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The controversy over science is the central argument in both Max Born's "Reflections" and J. Michael Bishop's "Enemies of Promise." Science and technology have greatly influenced and improved the way people live in a society. However, while Born argues that science is the essence of the "breakdown of human civilization" (208), Bishop strongly disagrees with Born's views: that scientists must take responsibility for their inventions and discoveries.
Born's essay partly portrays a negative view towards scientists and science. It shows examples of inventions along with their negative effects towards nature and the world. For example, "medicine has overcome most plagues and epidemic diseases and it has doubled the human lifespan within a single generation: the result . . . catastrophic overpopulation" (Born 209). On the other hand, Bishop believes that science has a more positive impact on the world. To him, "We live in an age of scientific triumph. Science has solved many of nature's puzzles and greatly enlarged human knowledge" (237). Bishop's view is right.
But a point of similarity between the two works is that to be a true scientist one needs a complete education, which includes humanistic subjects like literature, art,
philosophy, history, religion, and music. For instance in Born's words, "Scientists should not be cut off from humanistic thinking" (212), for it has "insights to offer into the human condition" (Bishop 238). Here both agree.
Another strong argument is that society's judgment of science is clouded by ignorance. "It blames science for what are actually the failures of individuals or society to use the knowledge that science has provided. The blame is misplaced" (Bishop 239). For example, the government spends millions of dollars on the tobacco industry even though it is a proven scientific fact that tobacco kills. This shows that some people only want to misuse scientific products,
so they should be prepared to take responsibility for their action and not blame it on science as Born implies.
Although Born's "Reflections" and Bishop's "Enemies of Promise" share some similar points the main focus of each work is quite different. In "Reflections", Born "confesses a sense of responsibility for the break down in human civilization" (208).
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On the other hand, Bishop feels that any one scientist should not take the blame for negative side effects of
another scientist's experiments. "And to the extent that scientists have at times indulged in the belief [of scientism], they must shoulder some of the blame for the misapprehensions that some people have about science" (Bishop 238). This is a great difference in their views.
It is clear that Bishop's argument, that scientists should not take the blame for some of the negative effects of science and technology, is more convincing, because users might be misusing the products available to them. For example, medicine has cured many diseases and helped people everyday. But what happens when a person overdoses on the medicine? Should the scientist who created the drug be blamed? Of course not! Why? Because the blame is misplaced.
As seen in the film on Du Pont family, Empires of Industry, there are positive and negative aspects of science. The creation of explosives has allowed for roadways to be built through mountains, revolutionized the way people mine for natural resources, and many other positive results. However, explosives like gun power, bombs, and dynamite are responsible for countless deaths. As with any other scientific invention, explosives can have both positive and negative effects, depending on the users.
Finally, science and technology have greatly improved our daily lives. However, some critics still argue that science and technology are destroying the world. In fact, society is generally not trusting toward science and new scientific research, because of misplaced fears of the hazards. As Bishop explains, "Resistance to science is born of fear. Fear, in turn, is bred by ignorance. And it is ignorance that is our deepest malady" (241). Even in the absence of fear, it is not guaranteed that a scientist will always have success, so society must always be prepared to weigh the pros and cons of science and put the blame of any mishap where it rightly belongs. In the end, there is no doubt that with all the medical, chemical, constructive, and biological advances in the world today, as Bishop puts it, "to reject science is to deny the future" (242).
Bishop, J. Michael. "Enemies of Promise." The Presence of Others: Voices and Images That Call for Response. 3rd edition. Ed. Andrea Lunsford and John Ruskiewicz. New York: Bedford, 2000. 237-242.
Born, Max. "Reflections." The Example of Science: An Anthology for College Composition. Ed. Robert E. Lynch and Thomas B. Swanzey. Massachusetts: Simon and Schuster,1997. 208-212.
Empires of Industry. Narr. Roger Mudd. History Channel Special Presentation, 2001. Class Film. HSS 101-005. Fall Semester, 16, 2001.