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close this bookScience, Hegemony and Violence (UNU, 1988, 301 p.)
close this folder3. Science, colonialism and violence: A luddite view
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CLAUDE ALVARES

Introduction: Images of science and violence

For modern man, the image of Columbia, the space shuttle, speeding past the limits set by the forces of Earth, and returning, time and again, with almost monotonous impunity, is highly impressive. A proof of modern science. No tribal from the Bastar forest could achieve such feats. Not because the tribal has no desire to soar - his shamans may have another route to outer space in store - but the ruling modern consciousness vetoes that as non-objective and unreal. VCRs! Nuclear reactor domes! The electronic gadgets that throng consumer shops! Multi-coloured pills at drugstores! These are testimonies to the 'fact' that modern science exists - apart and distinct from sciences practiced earlier.

The world of our times, however, also offers another image to the modern man - an alternative image that has maintained equal sway during the same period, one not of creation or production or achievement, but of tragedy and destruction: world wars, Vietnam and Agent Orange, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Lebanon. The vocabulary used in these wars of violence (shoot, thrust, explode, trajectory) would be appropriate to put another Columbia into space. The image of violence is impressive too. Anti-human weapons systems, anti-civilizational nuclear arsenals - a proof of modern science, unthinkable in the context of earlier sciences. As the knowledge of physiology deepens, Amnesty International reports newer and more excruciating forms of torture.

The dominant, domineering images of our world are of Science and Violence. The former is accepted as intrinsically Good; the latter as universally Evil. Yet, paradoxically, the more science, the more the violence.

Coincidence, or cause-and-effect? Philosophical games, as the Marxists once played them - the violence of science, the science of violence?

Violence is larger than science. As the connotation of violence has expanded, that of science has been pruned or compacted. Advocates of science are increasingly confident about what constitutes science and what is non-science, and have sufficient clout to ignore other views. The constituency of violence, on the other hand, has spread. A natural canopy forest, a bastion of plant life, is mowed down and its niches taken over by violent monocultures that cut through life like a sharp knife. Violence now includes new and strange forms of mutilation. Civilization has 'grown'.

In our times, even nations at peace are economically at war: their economies are driven by war machines and war manias. Indirect wars are equally severe and devastating. The construction of a dam in the midst of a natural river course, the destruction of its catchment-area forests, the uprooting of thousands of living organisms and beings. At least one scholar, Ivan Illich, has labelled current economic development based on modern science and technology a war activity.1

Yet, except for some ethologists who believe that we are all 'children of Cain', and therefore prone instinctively to aggression and violence, the majority of the world's population believes it necessary and possible to diminish the extent and potential of violence everywhere.

Can it be that, in order to reduce the potential for violence, efforts have to be made to reduce the influence of modern science and to counter science itself?

Despite the wide acceptance of the scientific temper as a positive human endowment, and despite the widespread belief that science, with its potential for welfare, provides some kind of inoculation against our native disposition to violence, can one presume that an improvement in the scientific quality of human life is directly related to violence?

We begin with two paradoxes. First, the concept of 'revolution', political and sometimes bloody, has often been redefined in our times as a series of mechanical processes executed by specialists. The green revolution, the white revolution, the information revolution - all are apolitical transformations, achieved through science. The engineers of such revolutions, often highly conservative men, then, by definition, become 'revolutionaries', paradoxically managing to prevent change in the established order through science, to the applause of the educated middle classes owing allegiance to the established order.

Second, even the most diehard propagandist for science admits that modern science is used on a colossal scale for violence. The nuclear arsenal is its clearest contribution to a new form of totalist annihilatory violence, destined to extinguish all life and, thus, all science itself.

In such a context, the popular argument that science itself is a benign power, which is sometimes exploited by the establishment, has little force. Modern science is rarely, if ever, directly concerned with peace; no Government funds R&D for peace the way it supports military R&D.

On the other hand, in cultures other than those dominated by science, objects invested with unusual powers can only be used for the common good. If they are exploited for evil or for personal interest, the objects themselves lose their power. Such is the concept of vibhuti in the Indian tradition. In this respect, modern science stands apart: it can be used purely and totally immorally with the vague promise that sometime, eventually, the authority of one class over it would be reduced. The promise is that once science is democratized, it would voluntarily come into the hands of, perhaps, the proletariat.

The focus of this essay, however, is not violence but science. I argue that both science and the technology based on it are fundamentally violent forms of handling the world, that violence is intrinsic to science, to its text, to its design and implementation. I hope to demonstrate (1) that the notion of social structure or class as a principal determinant of the abuse of science is exaggerated, and (2) that because science is inherently violent, its continuing use for violence is assured. The non-violent effects of science are more the results of accident than design. It follows (3) that the argument that modern science should be used by third-world peoples for their emancipation is hardly justified. There is no way in which the science of our times can be dissociated from its structure of violence.

The faithful may agree that there is something fundamentally inadequate about modern science, but declare that this is due not so much to the nature of science as to its metaphysics, that scientific methodology could be incorporated within a new metaphysics to replace the Galilean, positivist core. This paper argues that it is not possible to dislocate the physics of modern science from its metaphysics. Trying to do so, one destroys both. Both rose together in warm embrace, and both must die the same cold death together as determinants of history, and of the lives of millions. We need a new cosmology for the vacuum that has already appeared.

Three points need to be made, as preliminaries to the analysis that follows:

I am not depending on scientific rationality to elucidate my various propositions. I am using basically philosophical arguments, arguments of a wider rationality than that obtainable in modern science. In my scheme of philosophical priorities, assumptions or postulates, and within their hierarchy, scientific rationality, though excellent for limited and selected purposes, is not the primary epistemology for truth.

