Essay on the Views of Enlightenment Thinkers on “Science”

The Enlightenment had answered this question in the affirmative. Enlightenment optimism emanated, in part, from its view that science had revealed the truth.

Its method had enabled men to know the external reality, the world around us, while technological application had facilitated control reality, the world around us, while technological application had facilitated control over that reality such that it could now serve the interest of man.

Science had in this dual sense made man the master of the universe. Men may not have designed that magnificent machine but they were certainly in a position to control and manipulate it to suit their ends.

Science symbolized this faith and it was for this reason that the Enlightenment had given it a special status in the order of things.


This faith in science has been challenged in the late twentieth century. Among other things the critics maintain that modern science and technology promote violence, and cannot therefore be a means for improving the human condition or shaping a better, more peaceful, world.

In India this point of view is best represented in the writings of A’shis Nandy, Vandana Shiva and Claude Alvares. All of them see a link between science, technology, oppression and violence.

For these analysts science is intrinsically violent. Both science and technology are violent ways of handling the world; hence, their “use for violent purposes is assured”. In collusion with colonialism and imperialism, science unleashed violence against traditional ways of life.

Today, it has resulted in the vast accumulation of armaments and nuclear arsenal, all of which threaten the very existence of life on earthy.


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According to Vandana Shiva, science is not merely responsible for the creation of sophisticated weapons of mass destruction; it is destructive even in its peaceful applications.

In activities like agriculture and health, where the professed objective is human welfare, science remains largely violent. Scientific agriculture has resulted in aggressive and “reckless pillage” of nature.

While traditional modes of farming left time for nature to regenerate itself, today the pattern of crop cultivation has generated problems at various levels.


The use of new seeds, which promise higher yield, has destroyed bio-diversity and the richness of nature. Excessive exploitation of ground resources through cultivation of at least three crops each year, primarily for ‘purposes of sale in the market, has left the farmer poorer. The condition of soil has deteriorated and it has created an environment that is “favorable for multiplication of disease”.

In the area of health similarly, there is an increase in iatrogenic illness. In fact “iatrogenic illness cause more deaths than road accidents”. In university hospitals in America, one out of five patients contract iatrogenic illness and one out of 30 die because of it.

In other words, for these theorists: science has not yielded a safer and better world. While increasing productivity and cure for several diseases, it has created newer forms of illnesses, upset the balance of nature and worsened the condition of life for the ordinary man.

To be noted that Romanticism had contrasted the world ushered in by industrializing capital and science with the ideal existence of man in nature. It had challenged the Enlightenment idea of progress by glorifying nature and seeking a return to it.

Enlightenment had created science with advancing the happiness of man; Romanticism blamed it for increasing alienation, violence, loss of peace and security.

It warned humankind of the disasters that come with science and its technological applications, and craved for the cosmic order that is supposed to be there, present in nature. It is this reliance upon tradition and the natural order that distinguishes Romanticism from the postmodern critiques of Enlightenment.

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