(Position Paper of the Ranchi Group)

This is a preliminary position paper of our group in Ranchi. The participants in the debate on PPST in the first issue of the bulletin have used the words 'science' and 'technology' together, giving the impression-which may not be intended-that they are organically linked, and seem to imply that it is axiomatic that they have similar properties. From the outset we have felt that exactly the opposite is the case in this country.

We are sure that everyone will agree (at least in principle) that technology has to fit the exigencies of a given society-geographic, social, economic etc. However, we have a suspicion that when one takes up a specific instance and tries to find out what-else-could-have-been, one may get bogged down by lots of details and arguments, unless one takes up some of the glaring examples where attempts have been made to cut the foot to suit the size and the shape of the shoe. We intend to take up one specific area for in-depth study, which should give us a more clear insight into the problem.

When we came to the question of 'science' it became clear that there was considerable confusion amidst us and also several divergent views on questions such as-. "What precisely is meant by 'values' in the pursuit of science? Where does 'pure' science end and 'applied' science take over?” etc. Some of the viewpoints expressed are summarized below.

1) There existed different 'science systems' or 'knowledge systems' in different societies of the world. These systems try to explain the same phenomenon in the world in different 'conceptual frameworks'. With time, one system dominates over the other for the sake of socio-economic interests of the ruling-class. The postulates and directions of the dominant system are accepted as 'universal' and 'legitimate'. For the emergence of a pro-people social system it would be necessary to take a critical look at not only technology but also science, which depends upon the 'universals' and 'legitimates' of the dominant system. Present-day 'Western’ science and technology is not like a sword that can strike for anyone who wields it. It is more in the nature of the fangs of a creature that have grown along with the creature. If someone else tries to use it, it becomes either 'a charade or the hands with which one holds them become septic. For this point to be established, the Chinese experience before the present set of leadership took over should be thoroughly studied.

2) ‘It is true that different science systems exist', says another viewpoint — 'but different science systems can be linked to different levels of social development. Different knowledge systems have different degrees of empiricism embedded in them. With the growth of knowledge systems,' the one which is more 'general' in nature would dominate over others. Take the case of astronomy. There existed different schools of astronomy amongst Arabs and Indians. But the victory of 'Western astronomy' over other systems is complete to-day. It has vanquished others by virtue of being the most ‘general’ in nature. On the other hand, in the case of medical science we find f that even to-day parallel systems exist. The difference in the degrees of empiricism in different medicine systems is not great. And, so long as it is so, no one of them would be able to vanquish the others. It is noteworthy that despite a tremendous political onslaught by the proponents of the allopathic system, other systems still survive.

3) The above concept was supported by another viewpoint. It has been observed in history that a society develops to a certain level at a given period and then becomes stagnant — whatever be the reasons. Another society at some other place starts developing at a somewhat later date. The one that starts developing at a later date has more 'general' mores, values, precepts, in all spheres of life. Because of this the later society develops to a higher level. The more developed society either vanquishes the earlier one or assimilates it. This applies to its science and technology also.

The primary and pivotal role of political leadership was accepted by everybody. Political leadership sets the goals and directions, not only by formal policy decisions but also in many other indirect ways; it builds and supervises the implementing machinery and also measures the output of these efforts. But given a change in the political direction, whether the present science and technology, that have not been able to touch the lives of millions, will be able to tackle their problems is the question that is being debated. At this stage, we will not be able to provide the answers, but with vigorous and active participation we may be able to paint the backdrop of the scene in vivid colours.

Author:Ranchi Group


* It may be mentioned here in passing that, during the discussion, the phenomenon of Japan continued to baffle everybody and it should be taken up somewhere for intensive study.

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