Analysis of the connection between science and violence is itself part of an analytical structure that could be used to explain other forms of violence. This essay is concerned with the violence of a certain class of events which have a necessary relation with modern science. The connection between science and violence I propose is merely a sub-set of a much wider range of violent events. Obviously, all violence cannot be related to science.

The argument is basically a critique of western scientific thinking. If it appears like a clinical analysis, it is because we are engrossed in the examination of a pathology. Certainly, the same arguments cannot apply equally to, say, Chinese thinking. Neither would the arguments be of much use within the Indian tradition, where the power of abstraction to reach truth is not admitted by and large: reason has been subordinated to other instrumentalities. Neither would our arguments appeal to, say, the tribals; they might find the entire exercise a matter for extreme amusement. None of these structures of thinking - Chinese, Indian, or tribal - have hegemonic, global ambitions of the kind which western scientific rationality has. One must therefore understand this oppressive rationality and uncover its consequences for the older civilizations.

By violence (himsa) I mean physical and mental harm to living organisms, the earth also being regarded as a living organism. Mental harm for the moment is restricted to human beings, admitting that we are relatively ignorant of the conscious lives of non-human organisms.

Thus, the violence caused by science is to be understood literally, as real violence. One can find an analogy in the action of poisons - harmless in themselves, fatal when they come in contact with living organisms.

By science I mean Galilean science, or modern science, as it is usually termed. It is a historically specific, determined method of acquiring specific forms of knowledge whose utility for a post-modern period is gravely doubted. 'Science' with a capital S usually denotes the intellectual traditions of nonwestern societies, and the regressed intellectual traditions of western societies.

I shall illustrate the principal connections between science and violence in two main arguments, one from methodology and one from history. These may at times overlap. Elements of both arguments have been pointed out by other scholars; my intention is to provide a reasonably comprehensive picture. More illustrative material could be provided later.

The first argument, which relates to scientific method, concerns the functional, violence-disposition of the method. The method vetoes or excludes compassion. Its postulates require the excision of values. In actual operation, both the method and its metaphysics require mutilation or vivisection as an integral part of science. Aware of this disposition, often too easily translated into practice, the propagandists of science have offered to make extensive changes, including changes in the offending metaphysics; they have even offered to make science more holistic. These changes cannot alter the fundamental predisposition. The change required is not cosmetic but cosmic.

The second connection between science and violence became apparent soon after the scientific method was invented: colonialism. This is a historical and political argument, and specifically underlines the close and continuing 'blood relations' between science and imperialism. The problem has been recognized, but efforts are being made to suggest that science can be delinked from colonialism/imperialism. I shall argue here that since science and technology are both colonizing activities, any suggestions about delinking them from imperialism can only be fraudulent.

Following closely on these are two other arguments that work out an analysis from negative consequences. The theoretical arguments, in this second set, are sewn up with empirical demonstrations. I have divided this set of arguments into the 'first series' and the 'second series'.

The first series examines the application of modern science to life processes in agriculture, forestry, medicine and food. In all these, the application is seen as leading to serious physical harm. Suggested popular remedies include the invention of soft technologies. The real argument should concentrate on the irrelevance of modern science to such processes.

The second series, which concerns the fabrication of machines through the application of physical laws, is a problem area because it concerns the application of a basically fragmented science. The result is pollution and ecological imbalance. Industrial processes are almost always at variance with life processes and with natural events. The fragmented nature of applied knowledge produces a reaction/response in the concept of the technological fix. This is no solution. It is postponement, for one becomes involved in an absurd merry-go-round of circular production.

A radical break is required, for the connections are not merely intrinsic, they are dynamic and actively colonizing. They help increase the political clout of modern science. The final section of this paper contains suggestions on how one might counter the violence of modern science, suggestions which approach Ludditism.

I. Method as madness

Philosophers of western origin have themselves made devastating critiques of western science, and have required little help from their counterparts in the east. Lewis Mumford lays bare the origins of modern science from the days of its early veneration, in two rather splendid essays, one on Galileo and another on Francis Bacon.

Mumford argues that Galileo's 'crime' was the extinction of what he calls 'historic' man: Galileo's method involved the elimination of all subjective elements, rendering suspect all qualities except the primary qualities. 'Only a fragment of man - the detached intelligence - and only certain products of that detached, sterilized intelligence, scientific theorems and machines, can claim any permanent place or any high degree of reality.'2

For the first time objectivity was defined in a specific, highly distorted, way. Later, such 'objective knowledge' became identified with modern science. Still later, such a stipulatory definition was enshrined within a positivist worldview. As Britain took the lead in institutionalizing this worldview and as Britain in that epoch ruled not only the waves and thus also the mind and manners of men over the globe, this new creed was eagerly accepted in different centres of the intellectual world.

Yet, as many commentators have set out to show, this particular form of objectivity was not a phenomenon foreign to the west. Western civilization, because of its absolute faith in reason (extended to elaborate rational proof for the existence of God), has been compelled to swing between two poles of what may be called a scale or continuum of restrictions. A society that values reason as its prime instrument for grasping truth will also tend to move along a continuum of either more or less dependence on the principal character of reason, abstraction. (Abstraction and restriction are two sides of the same coin; in the process of abstraction, one restricts reality by abstracting certain features and ignoring others.) Such a scale of restrictions has been inoperative with other civilizations like the Chinese, or the Indian, which only give a subordinate position to reason in their scheme of things. By and large western civilization has maintained a homeostatic balance between reliance on total experience and pure abstraction.

Experience consists of historical events that are irreversible and unique, and can be immediately grasped. The mystic, for example, offers a classic example of direct experience. The function of the intellect in mysticism is zero. Radical anarchism, as another example, could also fall in this category. Most non-human species operate at the level of total experience. A tribal group survives very close to full integration with experience. One should remember that no preferred values are assigned in this analysis to total experience or to pure abstraction. It is my argument that a mystic's perception of reality is no less significant than that of a pure scientist. The scientist may object to this, but the mystic could not care less.

