I can remember growing at a time when there was a general understanding among people of what “science” is. It was known to be a method, a system, of approaching a problem, or a question, which will result in our having the most true and accurate perception of the thing. Then, using those results, we can make the best decisions, the decisions which will best serve humankind to not only survive, but have the best and brightest future possible. Of course, in our scientific explorations we also discover things which can be used for death and destruction, but good people have the wisdom to put those things aside unless possibly needed to defend ourselves, to defend our lives. We trusted those to whom we entrust the reins of leadership and our cultural wellbeing, to be people of honesty and integrity who will make wise decisions in our best interests and who will not lie to us about matters of consequence. That is the beautiful concept of a world I was introduced to in the mid-twentieth century.
So what happened? I think, in retrospect, a hazard of new fortune happened. Immediately prior to, during, and just after the second world war, humankind came into a wealth of knowledge about our world, our selves. Knowledge which could be made widely known and, while challenging some of our previously held beliefs, could help humankind have a collectively brighter future. Or, could be kept secretively in the hands of a relative few and the power of that knowledge used to manipulate everyone else, the general population, into becoming impotent, docile servants to a new version of “conqueror”. Conquerors who, for the most part, utilize the manipulation of ideas and our own perceptions to lead us into a willing enslavement which we perceive as the cost of defending our safety, even our freedom. Conquerors who use the tool of our own mind against us.
Unfortunately, if possibly predictably, those holding the reins of power at the time chose the latter path. I say predictably because I have learned it is normal for children to get it wrong before they get it right. And the plight of humankind is as children trying to make a life on a beautiful planet which we have somehow, miraculously, found ourselves upon. It seems that, in the process of finding our way, as in the book “Lord of the Flies”, humankind is quite capable of allowing our imaginations and intoxication with power, along with some bad assumptions, into leading us to taking cruel actions upon one another. Unlike the children in “Lord of the Flies”, I don’t think we can expect a military rescue. If we are going to be rescued it is upon us to rescue ourselves. We must get in touch with our better nature, turn to the values, the thinking and behavior, which will lead us to a recognition of our kinship, brothers and sisters bound, if by nothing else, by the mutuality of our plight. A plight which, if handled with loving care, can be realized as a blessing in which we can fulfill our best and brightest dreams.
So what has happened to the promise of science? That bright, shining, light on the hill which has so often wonderfully inspired our hopes and imaginations? Along with the reins of our economy and government, it has been captured by those driven by the profit motive. The goals of many occupying the most visual, authoritative positions within science have been turned from being concerned with the collection of knowledge for the wellbeing of all humankind, into, far too often, being concerned with maximizing profits for one corporation or another. It’s that simple. Science itself, as the public often interfaces with it, has morphed from a tool for the betterment of all into, again, far too often, a tool primarily for the enrichment of a few. As it turns out, science, as with any other tool humankind has ever developed, is only as good as the motives and methods of those wielding it.