Science and technology, taken expansively, have affected almost every aspect of human existence in developed countries.
What are some of the ways that this manifests?
Consider a popular doomsday scenario: EMP, or electro-magnetic pulse. Popular fiction like “72 Days in September” uses EMP as a plot device to consider how society responds to the removal of most technological infrastructure from the USA.
When considering the utility of a scientific or technological concept, one can think about the following things:
- What knowledge is needed to comprehend the concept?
- What infrastructure is needed to ensure that the concept is passed on?
- What infrastructure is needed to actually implement the concept?
- Does the concept implementation’s benefits justify the effort?
One of the things that we will be considering over the rest of the course is a rejection of scientific findings. The term denialism covers this well for many familiar topics.
Perhaps the archetype of denial would be that of dismissing the health concerns raised by use of tobacco products. Modern effects trace back to research by Richard Doll in 1952 showing evidence of harmful effects of tobacco use. The corporations manufacturing and marketing tobacco products engaged in highly effective forms of denial of that and further research.
- Engender doubt
- Raise contrary experts
- Political lobbying
- Suppression of adverse findings
and other tactics. Many of the same tactics used by the tobacco industry in response to health research can be seen in other denialist reactions to scientific research.
There are a number of ways that lay people are currently contributing to scientific effort.
Science and technology is also used to destroy, and history shows the increasing efficiency of weaponry from stone tools to the potential “doomsday” weapons of mass destruction. Conflict between human groups often plays out as a contest between different levels of technology.
Toting up the score
Here’s an exercise: figure out various advances in science and technology, and whether we can call them beneficial or detrimental.
A major role for science and technology lies in promoting health and overcoming illness. In recent times, the increased effectiveness of medical science has actually shifted both human lifespans and causes of death. All of these changes have follow-on effects for our society. Increasing lifespans bring with them concerns on how a burgeoning elderly demographic either supports itself or is supported by society. Here in the USA, the way Social Security is structured is causing a lot of political maneuvering over its continued funding. Another major economic and political concern is how to provide medical services. The USA stands out among industrialized nations for how expensive medical care is and how poor the outcomes are relative to other such nations. A number of issues related to health can be identified as of current interest. An anti-vaccination movement denies the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, leading to a resurgence in cases of previously well-controlled communicable diseases. Overuse of antibiotics threatens the emergence of new communicable diseases that may prove difficult to treat.
Change in Cause of Death
Some things now indicate that the future could be very different.
Climate Change Turf Wars
50-year History of Warning on CO2
Evolution and Evolution Denial
Religious materials in Florida schoolsParasitic Wasps Infected with Mind-Controlling Viruses
Science and technology brings change, and another word for change is “disruption”. Society has had to deal with these changes. Currently, the pace of change seems to be higher than what has gone before.
The development and spread of agriculture changed the division of labor. In the modern era, technology has been replacing human effort. What happens when most prior jobs are invalidated?
If the jobs don’t exist, it no longer is a matter of what the wage ought to be.
Genetically Modified Organisms
Promoting a Scientific Culture