Lotus Leaf ~ exploring a humanist approach to yoga Is science a force for the good?
For humanists, science is something to be celebrated. It's helped us build the modern world,through life-saving and life-enhancing technology. It's improved our lives, enabling us to satisfy ourcuriosity and our desire for knowledge. The scientific endeavour enriches the human experience bothindividually and collectively.
Still, humanists are not naïve. A celebration of science’s potential is not the same as the belief that the results of science are always a good thing for humanity. Some of the horrors of the twentieth centurybrought home to us that the exploitation of scientific development can be harmful as well as beneficial.
Scientific knowledge, like other kinds of knowledge, is amoral – neither moral nor immoral – though how suchknowledge is obtained and used can and does raise moral questions. It is for society to decide how, or whether,to use the knowledge produced by science. If specific scientific developments turn out to be for the good of humanity, then humanists will typicallysupport them, unless the costs are too great. This includes environmental and social costs, as well aseconomic. If such developments would do more harm than good, then they are likely to be opposed.This opposition isn't to the new knowledge we have gained, but to the way it might beused.
Whether you think that overall the fruits of science have been positive or negative, it is too late to turn backthe clock. We must try to employ our scientific understanding in ways that benefit humanity and allow human beings to live happy, healthy, and flourishing lives.
‘Science is a facet of human enquiry that is reasonable and rational. It can stand as a model for other types of reasoning and as a model for testing beliefs and qualifying thought. But it is a human invention itself and therefore will be as good and as effective as the humans that are involved in it.’ Jeaneane Fowler, Humanism: Beliefs and Practices
An argument you sometimes hear against Humanism's respect for science is that 'science has failed to make us good'. The humanist Alex Comfort offers an interesting counter argument, by drawing attention to the time scale of our scientific progress: Animals recognizable as human have existed for about 1,000,000 years. There have been highly developed human societies for about 12,000 years. The scientific method (dating from Bacon) has existed for 300 years. It's been applied to medicine and natural sciences for about 200 years. And human social behaviour for about 100 years. In that time science has produced a revolution in human awareness and human ethics. Its rate of progress in all these fields tends to be exponential. It is likely to go faster the farther it moves."
'The Case for Humanism – Can Science Make us Good?' Alexander Comfort
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