Abstraction involves restricting experience to zero. Abstraction means zero history. The other features of abstraction are mediacy and communicability. Plato's World of Ideas is pure abstraction. The Galilean experiment, or scientific rationality, merely purified such abstraction to a further extreme. The experiment ideally restricts: it first eliminates historicity. The scientific experiment is, in fact, an exercise in pure abstraction. This may sound strange to many, since what is really supposed to distinguish modern science from metaphysics or religion is precisely the idea that it alone is empirical, that it appeals to fact as the final arbiter.

It is when we examine closely the nature of this fact that we discover something seriously amiss: the scientific 'fact' is not the ordinary historical event or object, with all the relevant historical forces acting on it at the moment. It is a theory-laden fact, a fact created out of a certain metaphysics. The empiricism is not the empiricism of the ordinary English language, but carries its own stipulated meaning. The main feature of the experiment is that it is devoid of historicity, of uniqueness, of time. In order to experiment, one has to create one's facts to fall in line with certain postulates. These postulates themselves are not subjected to 'scientific' scrutiny nor to any systematic reasoning as to why one postulate is preferred to another.

A scientific fact has to be stripped of all its unique features, its essential nature has to be abstracted, to make the new information fit other similarly anaesthetized events. The fact that an experiment distorts reality is no longer doubted: what is striking is that such 'objective knowledge' is still passed off as the final and the only reality. The method thus becomes the sole criterion for truth. It makes possible the invention of a specific category of truth, 'scientific' truth. The point can be elucidated by a simple comparison between two western thinkers, Aristotle and Galileo.

Aristotle determined that if one were to drop a stone and a feather from a height, the stone would fall faster than the feather. And in reality, in history as a rule, stones do fall more rapidly than feathers. Galileo's invention of scientific rationality eliminated all the possible historical forces acting on both stone and feather: if all such influences were removed, he hypothesized, both stone and feather would fall at the same speed. Toricelli later constructed a vacuum to prove him right. A vacuum is total emptiness, zero experience; the scientific fact created by Galileo and Toricelli was not a natural fact, it was an artificial fact. The argument of this paper is that violence results when 'artificial' or 'perfect' nature is imposed on 'natural' or 'imperfect' nature (seen as being in an unscientific state).

Modern science is therefore not a presupposition-less activity, though it may often pretend to be. It seems to start from scratch, from empirical fact, and its postulates seem to deny all metaphysics. Nevertheless, its postulates function as a front for a new metaphysics, and because they, like all other kinds of postulates, are assumed, they distort reality and define it selectively.

There is a metaphysics that enables scientists to detonate an atomic bomb over a human population purely as an experiment, or to endorse the planting of a monocultural forest under the garb of scientific forestry. One common strand runs through all the perverse manifestations of science in our world. Our business must be to locate it and to determine how it can be progressively ruined.

The postulates upholding science are not the consequence of critical scrutiny, nor are they the result of any democratic process. The scientific worldview argues that there is no real need for democracy in science, as personalities, history, time, have all been exorcised. Here lie the origins of modern intolerance. On the scale of restrictions, an event of pure experience, because it is unique, is incomprehensible and often incommunicable. For this reason, it is quite tolerant of other unique events. Abstraction demands the reverse set of qualities. It provides a basis for communicability precisely because the irreversible, unique, historical character of any event has been eliminated, and this placing of the event outside time and other historical forces enables public agreement on what modern science is about. The event has been reduced in status from the unique to the non-unique and repeatable. In the Indian tradition, there was no basis for such a view, as reason itself was considered defective as a method for reaching truth. The postulates were different, and while they permitted earlier science, they effectively and fortunately inhibited the rise of Galilean science.

One of the qualities of abstraction, communicability, also lays the basis for a close alliance between science and authoritarianism. The scientific worldview is a totalitarian worldview: it compels universal acceptance of its postulates, without providing an equivalent 'scientific' argument for such acceptance. While the method demands that teleology must be kept out of experiments, the general culture of science correspondingly urges that societies too should operate as if teleology were a figment of the imagination.

Science claims for itself a method for arriving at indisputable knowledge, knowledge that is not the result of negotiation, bargaining or choice, and that has no basis in politics. One is not free to choose scientific knowledge on principle. That is a given, declared final after the efforts of thousands of researchers. One is free (and often encouraged) to reject the statements of religion or art but he who refuses to accept the basic scientific worldview runs the risk of being labelled ignorant, insane, or irrational. Science has redefined the rational to mean only its own method, excluding all else.

The implications for a democratic order are obvious. Science, to be science, concentrates all knowledge within itself while access to scientific knowledge becomes itself a matter of privilege. The non-scientist is then seen as an empty receptacle into whom is poured the benefits science confers; and he must ask no questions. But democratic rights include the right to assess, or claim, true knowledge, and to reject impersonal knowledge. The right, in other words, includes the power to certify knowledge on any scale. Under the dominance of science, such rights have been eroded, and ordinary people (those who do not wear white coats) are no longer considered able on their own authority to provide true knowledge of the world.

Nature acts according to her laws. The scientist wishes to discover these laws. He may discover a few, but the totality eludes him and will always do so. Despite this, his effort is to substitute his knowledge of natural laws for such laws themselves. The scale of restrictions could be rewritten, therefore, as a scale stretching between organism/nature and machine/science.

The transformation of medieval man into modern man is now clear: the movement of western society has taken it from an organic base to a machine base, while the earlier reliance on natural principles has been supplanted by one on principles invented by modern science. For western man, the mechanization of the world image is diametrically the opposite of what constituted the earlier organic perspective.

