Friday, 21 February 2014
The Benefits Of Science
I frequently meet people who argue that science is not beneficial, even when they are communicating by computer. Personally, I regard knowledge as of value in itself and therefore do not need to answer questions like, "Of what use is it to know that the Sun is a star or that our galaxy is not the whole universe?"
When I suggest that human lives are qualitatively better for being longer, healthier and better informed, I am told, and agree, that some uses of science have been harmful or that many further improvements to life remain desirable. Here, the argument becomes confused. That science is not beneficial turns out to mean that it can be harmful (of course) or that it has not made everything perfect yet (of course not).
I recently pointed out to someone that he can read printed books by electric light at midnight and he did his best to belittle this achievement. I am pleased to see that Time Patrolmen, able to compare their period with others, appreciate the differences. In 1146 AD, Emil Volstrup must pretend to be indisposed and stay in bed. When another agent asks in Temporal, "'How goes it'?", he replies:
"'Incredibly tediously...I never before appreciated what a blessing printing, an abundance of books, is.'" (p. 418)
And Keith Denison says of his captor in the alpha timeline:
"'He owned a lot of books. Printing had been invented...books were available to the upper classes. They saved my sanity.'" (p. 363)