Science versus Technology

November 11th, 2003

To the Editor,

“For any man to abdicate an interest in science is to walk with open eyes towards slavery.” This quote by Bronowski is contradicted by the Time’s conclusion that ” Industry looks to short-term goals and has proven highly adept at using science to take care of itself and consumers.”. This duality truly summarizes the enslavement of consumers BY industry in its purposeful misrepresentation of technology AS science.

Technology is a miracle of nuts and bolts, creating ways to achieve set tasks from the mundane (soap) to the sublime (radiation therapy for cancer). Science is the guiding set of principals that explains the why technology “works” and the ethical principals which should modify its usage – will it help or harm?.

Irradiation of foods will remove harmful bacteria from our meats. So will applications of soap and water in our meat plants. We don’t actually know what irradiation will do to the meat because industrial studies are proprietary, examining a limited variety of questions and releasing only that which supports
potential profits. That is why the public cannot trust technology and confuses it with science. Soap and water kills bacteria but the addition of the much touted triclosan as an antibacterial agent is heavily advertised. Does the public know the overuse of specifically antibacterial agents can create antibiotic resistant organisms?

Canada is being sued by the WTO for banning sales of toxic pesticides although science tells us there are safer alternatives; the EU is condemned for insisting upon the labelling of genetically modified agricultural products for consumer choice and the preservation of conventional crops from contamination.

Technology, in the absence of scientific guidance, is a golem which will lead us into industrial serfdom unless science becomes an independent and non-profit pursuit.

Barbara Rubin

Categories: NY Times

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