A caveat. Is modern science merely a reading of natural principles, of how nature works? This is the theory; this is the profession. Actually, what is achieved is a distorted view of the operation of natural principles. If a correct picture had emerged, there would have been no pollution or ecological imbalance on the application of such scientific knowledge. The negative consequences indicate that the picture does not fit with the demands of nature. Nature is the primary scientist, but she functions responsibly. The consequences of her inventions, so marvellously described recently by Felix Paturi and Karl von Frisch, are absorbed by self-closing natural processes.3 Modern man creates objects artificially, but he can produce no equivalent process for the absorption of these goods post-use, or for their breakdown into elements. They then begin to clog the arteries of nature like a clot in the bloodstream.

This has an even more serious implication. The attempt of the machine to replace the organism, of science to replace natural principles, cannot remain confined to a particular culture or society. A civilization driven by a theory of science/machine ipso facto becomes a colonizing force, and aspires to bring under its sway every other culture that has based its survival on a natural relationship with its surroundings.

Returning to the scale of restrictions, human beings or societies that move beyond the homeostatic balance that civilizations construct, are usually vulnerable. The organic, because it is unrelated to colonization, is always open to attack. A tribal community, very closely integrated with its environment, is for that very reason prey to colonizing forces, as history has so clearly shown.

The abstraction is also not self-limiting, except in an ultimate sense. As we are no longer dealing with organic elements which have an in-built limitation, or termination at the close of their cycle, there are no limits to abstraction. The compulsion towards it becomes overwhelming, and no practitioner has any clue as to how to shut this Pandora's box. Abstraction, uncontrolled, becomes a threat to life and, as a consequence, to science itself.

Western society has produced innumerable healers, who have attempted to introduce controls of one kind or another, These have included men like Lewis Mumford or Ivan Illich, both of whom have emphasized medieval values in contradistinction to those of megamachine culture. Others include Paul Goodman, Theodore Roszak and a host of counter-culture prophets, including orientalists like F. Capra. What these philosophers have attempted is a process of reiteration, a return to the homeostatic balance. Without reiteration, they have argued, there is only the edge of the precipice at the edge of abstraction.

One final quality of the extremes of the scale of restriction is incorporation. A mystic is fully incorporated within his experience and ceases to be himself. A tribal culture can be totally integrated into its surroundings and thus maintain a complete ecological balance. But incorporation also affects abstraction. Idealists in western philosophy have often ended up fully incorporated in their systems of thought. Scientists can be fully incorporated by their method. For instance, to those who propagate the scientific temper, the label often provides a psychological identity. The label counts for more than the individual. The individual commits psychological suicide.

This is why it is in vain for scientists to try to desert their class or professional perceptions. Scientists have recently attempted to analyse their societies critically, as fruitlessly as a character in a play trying to probe the nature of the playwright who invented him or her. The scientist qua scientist is merely a creature of his epistemology: scientists do not exist naturally, only human beings do. Flawed epistemologies must reflect and rebound on flawed personalities, and these in turn must induce even greater flaws in the constitution of what is human wisdom and how life may be carried out.

Political psychologists like Ashis Nandy have written on the effects of colonialism on the colonizers, how the process of colonialism and its consequent repressions called for an equivalent suppression of emotions in the colonizer.4 There is unfortunately not much work available on the effect of the exclusion or incorporation principle on the scientist, on the way the scientist's identification with his method leads to self-mutilation, or the way scientific rationality distorts not only nature, but also the scientist.

The scientist recognizes only one overt absolute (there are numerous covert ones though) - his freedom to pursue information at all costs, social or natural. He is insistent that every principle of interference or 'noise' - from politics to values - should be excluded from his domain. At the heart of the scientific community's consciousness is a compulsive urge to experiment, to vivisect, in order to know. Yet there are no boundaries to let us know where the search for genuine knowledge ends and plain curiosity begins. One Indian biologist recently deplored the termination of a human pregnancy that was the result of artificial insemination by a chimpanzee. The alleged experiment was terminated by Cultural Revolutionaries in China, where the in vitro fertilization was reported to have been done. The ground for deploring termination of the pregnancy was that an opportunity for 'new knowledge' had been lost.

The most obvious and sorry record of pain, caused on a massive scale for the right to information, is that of vivisection, of which, as Peter Singer has said, either the animal is like us, in which case we ought not to experiment on it, for it would be like experimenting on one of us; or the animal is not like us, in which case the experiment is useless.

Most experiments performed on animals inflict severe pain without the remotest prospect of any significant benefits either for humans or for the animals themselves. Of the numerous experiments detailed in Animal Liberation, here is a sample:

Experimenters working for the US Food and Drug Administration gave thirty beagles and thirty pigs large amounts of methoxychlor (a pesticide) in their food, seven days a week for six months, in order to ensure tissue damage. Within eight weeks, eleven dogs showed signs of abnormal behaviour, including nervousness, salivation, muscle tremors, spasms and convulsions. Dogs in convulsions breathed as rapidly as 200 times a minute before lack of oxygen caused them to collapse. Upon recovery from an episode of convulsion and collapse, the dogs were uncoordinated, apparently blind, and any stimulus such as dropping a feed pan, squirting water, or touching the animals initiated another convulsion. After further experiments on an additional twenty beagles, the experimenters concluded that massive daily doses of methoxychlor produce different effects in dogs from those produced in pigs.5

It was well known even before the experiments began, Singer points out, that 'massive doses' of methoxychlor would poison animals. And the very fact that different results were obtained for beagles and pigs indicates it is not possible to generalize in regard to human beings from experiments on animals. In fact, in three major cases, scientific experiments on animals led to faulty conclusions about the impact on humans.

