Science is Not Neutral. Here’s Why.
My first recollection of the phrase “science is not neutral” was in 12th grade, when our physics teacher taught us about Robert Oppenheimer. We were discussing about fusion and fission when for the first time, I heard someone talk about science in such an uncelebrated context. The invention of the atomic bomb was an evidence of mishandled science, he told the class; science should not only be objective, it must also be ethical, otherwise, the lives of the people will be at risk.
Since then, the ways in which the non-neutrality of science began to take form in front of my eyes. I saw how the history of science perpetuated the marginalization of oppressed groups: how Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution inspired eugenicists to justify homophobia, sexism, racism, and classism in the name of “species improvement”. More than that, I saw how history has used science as a tool — or a weapon — to serve the whims of the ruling class by exploiting the people and the environment.
Talking about these, it feels as though the misuse of science was already a thing of the past and of the West. However, even today, the same issues still exist, some subtly but others more blatant that the media depicts it to be.
Closer to home, we see how for an archipelagic and agricultural country like the Philippines, we are are importing fish, rice, and corn. This is because of the profit-driven mindset that our society has — that instead of improving our local and national modes of production to make goods cheaper, the government opts to prioritize their own gains thereby sacrificing efficiency and cost effectivity.
Farmers and fishers, along with science groups, have long clamored for subsidy and genuine development for our agricultural and fishing sectors. The government could have used science to improve the machinery of our farmers and fishers, instead they are still stuck to using primitive technology for their livelihood, making it difficult to compete with imported goods and large corporations. As a result, the prices of our commodities become more expensive, and the peasant sector remains to be the poorest in our country.
In more recent events, science is the most vital tool we need in combating the pandemic. If only the government listened to scientists, then we would have had well-researched safety protocols in place instead of the ineffective face shields and the inefficient lockdowns. If only science was used for the people, then we would have had our own capability to produce the vaccines locally instead of relying on donations from other countries.
From societal advancement to utter destruction, the potential of science extends far and wide — it is up to us to choose in which way we steer it towards. But, one thing is for sure: Science is not neutral. There is no science for the sake of science. There should be no more science for the sake of those in power. As scientists-in-the-making, it is our job to take a stand and ensure that science serves the people.