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Science: the second culture not to be underestimated

While anyone you ask on the street is highly unlikely to know the second law of thermodynamics off the top of their head, there is certainly a greater chance that they will have read a work of Shakespeare. Why is it that in general, people are less knowledgable in the sciences compared to the humanities? This is the question that CP Snow addresses in his lecture on the “Two Cultures”, where he outlines the divide between the “literary intellectuals” and the scientists.

CP Snow is right to suggest that the people in different schools of thought have a difficult time understanding each other, although it may be more than simply two different opinions. However, the important message of CP Snow’s lecture which is most relevant today is the lack of understanding of the field of science. This problem is very evident in our world today, and contributes to many social and political issues in our country.

When CP Snow compares knowing the second law of thermodynamics to having read a work of Shakespeare, he points out the societal expectation that exists to understand literary works, but not the laws of science. In all practicality, it may not be necessary to have read Shakespeare or to know what the second law of thermodynamics is in order to be a well rounded intellectual who can be an informed individual and contribute effectively to society. But his point is well made that people sometimes seem to regard the study of literature as more important than the study of science, for some unknown reason, as knowledge of science seems to be much more necessary to address current issues as well as appreciate the way the world works.

Science is becoming an increasingly important subject for the public to understand in our rapidly changing world. Today, Snow’s argument holds true in a sense that could not have yet been fully realized when he delivered his speech in 1959. The problem of global warming has just recently been recognized as a highly important issue in our world today, and in order to understand this problem, it is critical to have a solid understanding of science. It is unbelievable that so many current politicians and authority figures have such a minimal understanding of science. There is a lack of progress in scientific and especially environmental areas, because the policies that aid our environment are so often prevented from being implemented. This is due in part to the literary bias, or perhaps lack of understanding of science, by many politicians. And the reason why these people are able to occupy such influential and powerful positions is because of a lack of understanding of science of the voters and the general public.

Indeed, I always wondered why my high school required more English credits than it did science for graduation requirements. The problems emerging today warrant a necessary change for our education system in order to make science more valued. It is time for the societal literary precedent to give way to a more rounded education that emphasizes the science needed to understand current issues. It is necessary for everyone to become more educated in scientific fields in order to make these critical changes in our government and our world.

The male precedent in science is yet to be overcome

Growing up, I had never felt like anything was preventing me from becoming a scientist. I felt as though women had equal opportunity to become scientists, and that they could do so just as easily as men. I still certainly had a great respect and appreciation for women scientists in history, as evidenced by the fact that I chose Marie Curie on dress up as a famous person day in fourth grade. Yet I certainly did not grasp the full extent of the struggles early women scientists like Marie Curie faced, and the fact that these struggles are far from over for women in science. Although there has been a rapid improvement in equality for women scientists in recent years, the male precedent that has been set in science is certainly not yet overcome.

In our society today, science is still largely dominated by males. The number of male professionals in many fields of science is still much greater than the number of females. Although the number of women in life sciences, such as biology, is approaching 50%, women are largely outnumbered in most other fields of science. But why is this the case? In our country, at least, women are offered equal education to men. They should technically have equal opportunity to become scientists. Yet, the cultural standard that has been established that science is undeniably male is far from demolished. Because of this precedent, women tend to gravitate away from these male dominated fields, sometimes without even realizing it.

Another obstacle is the lack of female role models for prospective young female scientist to look up to. This is do to the lack of female professionals in the field, and the underrepresentation of females in the history of science. Upon any google search of famous scientists, a long list of predominantly white males appears. Why are women so underrepresented in the publicized history of science? It is true that women have historically not had equal opportunity and education to become scientists. Yet, there are certainly many, especially in the past 50 or so years, who have made extraordinary contributions to science. With the exception of Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin, I had never heard of most of the women scientists mentioned in our lecture on Monday, and certainly not known of their influential contributions. It is not that these women have less remarkable achievements than their male counterparts, but they seem to have been simply overlooked, or even excluded, from the history of science that is commonly known and taught.

Without even realizing it, our society continues to portray science as a predominantly male domain. This portrayal only continues to further the problem, because instead of highlighting the important role women have played in science, it diminishes it. We need to be more recognizant of the influential contributions women have had in science up to this point, and therefore encourage increased involvement of women in science in the future. Female scientists should be rightly acknowledged and praised for their work, creating inspiration to bring the participation of women to rival that of men in the field of science.

How do Kranzberg’s laws apply to the development and usage of the atomic bomb?

Carter Liou

2/13/18

ST112-WA

 

Although most people do not know of Melvin Kranzberg, his work in the field of technology has had a significant effect on the way society thinks of it.  Although the term technology is often associated with computers and other various other electronics, the term correlates to a much wider range of innovations ranging from the modern automobile to the invention of the chair or wheel.  One of Kranzberg’s most well known publication were his 6 laws of technology.  In essence, these laws should be seen as the Hippocratic Oath for those who are trying to develop influential technology.  Although many different technological innovations adhere to a multitude of these laws, very few adhere to all of them; one in particular was the invention of the atomic bomb.  

 

In 2000, Time Magazine released a list of the top one hundred most influential innovations of the the century; at the very peak of their list was the development of the atomic bomb.  The question then is, how does this technology abide by all of Kranzberg’s laws? The first law says that technology is neither good or bad; nor is it neutral;  by this Kranzberg is trying to convey the importance of context.  This is emulated perfectly in the development and usage of the atomic bomb.  By itself the bomb is harmless, it takes the detonation and an urbanized setting for the weapon to become destructive.  Furthermore, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be seen from both ends of the spectrum; from one end they were devastating and killed thousands of innocent civilians, but from the other they forced the Japanese government to surrender potentially saving millions of lives.  The second law states that invention is the mother of necessity.  Essentially Kranzberg is denoting that with the development of any great technology comes the need for other technologies to aid in its function.  The atomic bomb is no exception; without the redesigned Boeing B-29s, the bombs would have never been able to make it to Japan.  The third law exclaims that technology comes in packages big and small.  Literally, it perfectly describes the atomic bomb, however, what Kranzberg is referring to is the idea of how technology is usually composed of smaller more intricate pieces.  The fourth law states that although technology may take a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.  Kranzberg is saying that the usage and development of technology is highly affected by social factors which placed a lot of pressure on the US government to end the war quickly and without American casualties.    The fifth law states that all history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.  This law in itself is rather straightforward and a statement on which I agree.  Knowing the history how the atomic bomb came to be and how it was used can help explain a lot of history before, World War Two and US-Japanese relations, and after, the Cold War and the US-Soviet arms race.  The sixth and final law says that technology is a very human activity, and so is the history of technology.  This statement is heavily accurate with respect to the atomic bomb.  Although designed for mass destruction, the bomb itself presents no danger without human activity.  This essentially applies for every piece of technology that has been created; its only with the human influence that its purpose is fulfilled and its significance is observed.  

 

Although all of Kranzberg’s laws are important to take to heart, one in this instance surpasses the rest.  That is the fourth law.  While the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were horrible and tragic, their story and the history of the atomic bomb help us to comprehend the power and influence that nuclear warheads possess.  Today, we face a serious predicament with the North Korean government who are threatening to eradicate neighboring countries such as South Korea and Japan with their arsenal of nuclear missiles.  To understand the history of nuclear warheads is the understand the present problems that pose a threat to humanity and how we can prevent them.  As George Santayana once said, “those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”

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