Thalidomide was extensively tested on animals before being introduced as a sleeping tablet for human beings. The experiments on animals failed to show any abnormalities. The toxicity tests that had been carefully carried out on thalidomide had, without exception, demonstrated it to be an almost uniquely safe compound. What actually happened when it was introduced among the human population is well known. In the case of insulin, tests produced deformities in infant rabbits and mice, but not in humans, Finally, if penicillin had been evaluated by its results on guinea-pigs, it might never have been used on man.

Yet, the experiments continue on a massive scale. In Britain, according to official government figures, five million experiments are carried out on animals every year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stated that about forty million rats and mice are used annually for research. The Laboratory Animal Breeders Association estimated in 1966 that the number of mice, rats, guinea-pigs, hamsters and rabbits used for experiments had totalled sixty million in 1965, and would reach ninety-seven million by 1970. In 1965 between five hundred thousand and one million cats and dogs were used.

The following experiment is reported for India, performed at the K. G. Medical College, Lucknow, and is sufficient proof of how modern science can corrupt saner cultures. In 1968 K. Wahal, A. Kumar and P. Nath exposed forty-six rats to a high temperature for four hours. The rats became restless, breathed with difficulty, and salivated profusely. One animal died during the experiment and the others were killed by the experimenters because 'they could not survive anyway'.

Is not speciecism akin to Nazi science? Singer answers in the affirmative:

Blatant racism has led to painful experiments on other races, defended on the grounds of its contribution to knowledge and possible usefulness for the experimenting race. Under the Nazi regime in Germany, nearly 200 doctors, some of them eminent in the world of medicine, took part in experiments on Jews and Russian and Polish prisoners. Thousands of other physicians knew of these experiments, some of which were the subject of lectures at medical academies. Yet the records show that the doctors sat through medical reports of the infliction of horrible injuries on these 'lesser races' and then proceeded to discuss the medical lessons to be learned from them without anyone making even a mild protest about the nature of the experiments.6

Here follows an experimental report on a human being, placed in a decompression chamber:

After five minutes spasms appeared; between the sixth and tenth minute respiration increased in frequency, the TP (test person) losing consciousness. From the eleventh to the thirtieth minute respiration slowed down to three inhalations per minute, only to cease entirely at the end of that period... about half an hour after breathing had ceased, an autopsy was begun.7

It is possible to argue that the atomic bombs dropped over Japan also fitted the same pattern. Two different types of atomic bombs were dropped on Japan: one was plutonium, the other uranium. The plutonium bomb was tested in the U.S. at Alamogordo, and later dropped on Nagasaki as a weapon. But the uranium bomb, J. P. S. Uberoi argues, was the first of its kind in history; it was tested out on the people of Hiroshima as much as a scientific experiment as a weapon. As Mahesh K. Varma puts it,

Hitlerism and Hiroshima are not aberrations or anachronisms; nor do they represent the extreme points of a malfunctioning of the Western socio-economic system. They symbolize the deepest urges of modern civilization and represent the extreme points of its functioning. The diabolism as well as the apalling banality of Auschwitz and Hiroshima is implicit in the fundamental formative idea of modern civilization, namely, that the destiny of man is to create anew himself, the world and history. Experimental atomic explosions abolish the line between the real and the experimental; and, in the last analysis, Hiroshima remains a Masterly Experiment.8

Much before Mumford wrote on the pentagon of power, M. K. Gandhi had arrived at the same conclusions. His analysis of modern civilization, particularly its technology, in Hind Swaraj, provides an almost prophetic vision of the ruin of a civilization built on the foundations of science and technology.9

Much of science has passed under the slogan of the conquest of nature. We are given to believe that we are in control of nature today even though we are not even certain any longer of bare survival. This alleged control justifies the scientist's authority. The 'certainty' of scientific knowledge has, through sleight-of-hand, passed over to the practitioners of science as a class. The Pope is not considered infallible, except when he speaks ex cathedra. The scientist on the other hand is considered infallible whenever he speaks as a member of the scientist class. His authority is derived from his method.

There is a class of thinkers who are sympathetic to modern science in general, but feel it has become anti-life, anti-human, And just as engineers propose technological fixes for modern technologies that do not fit their environments, such thinkers attempt to humanize science through an infusion of alien elements. They make constant efforts, usually ignored by the majority of working scientists, to make science look more 'holistic' or to improve the prevailing paradigm. Recent years have seen numerous attempts to integrate modern science and eastern metaphysics. Whether this has helped science is not known, but it has certainly cheapened eastern metaphysics.

Modern science cannot provide the equivalent of a new vision of nature or man; the instrumentality cannot parade as cosmology. What modern science may be capable of is achieving correctional hypotheses for earlier erroneous ones. About this, Masanobu Fukuoka remarks:

Human beings do something wrong, leave the damage unrepaired, and when the adverse results accumulate, work with all their might to correct them. When the corrective actions appear to be successful they come to view these measures as splendid achievements or accomplishments. People do this over and over again. It is as if a fool were to stomp on and break the tiles of his roof. Then when it starts to rain and the ceiling begins to rot away, he hastily climbs up to mend the damage, rejoicing in the end that he has accomplished a miraculous solution.

It is the same with the scientist. He pores over books night and day, straining his eyes and becoming near-sighted, and if you wonder what on earth he had been working on all that time - it is to become the inventor of eye-glasses to correct near-sightedness.10

A great deal of science, then, is circular science.

Yet the gallant efforts to salvage the scientific method continue. If they are not 'interdisciplinary', they are 'multidisciplinary', which means that one merely increases the number of 'parameters' to make up for the deficiencies of Galileo's single-parameter model. But the addition of more and more partial views or 'parts', which are then sought to be interconnected, cannot produce a whole, since the parts in nature are infinite. For example, we cannot under any circumstances regenerate a natural forest, since a natural forest is its own creation. A natural forest can regenerate itself only if left alone by man. So-called 'scientific' forests, mostly monocultures and only occasionally mixed species, sit abrasively on ecological systems.

