As the world is rapidly evolving, Science and technology have been increasingly lauded as the most effective panacea to our daily problems, ranging from the most minute of problems such as a minor cold, to more global issues such as famine. While some may swear to the notion that Science and technology is foolproof in solving global problems due to its past successes, I beg to differ. Science has shown itself to be unreliable, as not only is it unable to solve certain pressing global issues, it also brings a host of other issues along with it.
Proponents of the claim that scientific and technological developments are solutions to global problems argue that the reliability of such developments make it successful as a panacea to global issues. Due to the fact that there are many scientists involved in a single scientific inquiry, the experimental data obtained is likely to be reliable due to the large network of scientists available to cross-check the findings and data gathered. The reliability and thus, success of science in solving global problems can be seen through the myriad of drugs developed to cure daily ailments such as a simply cough or cold. The success of science can also be seen by how diseases such as smallpox, which used to be a highly feared, deadly disease, has now been fully eliminated in the human race through successful scientific developments like vaccinations. Because of its reliability and previous successes, science is lauded as an effective solution to our problems.
However, critics may argue that science and technology is not effective as a solution to our global problems as it carries a host of other problems with it, which offsets the aforementioned successes it brought about. As George Bernard Shaw once aptly quipped, “Science does not solve a problem without creating ten more.” Science rarely solves a problem without leaving a trail of blatant dishonesty and shattered morals behind. The problem of a lack of efficient and renewable electrical sources birthed the discovery of nuclear power, using Albert Einstein’s Physics equation. However, nuclear power took on a more insidious nature after the Manhattan project where the first atomic bomb was formulated to stop world war in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing millions of innocent civilians in the process. Upon witnessing the damage wreaked, the pilots of the Enola Gay said, “My God, what have we done?” a sentiment that many will say characterises the use of scientific discovery today. The effects of the use of the atomic bomb was so devastating that even Albert Einstein declared himself an ardent anti-nuclear activist and said that he would have never formulated his equation had he known the use it would be put to. Another example of the use of technology is genetically modified crops, initially designed to solve the problem of famines in developing countries. However, it led to increased resistance amongst pests and even upset the ecosystem, failing to resolve the issue of famine. Hence, science is limited in its ability to provide solutions to global problems as it often leads to the creation of a host of other problems, often worsening the initial situation.
Science is also limited in its ability to solve global problems due to ethical issues, often owing to the selfish, greedy nature of humans. Scientists are ultimately still human, and are motivated by goals such as profit maximisation, sometimes even at all costs. Scientists attempt to solve global hunger issues in developing countries through the invention of genetically modified crops, such as golden rice, eventually backfired due to humans’ inherent greediness and self-centred nature. To satisfy aims of profit maximisation, many companies modified crops such that they were infertile and attached patent rights to them, hence causing poor farmers to have to purchase a new bath of seeds at the end of each season at exorbitant prices. This, coupled with companies promises to farmers of huge profit making opportunities left many farmers in huge debt as they forked over inordinate sums for the genetically modified produce but never reaped the expected profit. In desperation, some of them committed suicide, leading to an increase in farmer suicides in countries like India. Furthermore, in the pursuit of the fame and fortune associated with discovering the next blockbuster drug, many unethical scientists modify their research findings to suit their hypotheses. Korean Scientist Hwang Woo Suk was granted several millions of dollars in order to conduct his supposed stem cell research, only to realise that his results were based on fabricated experiments. As Albert Einstein once aptly quipped, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” Technology is limited in solving problems due to unethical practices by humans to satiate their hunger for fame and monetary gain often causing initially effective solutions to backfire.
The transient nature of scientific developments, coupled with our rapidly evolving world has quickly rendered many scientific discoveries outdated, posing limitations in solving many global problems. For example, the discovery of penicillin birthed a race between fast-evolving bacteria and creation of newer, stronger antibiotics by scientists. As bacteria are constantly evolving through natural selection and ‘survival of the fittest’, there has been an increasing need for stronger antibiotics to combat resistant bacteria. Any slow-down in the discovery of antibiotics could lead to disastrous outcomes as this could mean that there are no drugs available to cure a certain disease — rendering the disease incurable. Singapore has seen several cases of blindness in patients due to the inabilility of antibiotics to fight against resistant bacteria, as the bacteria have evolved to become so resistant that no antibiotics available are able to cure the disease, resulting in worsening infections of the eye. Thus, due to the transient nature of scientific discovery that quickly renders ‘older discoveries’ outdated and ineffective, it is limited in its ability to solve global problems, as it is only a matter of time before evolution overtakes scientific discovery.
In conclusion, Science and technology are limited in its ability to solve global problems. More often than not, it creates a new set of problems, rather than solving old ones. It is imperative that society stops putting so much faith in scientific discovery and start to become more wary of the detrimental effects it can bring. Though scientific discovery is unlikely to result in a utopian fantasy, we have to ensure that it does not head in the direction of becoming a Faustian nightmare.