We had to address the issues in a persuasive letter rather than a boring ol’ report, so please become unconfused as far as the format..)Cal Tech Curriculum Committee:Scientists are all too ready to lock themselves away with their research, unwilling -perhaps even incapable – of seeing the consequences of their actions. It is our duty as theireducators to provide them with not only a means to gain knowledge but also insights intothe society into which they will ultimately release their findings. Since none here areliterary or English majors, it may seem difficult at first to integrate such neededsociological concerns into their current courses of study, so it is our duty to give themeasily-reliable examples which parallel with their own course of study, examples that willbe memorable.
And what better to illustrate and retain attention than a tragedy? I suggest that theMary Shellys novel Frankenstein be included as a central text in the current Humanitiescourses required here. The reason Frankenstein may hold more relevance as part of theprogram than say, a classical Greek play, is the subject matter alone. Hopefully, theliterary connections are more likely to be drawn, if we can appeal to the studentsinterests as best as we can. Perhaps then they are more likely to believe that thehumanities do “have something to do with them.”The specifics it also raises about ethics and responsibilities of science speak morethan enough of the novels behalf.Many scientists in the far-reaching fields today mayfeel overwhelmed, perhaps even taking on a Gaudi-esque credo to their respectiveresearch. That Spanish architect is quoted as saying that he “didnt have time to wonder,”that he “had to spend all of his time working.” While this is a commendible work ethic,such a belief can lead scientists to bring the “curse to mankind” that Einstein warns usagainst. While a piece of art may incite violence, certain sciences may uncoverinformation that can physically provide the means of violence.
Scientists provide the power, they are the vehicles of the force – but it is rarelythey who end up wielding it. Governments, companies, and monetary sponsors are thosethat are really calling the shots, and since they only bought out that technology withoutacquiring that knowledge themselves, they may prove irresponsible with that power. Theyhave no responsibilty towards it, so it is up to the scientists themselves to determine if therest of the world is ready for thier data.
A common misconception is that the computer industry is out of control – butwhat is really growing beyond its rights is the monopolization and marketing of thosecomputers. Unwitting engineers have explained to the executives how operation systemswork, and now that simplified knowledge in turned against the users. This issue isaddressed well in the Frankenstein novel as well. Had Victor taken in his monster andwalked it into humanity slowly, instead of abandoning it when it needed him, his creationmight just have fit in afterall. “Could or should” maybe do not even enter the picture.
Science will continue to refine itself and go onward in some form throughout our lives.
Someone will reach the next step or the higher level, and more will build off of it.
However, the best precaution to learning and releasing innovative concepts to the societyat the right time is giving our future scientists a wide range of possible scenarios toconsider.
In the novel, Victor understood how to perform his experiments, he had insightsinto what had been done in reliable fields before. But based on his seclusion and hisobsession, his blind devotion to only his ideas, he could never predict the outcome of hisexperiment. He had no thesis to work towards. Knowing a bit of biology and chemistrydoes not qualify one to single-handedly delve into potentially dangerous projects. Whydid he do it? Passion, obsession, the need for individual worth? We cannot allow egos tointerfere with safety.
We also cannot be willing to encourage our students complete withdrawal fromsociety, with the possible loss of their own self to their science. A self-absorbed mind isnot as likely to make responable conclusions. We should never sacrifice the individual forthe collection of data or the progression of technology, because the progression will neverstop. Thrown into motion such as it is, it will continue forward until we reach either thestatus of omnipotence or self-destruction.
I do now think we should limit our imaginations, nor ever give up the (as of now)unattainable strive for godliness. But we should always keep in mind that we still arehuman, and incomplete. The search for knowledge is intoxicating in itself. As mostpeople would believe that it is “natural” or “human nature” to be inquisitive, it might bejust as “natural” that Nature provide us not just with minds that can dream, but also brainsthat can act. Perhaps we were “meant” in interfere with the natural world in the firstplace. But we should still allow ourselves an escape route if we back ourselves into acorner. The excuse that “science will think of something” doesnt always prove viable.
Yes, usually science will think of remedy to any given problem – but usually not in time.
Once we discover the cause and solution to the depletion of the Ozone Layer, we still cannot act on the next-step solution. We know what causes the depletion and have developedreasonable, inexpensive alternative vehicles in response to it. However, these newautomobiles are not being allowed into the market since so many jobs are tied up in thecurrent motor industry. So we should not integrate into the society until we understandand agree upon the more long-lasting effects. Victor spent two years of his life obsessedwith his experiment, showing that he was a man with ultimate goals as a scientist. Hisgoals were not to create a monster, but to help improve conditions of his times.
Science and its applied technology strive to be on the “cutting edge” – well, wecannot begin to formulate new intelligent questions with such a narrow view of the world.
We need to incorporate reasonable correlations with the rest of our American society, andin order to keep the interest level active, we may need to appeal to not simply previouslyaccepted “culture,” but also to the pop cultre, the world in which we as Americans canmost relate to. Two colleges have even gone so far to have sociology-based classes witha Star Trek focus. I believe that similar classes here would prove beneficial as well aspopular among the student body.
We dont want our future scientists and engineers running away from innovationsbecause they suddenly feel over their head, nor abandoning their own “monsters” in thewild of the American market for the innocent consumer to be attacked, and ultimatelycontrolled. Irresponsibility and inability to own up to the consequences inevitably leadto more tragedy.
Words hold true power, and scientists seek the ultimate definitions, workingalmost on a mystical level, quite like their alchemical predecesors. But does this makehumanity god-like? Unlike alchemy, science is not so much the “art of knowing” as it isa method of learning. But it is not necessarily the best option, and definitely not the onlyway to explore the world in which we live. So we agree on a term. Is that trueunderstanding? A student may memorize vocabulary for an exam, but will they retain thatknowledge later on without an emotional attachment or philosophical ideal that tagsalongside it? Even those students enrolled here, gifted with mathematical and logicalintelligences, may not fully appreciate stale, pre-defined text book servings. Do they everreally understand the real workings of photosynthesis, evolution or mitosis? It is perhaps,that weve just broken down the “acts of a god” into easier to swallow pieces. Gaudi hasalso written that “humans dont invent; they can only discover.”(Autor’s Post-script: Live your life. Draw your gods. Sleep if you have time. Get your papers done – quick.)