II. Method as colonizer

The massive investment made by western civilization in modern science has been because of the possibilities such science affords for control. In other words, the loyalty to science has had a political base.

Nature, at the other end of the scale of restrictions, cannot be controlled, precisely because of its irreversibility, uniqueness and, more important, its diversity. Abstraction increases control by homogenizing its subject matter. It eliminates the basis of diversity, the personal and the historic, creating an artificial reality which can be completely controlled.

One of the fundamental misconceptions of our times is that science has increased our control over nature. This is a claim made by conservatives as well as radicals. What science has achieved is a substitution of nature's principles by its own: it has overcome nature by taking its place or by mimicry of her processes. Where science has proved to be a poor imitator, it has often retreated in ignominy. Where it has come, in its own opinion, close, it has still created havoc and ruin. We shall deal with this issue with the help of some examples later.

Because science has not been able to 'reproduce' nature in the latter's full diversity, it has sought to reduce the diversity by eliminating it, and introducing more simplified, mechanized designs instead. I will illustrate the process of elimination with two examples, one from the domain of language, the other from that of food. Both illustrate how modernity and, within it, modern science, enhance their control of nature or society by elimination, destruction or reduction of the latter's 'anarchic' characteristics, and by substituting in their place homogeneous, controllable elements.

In a recent book, Shadow Work, Ivan Illich clinically examines the case of Elio Antonio de Nebrija - a contemporary of Columbus - and his contributions to the origin of the modern state. While Columbus set out to extend Queen Isabella's domain over foreign lands, writes Illich, Nebrija stayed at home and proposed to the Queen a new form of control over her subjects by controlling their language (and thus, their thinking).

Nebrija's way of doing this was to bring in a grammar to standardize the popular language and eliminate anarchy in the domain of the people's speech. He wrote:

So far, this our language has been left loose and unruly and, therefore, in just a few centuries this language has changed beyond recognition. If we were to compare what we speak today with the language spoken five hundred years ago, we would notice a difference and a diversity that could not be any greater if these were two alien tongues.11

And again:

Presently, they [the people] waste their leisure on novels and fancy stories full of lies. I have decided, therefore, that my most urgent task is to transform Castilian speech into an artifact so that whatever henceforth shall be written in this language may be of one standard tenor.12

Illich comments on Nebrija's brief:

He wants to replace the people's vernacular by the grammarian's language. The humanist proposes the standardization of colloquial language to remove the new technology of printing and reading from the vernacular domain - to prevent people from printing and reading in the various languages that, up to that time, they had only spoken. By this monopoly over an official and taught language he proposes to suppress wild, untaught vernacular reading.13

Nebrija is so much a part of us that today we cannot imagine books being written without a standard grammar. We shall see later, in other spheres, how modernity has created conditions within which it is impossible to discourse without the aid of the language of modern science. Illich summarizes the full impact of Nebrija's proposal for ordering public speech, for introducing a taught mother tongue, thus:

Henceforth, people will have to rely on the language they receive from above, rather than to develop a tongue in common with one another.... Formerly, there had been no salvation outside the Church; now, there would be no reading, no writing - if possible no speaking - outside the educational sphere. People would have to be reborn out of the monarch's womb and be nourished at her breast.14

In other words, the ungoverned, unmanaged speech with which people actually live and manage their lives need no longer be a serious challenge to the Crown or to the State. Human diversity need no longer prove to be a serious obstacle for the controlling interests of any society. And, most significantly, all ordinary experience must be recast in the 'official language', stamped with official approval, to be considered worthy of human use.

Nebrija provides the model for modern science in more ways that one. Take, for instance, seeds. Before the intervention of modern science (backed by major agro-business companies and private enterprise foundations) farmers, cultivating their lands for hundreds of years (forty centuries in India and China), had selected certain varieties for propagation in their fields: wheat, corn, rice, the millets. Over the centuries farmers had developed specific varieties for specific purposes: high yield was only one of the characters sought to be enhanced in their efforts.

India's leading rice specialist, Dr R. H. Richharia, who spent many years documenting thousands of varieties of rice in Madhya Pradesh, writes of the different functions of rice in the state:

The reasons (whatever they be) why growers have stuck to such a high number of rice varieties and still go on increasing them cannot be overlooked. This deep-seated attitude of the growers alone is responsible for the reason why the new plant types [of Government] have, as yet, not penetrated into our rice culture and which have saved us from a crisis on the rice front when the inputs, required for the new types, are in short supply.

The growers would not give up the cultivation of such reputed rice varieties as Dubraj of Sehava Nagari, Chinnor of Balaghat, Kalimuchh of Gwalior and Til Kasturi, Badshahbhog, Basmati, Tulsibhog and many other quality rice. Practically in every Block, some types of quality and scented rice varieties are grown and which remain confined to those localities and are in great demand, well known and locally recognized, e.g. Chini Samundra, Tulsi-Bas, Ghandhak, Manki Kathi, Chameli and Ilaychi. There are many other varieties with high yield potential, such as Pandri Luchai, Chhatri and Safri group of paddy which yield at 3000 kg/ha, on the average, under the existing fertility.

