Cashing in on Science

The Scientific Revolution was an imagined order unlike any of its predecessors because it openly admitted ignorance of life’s most pressing questions. Pre-science humans were wont to believe that the golden age of humanity was a bygone era. Harari writes that “once modern culture admitted that there many important things that it still did not know, and when that admission of ignorance was married to the idea could give us new powers, people began suspecting that real progress might be possible after all” (Harari 264). Humans increasingly began to believe that we could expand our capabilities by investing in scientific research. Many are convinced that science and technology hold the answers to all of our problems (à la Technofix). But science is expensive. “Most scientific studies are funded because someone believes they can help attain some political, economic or religious goal” (Harari 272).

Scientific exploits consequently became wedded to imperialism because both conquerors and scientists shared a mutual acknowledgment of ignorance coupled with a desire to go out and make discoveries. Harari tells of the militaristic motivations behind the HMS Beagle’s voyage to the coast of South America to study the geological formations they might encounter while during a skirmish for territory. As we all know, this ship had one very special passenger: Chuck D the father of the theory of evolution.  Without imperial support it is doubtful whether modern science would’ve progressed very far (Harari 304). 

In the pre-modern era, the global economy remained in a fairly stagnated state. With the Scientific Revolution came the idea that progress would continue to improve our lives, thus we begin putting more trust in the future. Credit systems begin popping up. Capitalist societies view economic growth is the supreme good.  And how does all this tie into modern science? Simply that without requisite capital science cannot be performed. Elmore’s article further explores the fluid relationship between science, technology and industry, specifically how fluctuations in markets invariably influences the tide of science and the avenues down which it flows, citing Monsanto’s transition from a “scavenger company turning waste products of the oil industry in the valuable consumer and industrial products page” (Elmore 166) to selling “genetic software that could be inserted in the hardware of plant and animal life turning living cells into bio factories capable of turning out copious quantities of valuable antibiotics pesticides and hormones” (Elmore 171).

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