science, technologies, and the human condition. the center for the humanities' year-long series — science, technologies, and the human condition — explores the ways technologies have transformed how we perceive the body, time, space, and our environment.
society applauds the recent advancements of scientific technology
in fields such as medicine, energy, and communication. while
humankind profits in many ways from this technology, a few
voices are heard cautioning society to consider the implications of
these developments. this paper discusses the gulf which appears
to exist between scientific technology and the human condition.
reasons for this gulf are: i ) the failure to develop a philosophy
of science in which human values, and aspirations are viewed
within the context of scientific technology, 2) the reductionist
approach to science in which the parts are emphasized at the
expense of the whole; and, 3) the failure to conceptualize
behavior in such a way that the situational or contextual
variables of technology are understood. the paper concludes by
proposing a social ecological model of human behavior which
allows for the integration of technology with the human condition.
i ntroduct ion
society applauds the advancement scientific technology has made in
recent years in various fields, such as medicine, energy, and
communication. while humankind profits in many ways from this
technology, a few voices are heard cautioning society to consider the
implications of these developments.
the objective of this paper is not a crusade for clean air, a lament for
the return to the "good old days," or a call to halt the advancement of
scientific technology. rather, the purpose is to discuss the interface of
scientific technology and the human condition. most important is that e
gulf currently exists between these two factors. several factors are
responsible for this gulf: 1) the failure to develop a philosophy o
science in which the human condition, values, goals, and aspirations ar
viewed within the context of scientific technology; 2) the reductionis
approach to science in which the parts are emphasized at the expense of
the gestalt or whole; and, 3) the failure to conceptualize behavior in such
a way that the situational or contextual variables of technology are
understood. the paper will conclude by proposing a social ecological
model of human behavior, which allows for the integration of technology
and the human condition at both the mirco-level of individual
psycho-social functioning and at the macro-level of social institution.
rhe need for a philosophy of science
rene dubos (1965), in the essay "science and man's nature"
published in da lus, reports on a symposium entitled "man and his
future" held in london in 1963. the purpose of the conference was to
study and predict the effects of science on every aspect of human life.
dubos observed that the participants had no difficulty discussing the role
of science in terms of space exploration, energy, and the consumption of
raw materials. as a matter of fact, the participants seemed to believe that
there were few limitations to what science might do. however, dubos
noticed that no-one seemed to be able to deal adequately with the human
side of the coin, or the psychological, ethical, emotional, and cultural
factors which mediate the use of science. dubos felt this was an indication
that scientific knowledge was in danger of becoming alienated from human
experience, thus reducing the ability of technology to meet human needs.
dubos refers to this as the disjunction between technology and human
experience. the choice of the word "disjunction" is rather interesting.
one might visualize this phenomenon as similar to putting an electrical
plug incorrectly into an extension cord socket. this results in one prong
in one hole and the other sticking out of the socket. to lament over the
disjunction of science and technology is not a cry for a return to the good
old days in which life was supposedly was simpler and sounder, a thesis
which could easily be refuted. rather, dubos is asserting that there is a
need for a new philosophy of science, one which will unite scientific
technology with human experience (mokrzychi, 1983; munevar, 1981 ).
one cannot assume that automatically the good life will emerge from
scientific and technological inventions, and naively think that more of the
latter will create a better society.
the disjunction between scientific technology and human experience
is being demonstrated in some of the questions facing modern society. one
example of the double-edged nature of technology is the development of