The rice growers would also not give up the cultivation of such types as Assam chudi and other chudi types which are mostly confined to the Bastar region, because of climatic preference and some of them being also tolerant to non-lodging. Such types as Nariyal chudi yield as high as 42 bags/acre or 7780 kg/ha, and Naina Kajal, an early maturing rice variety, giving a similar yield. Varieties such as Alcha, Sonth, Gaduwan, Karhani and Maharaji, known locally for their medicinal properties and which form a special class by themselves would not be given up. Whether this rice therapy is a myth or not remains to be seen, as their action cannot be explained in modern scientific terms, but the fact remains that their cultivation will not be easily given up. The Nagkeshar group of rice varieties, utilized for eradicating wild rice (Karga), an age-old practice in Chhattisgarh, of which there are about 42 varieties, adapted to the local practice of rice cultivation, cannot be dropped, although they are low yielders because of the specialized function they perform in increasing the yields indirectly.15

This is merely the beginning of the catalogue. During the course of his investigations, Richharia discovered 19,000 varieties of rice in Madhya Pradesh alone, including a variety called khowa having the taste of dried milk, and another known as bora, whose flour could be used for making chapatis, just like wheat flour. And, of course, there must be many more.

What was the reaction of Government/modern science? Two major high-yielding rice varieties (Taichung and JR-8) were dumped on the country, and every scheme possible for introducing them in farmers' fields was made available. Both varieties were unsuited to Indian climatic conditions, were susceptible to pests and fungal diseases. Their extension in farmers' fields eliminated the niches once occupied by the indigenous varieties of rice. The new varieties eliminated the rice crops in all their diversity, as Nebrija did with ungoverned and unbound speech.

When the Government felt that more food needed to be produced, it was given only one option by modern agro-business and agronomy: ignore all the local varieties, concentrate on a few. For agro-business it is important to have economies of scale and produce rice that has only one or two major qualities. Thus, of more than 50,000 varieties, modern science sought to develop less than ten. In the process of propagating those ten, a large number of the 50,000 lost their ecological niches, and became extinct. Thus did western science conflict with Adivasi science. In the process the so-called green revolution in India enhanced the control of a few countries and their interests, over the food chains of millions. For Nebrija, his grammar and Isabella, substitute Borlaug, high-yielding varieties and the Rockefeller Foundation.

By now it should be easier to grasp the close and essential connections between science and colonialism. During the colonial period, science worked closely with imperial interests. This has been documented systematically in the case of medical science by Radhika Ramasubhan.16

This should not prove surprising since some of the principal laws of science, like the second law of thermodynamics, arose out of industrial experience. The law of entropy resulted from efforts to improve the working of the steam engine so as to advance industry. It is this connection between physics and economics that also helps explain the colonizing thrust of science. C. V. Seshadri has dealt with this relationship in some detail.17

Seshadri finds the second law ethnocentric, and therefore outside science. Because of its industrial origins, it has presented a definition of energy in a way calculated to favour the allocation of resources for the purposes of big industry, often depriving the rest of the population of them.

The law of entropy, backed by its authority, provides a criterion for utilization of energy available from various resources. This criterion, known as the concept of efficiency, is a corollary to the law of entropy and came into existence along with the law. The efficiency criterion stipulates that the loss of available energy in a conversion becomes smaller as the temperature at which the conversion is effected is higher above the ambient. Therefore, high temperatures are of high value and so are resources such as petroleum, coal, etc., which can help achieve such high temperatures. In this sense, the law of entropy provides a guideline for extraction of resources and their utilization.18

Observe how the definitions soon get circular.

The notion of energy and, its corollary concept, of efficiency, play a crucial role in allocation of resources by deciding whether they can be useful for the kind of purposes for improvisation of which these concepts have been created.19

'The central concept of modern science is thus fused with one kind of resource-utilization.' Thus the fate of our forests during the colonial period. The symbiotic relationship between villagers and forests was broken, once imperial definitions were applied in India. A tax was imposed and the utilization of forest produce by the local people for fuel restricted. The use of wood for fuel became now 'low-efficiency', whereas its use for big industry, as raw material for industrial processes, became scientific.

The claim that the scientific method itself brought into being a fresh and permanent rationale for expansion of the industrial machine, to replace the increasingly disreputable mode of colonial exploitation of third-world resources, is difficult to refute. At the heart of this rationale is the second law, for it provides the cast-iron rule that if there is only one highly efficient mode of resource use, it must be followed, an attractive argument in an age of increasing scarcity.

As Seshadri points out, both nature and the non-western world are losers in this new definition. For example, the monsoon, transporting millions of tons of water across a subcontinent, is 'inefficient' since it does its work at ambient temperatures.

Mark also that this novel legitimation does not appear merely in England, but also in America, as an identifier of the Anglo-Saxon race. Wrote Josiah Strong in 1885:

Only those races which have produced machinery seem capable of using it with the best results. It is the most advanced races which are its masters. Those races which, like the African and the Malay, are many centuries behind the Anglo-Saxon in development, seem as incapable of operating complicated machinery as they are of adopting and successfully administering representative government.20

This justification for imperialism and expansionism into Africa and Asia was based on the same ideology that had enabled English immigrants to the United States to hunt, displace, and exterminate millions of American Indians. Then it had been argued that no one had a 'natural right' to land, that those who utilized the land and used its wealth efficiently had the sole right to it. Indians had lost the right because they permitted land to remain 'waste'.21 (Almost identical phrases are nowadays used to hunt tribals from our forests: they do not need all that forest, and certainly are inefficient users of forest wealth!) The right to own and control land depended on political and 'scientific' fitness. And one is driven to argue that without the ideology of modern science, imperialism would have been compelled to appear without its clothes.

Besides providing part of the ideology of imperialism, modern science itself practiced its own form of colonialism, particularly in its encounter with the sciences and technologies of other cultures. The basic feature of colonialism - intolerance of other cultures - has remained with science even after the colonies were given up. Lord Macaulay in his notorious Minute of 1835 observed:

The intrinsic superiority of the western literature is indeed fully admitted... I have never found one amongst them [orientalists] who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia.

Later, he demanded that no artificial encouragement should be given at all to 'absurd history, absurd metaphysics, absurd theology'.

