control of science and technology for his own freedom and well-being. Otherwise, he himself may be dominated or exterminated by what he has created. Then, science and technology would be like a monster, created by man to do everything for him, but which later, being of greater power and capability than man, turned to dominate him and, in the end, put him to death.

Man has been so much enchanted by scientific and technological progress that he has become misled into believing that he has almost completely conquered nature and has control over it. He also believes that with this conquest of nature, all problems will be solved and heaven will be established on earth. But he is not aware that the nature that he thinks he has conquered is not the whole picture, but only a part of it, possibly a half of it, that is, the external material world. The other half is within himself, the nature of man or man as a part of nature. In the process of struggling to conquer the material world of nature, man often neglects his responsibility to master the inner nature within himself and tends to lose control over it. Conversely, this inner nature has grown stronger and stronger and has largely taken control over man. In other words, though Prometheus was unbound a long time ago, until now he has not found freedom. He has gone astray and there is a fear that he is about to be bound again, this time by a monster-like robot.

Thus, in looking outside with a pride that he has conquered nature, man has unconsciously been conquered by the nature inside himself and obediently come under its control. It is this unconquered controlling nature within man that has frustrated all his hopes of turning the earth into paradise. It is this nature that keeps the inner man unhappy under the plaster of a happiness-like pleasure, and causes the unhappy man to diffuse unhappiness, and the unpeaceful man to diffuse peacelessness, violence and conflict in society. This also explains why so many efficient and effective methods and measures to solve the various problems of mankind do not work out.

By way of illustration, when the abundance of consumer goods more than adequate to satisfy the basic needs of people has been made possible by scientific and technological advances, and only proper distribution is needed to achieve mutual well-being, it is often not distribution that is carried out but appropriation resulting in poverty and conflict instead of peace and well-being. This is also true with the different groups, factions, parties and nations who cannot clear up their differences, who start armed conflicts, and continue to fight, not-withstanding the solution seeming very simple and easy.

Modern people are proud that they have a scientific attitude towards things. However, it is a pity that their attitude to science and technology is less scientific than it should be. They do not know science and technology as they really are and thus cannot deal with them in a scientific way. This also implies that their knowledge of nature is still inadequate, so that they cannot maintain a right and proper relationship with it.

In answering the question of how man can realize freedom, we should have a knowledge of the true nature of science and technology, their extent and limitations, their capabilities and incapabilities. Scientific knowledge is limited to the data received through the sense organs. Its domain is the material world, its knowledge of which is really enormous. However, science knows only little about the individual man. When people are depressed and frustrated and their minds are filled with fear, unrest and anxiety, science and technology can be of no sound and substantial help. Crimes, violence and various kinds of immoral acts still abound, even in the countries which are most advanced in science and technology. Science and technology are unable to make man better. Despite all the advances in science and technology, the inner person is left basically unchanged. Modern problems remain the same in nature as those afflicting our ancestors. They differ only in the matter of their greater number, wider variety and greater magnitude.

With the unprecedented availability of all kinds of advantages, science and technology bring to the undeveloped person only heightened feelings of dependence and insufficiency, and, with their destructive potential, they make one feel even more insecure. Science and technology have rendered great help to mankind in the conquest of nature–here, the material world–but they cannot give him moral guidance and control over his mind. He may be able to conquer the world but cannot conquer himself. The individual, the mind, his inner nature and his development, along with his real peace and happiness, are beyond the domain of science and technology. They are not their province but the domain of the Dhamma, or religion in a special sense of the term.

Accordingly, we have here two complementary domains of human quest for freedom and perfection, the inner and the outer ones. Preoccupation with the outer domain to the ignorance or neglect of the inner one leads only to partial success or even to total failure. Success in achieving freedom, peace and happiness for man lies in the proper recognition and understanding of the nature, significance, capacity and limitations of each of these two domains as they really are, and in the attitudes and practices in conformity with such understanding.

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