[Opinion] Science and conscience

Aziz Ali Dad

A modern technological warrior is immune from human sentiments for he has been brought up by video games and virtual reality of modern communication. Hence, no chances for change of his heart and mind. If a modern warrior in a faraway place with a joystick of drones in his hand hits a target, his sentiments will not be dissimilar to those created while hitting a target in the video game

We live in an age in which technology encompasses every sphere life. It is because of its all pervasive influence on our lives Martin Heidegger identified enframing as the essence of modern technology. It is technological innovations in the modern age that has enabled humankind to make life secure from the dangers posed by nature. Although, modern science has succeeded to unravel mysteries of the universe, it has also unleashed powers that have been channelized by human beings into weapons for killing its own species. After witnessing technological sophistication of killing machinery, Sigmund Freud declared modern warfare more inhuman than cannibalism because ‘modern warfare has become so abstract and indirect that, in its level of cruelty, it surpasses the atrocity of cannibalism, which does at least respect the occasional taboo.’ Today technically advanced arms are the instruments of indirect cannibalism.

The technological violence distances the person perpetrating violence from the affected, such as drone attack and a laser-guided bomb or guided missile. Because of alienation of the perpetrator of violence from the affected, human sentiments disappear from the act. The dimension of human sentiments is very important, for they provide an opportunity for change of heart and mind to a blood thirsty warrior. Ashoka the Great was personally engaged in wars. Ashoka means ‘without sorrow’. After his Pyrrhic victory in Kalinga war in 265 BC, he witnessed the brutality of war with his naked eyes. Thereafter, Ashoka realized brutality of war, felt guilty, renounced violence and preached non-violence.

But a modern technological warrior is immune from human sentiments for he has been brought up by video games and virtual reality of modern communication. Hence, no chances for change of his heart and mind. If a modern warrior in a faraway place with a joystick of drones in his hand hits a target, his sentiments will not be dissimilar to those created while hitting a target in the video game. On the other hand, a perception is prevalent that those equipped with leisure guided bombs and missiles are morally superior.

This kind of technologically determined self-righteousness stifles the chances for conscience to emerge from the depth of Being and assert itself on the self that has become a cog in the war machinery. Unlike Ashoka, Paul Tibbetts, the pilot who dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima, passed away declaring that he has no regrets and slept ‘clearly every night’. In addition, collusion of assorted institutions with the state has created an ethics that gives moral high ground to ‘the whole enginery of war to-day’. The contemporary industry of mass hypnotism lulls us to thinking that deems possession of technologically sophisticated weapons as a sign of moral superiority. In fact possession of arms turns us into indirect cannibals. The only difference between primitive cannibals and modern is that the former gave it a ritualistic colour and the latter has given moral sanction.

It is an irony of modern age that we spend huge financial resources to perfect our weapons, but our moral investments is meager. Hence, we can say that our morality could not keep pace with the developments in weaponry. Writing in The New York Times against the backdrop of inventions of modern weapons, T. H. Borrows wrote in 1898 ‘The serious student of ethics, not to speak of the cynic, may well ask whether the development of philanthropy in mitigating the hardships of war has kept pace with these destructive tendencies, and whether ethics might not be better employed in discouraging such inventions than palliating their effects.”

Our obsession with investing in weaponry at the cost of moral investment has brought us to a situation where ‘we have guided missiles and misguided men.’ The lethal combination of misguided mentality and guided technology has plunged the world into wars, terrorism, poverty and environmental degradation. A rational approach to address these challenges would be investing in moral perfection so that heart and minds can be won.

The current turmoil in the world is not caused by a single nation or society; rather it is embodied manifestation of moral contradictions of the modern humanity as a whole. To prevent the world from dire consequences of planetary pogrom, it is indispensible to invest in the cultivation of cosmopolitan virtue that respect other cultures and maintains an ironic stance towards one’s culture on the one hand, and rejects the morality manufactured to provide raison detre for weapons of mass destruction on the other.

The writer is a social scientist based in Islamabad.  azizalidad@hotmail.com

 

Source: ViewPoint


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2 Responses to [Opinion] Science and conscience

  1. Pingback: [Opinion] Science and conscience | Tea Break

  2. Punk says:

    Humanity per se is a concept that generally applies to all the people living across the globe. But in the real world, the people are scattered as nations who use the technological mastery as effective weapon to protect their own interests. Honestly speaking, the human civilization has grown very little from the savagery of Stone Age when possession of sharp stone knives guaranteed success over enemy and hunting; this human nature is now demonstrated by the possession of technological prowess in our modern era.

    The technology can be classified into good or bad, a notion similar to Americans’ perception of good Taliban and bad Taliban. Good technology has done and is doing a lot of good to the people. Whereas the bad technology simply means the weapons of murder and destruction. The bad technology is the offspring of a primitive and deep rooted human fear, the fear of getting dominated. The more a country advances, the more sophisticated becomes the technology it produces but its vulnerability proportionally multiples while it moves on the progress bar. The technological superiority (both good or bad) is the key to the economic domination. Nations across the world are running a rat race to become superiors or at least to become parallels and who will be willing to relinquish their superiority to only become an inferior?

    There probably is no solution to the problem as indicated by the erudite write of the above articulate. The people will keep on sharpening their killer instincts unless the malaise of inner human fears are conquered, which in my opinion is more a daunting task than developing the most modern technologies!

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