Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Polanyi : world's worst soothsayer

Polanyi's article had a lot of excellent points especially about spontaneous order. However, when it came to pointing out the direction science would take in the near future Polanyi just did not see it coming!
I refer to the section where Polanyi discusses his views on scientific results for social guidance. Polanyi decides that " any attempt at guiding scientific research towards a purpose other than its own is an attempt to deflect it from the advancement of science". He also shockingly that you "cannot shape the advance of science." This ofcourse is written in the time of the cold war. If Kennedy did not shape the advance of science by challenging to put a man (this goes out to you Mr Polanyi)on the moon, I don't know what is. I will discuss the morality of this later. However, the very face of science today contradicts what Polanyi thinks science should be. Polanyi thinks that voters must be urged to give tax payer dollars to support science for the purpose of exploring the nature of things. He feels that the electorate would be ok with this. However, most research that is conducted in universities today is funded by organizatons such as NIH, NSF etc. All these governmental or even private organizations give grants only if they see there is a potential for the research to help out humans in someway. A scientist cannot fund his/ her own research and must rely on other companies to do so. This is completely contrasts what Polanyi says. Our Politicians too have spoken about the waste of tax payer dollars on science. I remember McCain criticized the government for spending 2 million dollars in research on bears in montana. This shows the mindset of the electorate, which is very different from what Polanyi thinks it is!
The next question that arises is whether guiding sceince is morally correct? Is it wrong for us to want to understand to great mysteries behind life with a motive in mind? I do not think so. Sceince will be shaped with what we place value on, therefore it does act like the free market. Carrying out research with a specific goal in mind is not wrong but just more economically sound!

No comments:

Post a Comment