Impact of Science on Society Essay
The world we live in today is directly influenced by the progression of science. Without the study and effort from previous generations of scientists, the technology that we enjoy (or dislike) would not be here. From ancient to modern times, the role of science has always been to further the development of society. Various societies have made contributions to collective knowledge throughout history, and each have advanced the sciences in their own unique way. Through the study of Mathematics, Agriculture, Astronomy, and Medicine, civilization has evolved ways to expand food production, understand phenomena, create communicative systems, and increase survival.
The earliest records of scientific influence comes from an ancient Mesopotamian city called Sumer. The Sumerians were among the first civilizations to benefit from scientific innovation. Their agriculture system unlocked the potential for thinking on a deeper level. With the implementation of irrigation, ox-plows, and mono-cropping, the population flourished. The paradigm of hunter gatherer fell. The Sumerians no longer had to worry about hunting and gathering food.
In order to keep track of all the food, a cuneiform writing system emerged (3000-3500 BC). This system developed to accommodate higher mathematics and an alphabet capable of describing their life and gods. The method was simple and effective: tablets were formed of moist clay, impressed upon by a pencil-like wedge, and then baked in an oven, thus creating a permanent record. The epic of Gilgamesh, a poem considered the world's first great piece of literature, was written in this form. Since farming did not require the vast majority of the populace, Sumerians were able to specialize in alternative professions like writing. This epic would not have been possible if not for the technological advancements in agriculture.
It is important to note, however, that these systems arose out of necessity. They arose to solve a problem. Lets take a look at science that came to be by human curiosity.
Humans have an innate desire to look to the heavens above for answers. This study of celestial cycles predates human history. Early civilizations attributed the stars and planets above as gods; the study was considered holy and done primarily by priests. Today modern science calls this Astrology. Although Astrology is considered pseudoscience, it provided the medium for modern Astronomy to take root. The first civilizations to study the cycles were of Mesopotamia. They understood the cyclical nature of the earth and from this were able to determine when to plant crops and approximate year lengths. The Babylonian civilization developed the first scientific contribution to Astronomy. By years of observation they discovered the cyclical pattern of lunar eclipses. This observational mode study was furthered significantly by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC and again in the 9th century by Muslims astronomers. Since the scientific revolution, our knowledge of the cosmos has increased vastly. The study of Astronomy has given humanity definite understanding of something that has mystified our ancestors.
The advancement of medical science has always influenced mankind. From the Druidic herbalists of the Celts to the bloodletting humorists of the Greeks and Romans, medical ideology has encompassed many forms. Throughout history, each society asks different questions about Medicine. Each society answers them differently. Until the scientific method, the sciences have been performed based on a mix of superstition and first-hand experience. But the allure of medical science has always been the same: decrease suffering and increase lifespan. Due to the accumulation of knowledge by our ancestors, we have been able to do just that. The ailments and diseases that were considered fatal in the past are easily treated today. On average, the productive members of society will live longer. These people can thus, make more economic contributions, be around for their families, and share more wisdom.
The accruement of collective medical knowledge started in ancient times. Ancient Egyptians had both practical and spiritual knowledge of Medicine, and along with the Babylonians are the first to write down their knowledge. The Edwin Smith Papyrus (1500 BCE) is of the oldest medical scripts and states in detail various surgery complications and solutions without any fantastic or spiritual aid (Zimmerman 6). The Greeks, however, have contributed to the advancement of medical science more so than any ancient culture. Hippocrates (460 – 370 BCE) was a medical practitioner of Greece whose finding
are still relevant today. Most famously, he is credited with the Hippocratic Oath. He also forwarded Humorism, a concept that dealt with bodily imbalances, that disease is based on the individual being out of sync. The Hippocratic Corpus, a collection of works that Hippocrates and his students wrote, describes a plethora of ailments and systematic ways of diagnosing patients (Hippocrates, Adams 3). These Greek notions later influenced the Romans medical society. Galen of Pergamon (129 - 200 AD) was of such influenced peoples. Galen was a Roman physician and surgeon to four emperors and influenced western medical ideology for over a thousand year. His writings on anatomy were widely used during medieval curriculum. (Bendick 1-7) Galen and Hippocrates works and systematic doctrine were key figures to the academia that arose during Islamic middle ages (9th - 12th Century). Their texts were translated into Arabic and used as reference.
Science builds on itself over time, each period gives its own contribution. Sometimes the knowledge is not true, but it is in the act of trying that leads to success. This accumulation of medical knowledge over time has allowed society to advance health care to where it is today.
The collective understanding of Chemistry developed over the centuries is responsible for a wide array of useful substances. The products produced by Chemistry have altered societies minds, bodies, and warfare. The study of chemical reactions allows us to recognize how molecules and atoms work upon each other. Since most everything perceptible to the senses are made up molecular compounds, this study is greatly important for further development of technology and science. Societies have practiced Chemistry before the term existed, before even its proto-science, alchemy, existed. According to an article entitled, ”Fermented Beverages of Pre-and-Proto Historic China” the chemical process of fermentation to create alcohol has been documented to as early as the seventh century BC. The article goes further to state that the alcohol was more than just a mind altering drug, that it also served practically as a disinfectant. With development of metallurgy, a branch of Chemistry that deals with the production of metals, society harnessed the ability to craft stronger weapons and tools. This branch lead to the discovery of alloys and the start of the Bronze Age (3500 BC).
The ambiguity of Alchemy became apparent in the middle ages. The alchemical works were encrypted in symbolism and subject to fantastic ideas, there was no exact measurements being recorded. Chemistry emerged when the practitioners began applying the scientific method to their research and left superstitious notions behind. The first prime example of this can be found in the Islamic figure Jābir ibn Hayyān (721 - 815 AD). He was a scholar of many sciences and translated Greek and Roman texts to Arabic. Jābir is credited by some as the father of Chemistry because of his implementation of systematic, categorical, and clear descriptions of alchemical processes. Since this shift from Alchemy to Chemistry, society has benefited from the substances created by practical chemical knowledge of the elements, compounds, and molecules.
In conclusion, the sciences emerged from human curiosity and ingenuity because of the questions and problems the environment has thrust upon us. The progression is cumulative and builds from our ancestors knowledge. The information gained is not always equitable but does serve as a medium for correct sciences to appear. Thus, if history repeats itself, the road ahead for science will be intermittently rewritten to serve the future needs of both scientific communities and society at large.
Bendick, Jeanne. Galen and the Gateway to Medicine. Bathgate, ND: Bethlehem, 2002. Print.
Hippocrates, Francis Adams, Arthur John Brock, and Galen. Hippocratic Writings. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1955. Print.
McGovern, Patrick E., Juzhong Zhang, Jigen Tang, Zhiqing Zhang, Gretchen R. Hall, Robert A. Moreau, Alberto Nuñez, Eric D. Butrym, Michael P. Richards, Chen-shan Wang, Guangsheng Cheng, Zhijun Zhao, and Changsui Wang. "Abstract." Fermented beverages of pre- and proto-historic China U.S. National Library of Medicine, 08 Dec. 2004. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.
Zimmerman, Leo M., and Ilza Veith. Great Ideas in the History of Surgery. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1961. Print.
Kindly consider donating