Banaag, April Jillian        

9 December 2011

An Overview of Science and the Impact of Technology to the Society


        Defined as a rational inquiry to Nature, science is the practical activity of studying the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Such inquiry must fall within some logical structure; right on, it is not science if it lacks an obvious principle of organization. It is for this reason that we now have what we know as the Scientific Method, a body of techniques which involves observation, research, hypothesis, data analysis and formulation of conclusive theories. Though this process is much more complex than it sounds or than it is widely taught in most schools, it certainly guides experiments, and provides a standard system that gives science its structure. More importantly to non-scientists, such as students like me, it aids in the understanding of science by somehow simplifying it into a single configuration. It is important to note that the method involves a constant interplay between hypotheses and the logical expectations that they give rise to. Hypotheses generate predictions through the rational assumptions made, and these predictions are to be tested so as to either increase or decrease confidence in the claim. This series of trials corrects and directs to where the experiment, whether a grade school science project or a professional laboratory activity, is going.        

        A good demonstration of science can be found in Newton’s simple yet useful prism experiment, wherein he was able to prove that the white light that we see is actually composed of multiple colors. This began with a direct observation of sunlight ray that becomes multicolored as it passes through a prism. Many believed that the prism colored the white light, but Newton’s rational assumption was that the prism merely splits the composite light into rainbow colors, which actually made up the white light, as it is bent by the prism. This hypothesis gave rise to his prediction that the colors can possibly be combined into white light again after it is split. He tested his expectation using another prism, and found out that he was right, concluding that the prism did not color the light, contrary to what people used to believe, and that light we see is actually naturally “colored.” This contribution of Newton to optics helped the field flourish. It is notable that this experiment passes the criteria of being scientific; it is rational, empirical, and the object of inquiry is light, an optical natural phenomenon.

        Science is supposed to be empirical, as mentioned earlier.  A claim about a certain natural occurrence can only be a scientific if it is verifiable through observation and experiments, as illustrated in Newton’s experiment, and not merely theoretical. An empirical statement, in its simplest form, is a result of observation (in Newton’s case, that light passing through a prism becomes colored), though a more logical scientific argument involves indirect observation in which common features and relationships among entities are given attention. In Newton’s experiment, he found out the real relationship between multicolored light and prisms: that prisms split the white light, making it colored, and not directly coloring it. Application of logic allows us to generalize and form natural laws, which makes up scientific theory. Newton’s said experiment, for instance, falls under Snell’s Law, a larger and more general claim on light refraction. Finally, the most complex yet grandest among these pragmatic claims that cut across all disciplines are comprehensive fundamental principles that allow no exceptions in terms of validity in the entire range of Natural Sciences, such as the principle of energy conservation and the Galilean principle of relativity. Going back to our example, Snell’s law, to which Newton’s explanation of the spectrum is subject, falls under a much greater scientific claim, the Fermat Principle, which says that light travels the path which takes it the least time, explaining why it “bends.”

        Those mentioned above are merely a pinch of our knowledge today. The massive yet well-critiqued scientific information we have accumulated over the years helped develop what is now an undeniably important part of human lives and continues to shape it–technology. We need not to try hard to see this. Personally, I perceive science as an enormous web of facts and possibilities, so huge that it has already seeped through human lifestyle through technology. My parents have been telling me how the world has changed as they compared their adolescent years to mine – how we are so fortunate with the surging development of IT, but how unlucky we are not to be able to have the same safe outdoor experiences they had back in those days. Indeed, looking at how far the world has come in the fields of medicine, entertainment, commerce, information technology and almost everything else, technological determinism has become profoundly evident. As our society knows more and more, our everyday lives seem to be more and more effective and consequently fast-paced.

        Since a society’s technology drives the development of social, structural, and cultural values, today’s global progress in the field of technology thrusts us to an industrial convergence, the idea of different societies’ tendency to evolve similarly, claiming that they will be more and more alike as our analogous needs for technological advancements determines where we are heading. However, this does not complement the historicist perspective since industrial convergence will neglect tradition and blur the cultural aspects of societies that make them special and unique apart from one another. Nonetheless, modernization, it seems as the world ages, is inevitably unstoppable.

        Modernization is achieved through industrialization, which could (though does not always guarantee to) open the doors for development. Industrialization calls for a country’s technical and social ability to continually produce a wide range of goods, as opposed to merely growing crops. Undoubtedly, this is most likely to pump a country’s GNP, but it becomes problematic as such measure is quite technocratic and does not necessarily define the quality of life brought about by the effects of drastic lifestyle changes to the society. An industrialized country implies empowerment, but at the same time, becomes exploitative of resources since it requires a massive labor force and raw materials for production. Having that said, industrialization raises pressing social and environmental concerns that can negatively affect the living standards of the people, making development a contradictory process. As much as it is necessary, it involves seemingly too much cost which needs to be taken into consideration. Today, most especially, late industrialists face the challenge of emerging among current capitalist industrial countries who are already in control of the world market, alongside the labor and material resources necessary to be given up for industrialization. This implies that third-world countries, such as the Philippines, will have difficulty in industrializing because of their lack of monetary resources to fund this leap. Though it can drive job opportunities for the people, which can actually be helpful for the country, there are other costs including economic justice required to make industrialization work for development.

        Let us take the Philippines as an example. Today, not many Filipinos recognize that there had been attempts to industrialize the country in the past, but until now, none of it has been successful due to the factors mentioned earlier. First of all, industrialization has had a negative effect on the Filipinos for the elites led and controlled industrialization in our country. People in lower social classes took more disadvantage than benefits from it, and so, there was uneven distribution of wealth in the country. The long-existing economic, social and political problems in the Philippines prevent industrialization from working out well.  Clearly, a nation with issues of government corruption and a wide gap between social classes will not be able to handle industrialization to make it work for common good.

        Second of all, the Philippines is not wealthy enough to fuel industrialization even way back in the past. In fact, after the Japanese occupation in the 1940s, we have become heavily dependent on the United States to sustain our country’s development. Many argue that until today, we have not regained our independence because of the obvious reasons all pointing to the fact that we are not stable enough to stand on our own, only making the challenge of industrialization tougher. In order to ignite an industrial revolution, the Philippines will need support from other countries. However, this happening will only give the supporting countries sheer control to manipulate us to their advantage. For instance, in 1946, the United States agreed to help the Philippine economy as long as we maintained the prewar dollar-peso exchange rate, and that there would be no restrictions on imports from the US. For a while, the aid inflow from the US offset the negative balance of trade, until 1949 when the Philippine economy crashed because of this exploitation. Moreover, movements to reduce tariffs met stiff resistance from industrialists, and government efforts to liberalize the economy and emphasize export-led industrialization were largely unsuccessful.

        It is true; science has brought us to far-flung technological dimensions, but these same achieved dreams seem to cause a global dilemmatic frenzy, which only calls for more and more solutions only science itself can solve. Only one thing is sure; science is not to stop growing anytime soon.