Macaulay was in good company. The English philosopher, David Hume, had already observed the consequences of Galileo's conception of 'true' knowledge and proposed:

When we run over libraries persuaded by these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume, of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames; for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.22

Before modern science aligned itself with colonialism, there had always been separate, often interacting, epistemologies in history. Colonialism added a new burden on modern science: it was compelled to claim a monopoly in knowledge in order to retain its claimed superiority. This monopoly is based on the premise that all other forms of acquisition or accumulation of knowledge, all other epistemologies, are worthless, antiquated, magical, and must be eliminated.

Gradually this attitude was to infect not merely the conservatives but, equally, the 'progressive' social activists. Thus the people's science movements that have sprung up in different parts of India actively crusade for the dissemination of the scientific temper and modern knowledge in basically poor, rural communities. They mount frontal attacks on what are called traditions or superstitions and seek to replace such traditional superstitions with superstitions unique to modern science.

Sharing the colonizing thrust of modern science, such science movements - with members usually from the upper classes - take the mere existence of alternative knowledge systems and ways of life as a provocation. It is as if the underprivileged have an offensive quality to their thinking that needs to be exorcised.

Similarly with modern technology. It is fundamentally hostile to other technologies (or definitions) because the different criteria they have for resource use make their very existence an affront to the megamachine. Modernity cannot bear to see modern technology ignored by people who insist on using older techniques. The niche required by modern technology requires the evacuation of all other niches by all other species, seen as belonging not merely to the animal and plant world, but to other cultures as well. I have described this process extensively elsewhere as 'de-industrialization', in which science-based technologies replace experience-based systems, even if, when all things are considered, the latter fulfil the same purposes better.

Colonial science has survived colonialism's formal departure from the third world in the form of the Trojan Horse. It has allowed third-world tes to legitimate a manner of handling the world that reduces to worthlessness intellectual traditions of systematic inquiry everywhere except the west, and ridicules all lifestyles uninfected by it as infantile or uncivilized.

III. Method against life

We now widen our canvas to examine the impact of modern science on living processes both in the 'advanced' nations and in the third world.

Modern science signalled a major break from earlier approaches to intervention in life processes. Earlier, the emphasis had been either on natural principles or processes, or on insights that closely paralleled such processes in practice. By and large, practices were organic. Now, in practically all areas of human endeavour, the attempt is to extend the modern west's technological vision. Thus, in the great 'development decades' of the UN system a vital component was the transfer of western science and technology to replace indigenous techniques in the third world. Key words used to justify the substitution have included modern concepts of efficiency and productivity. But seldom was an independent criterion used for selection. It was taken for granted by decision-makers that modern science was superior. It is now possible to demonstrate in a number of specific areas that modern science, because of its method, has led to destruction of a kind and on a scale that the earlier approaches could never have achieved.

It is not that there were no predatory societies earlier in history. There is evidence, for example, for the destruction of forests in earlier periods. But it is the construction of nature according to the designs and plans of modern science that is without precedent. I shall give some examples from forestry, agriculture, medicine and natural feeding.

Afforestation as Deforestation

Focusing on the wood, one misses the trees. Focusing on the trees, one often ignores the forest.

The word 'forest' has undergone a complete transformation in meaning after the invention of 'scientific forestry'. Modern science has changed the meaning of the term to make the term fit the modern design. A forest, a natural forest untouched by man, is a community of living organisms complete with a self-sustaining forest soil and full complement of useless species (useless, that is, to man). Modern science cannot re-create a natural forest. A natural forest re-creates itself over time: the human hand must be excluded for such re-creation to take place. Such has been the case, for example, of the Bandipur Wild Life Sanctuary in Karnataka, where for the past seven years, the forest, left to itself, fully protected from man, has re-created its own ecosystem.

In the past, attempts have been made to re-create ecosystems, in which trees have formed a crucial part; these do not constitute forests by any means. Again, certain trees have been selected for their use in agriculture. Such trees are suited not merely to the local environment and local resources, but also to local needs. Thus, though traditional forestry is not forestry in the original sense, it is an intermediate stage. At any rate, farmers who create groves do not pretend to having created forests along scientific lines. They know that in the intermediate stage the numbers of tree species are drastically reduced, useless trees are eliminated, and so are wild animals, an essential part of natural forest systems.

In contrast to a natural forest or to the efforts of farmers, the scientific forestry of Government departments in India applies to trees its concept of monocultures. The soil is seen merely as a holding station for inputs and not in relation to the lifeblood of the planet. The soil is indeed treated as if it were no more than agar in a petrie dish - a medium for growth - and all that one needs to do to make the system work is use nitrogen inputs and herbicides.

The symbols of such scientific forestry in India are teak, eucalyptus or pine plantations. In such forestry, reduced to tree-planting, the replacement of a natural forest by a monoculture species becomes only another name for effective deforestation. Such a method is more subtle and complete than clear felling. Clear felling can be termed primitive and placed at the door of contractors or timber merchants, while monoculture plantations from scientific forestry can be made official policy, geared to creating an illusion of the regeneration of forests and replacing a community of species by an army of near-clones.

It is obvious that scientific forestry perfectly fits the requirements of modern industry. A natural forest exists in its own right, as part of living nature. It could meet the needs of industry, but this is only one of the many useful functions it performs. If it were sacrificed to this sole function, it could not perform any of the other functions forests are responsible for. The same could be said of agro-forests: since they meet the needs of farmers, they cannot at the same time meet the needs of industry. This is the reason why scientific forestry (social forestry) cannot propagate multispecies trees, or trees that are useful to farmers or trees that are useless to the human race, but have their function in a living ecosystem, serving some other plant or animal species.

Since it becomes necessary to legitimate the creation of monoculture forests, science simply redefines all the values of a natural forest. In this redefinition the main argument is that since science cannot reproduce the values of a natural forest they are invalid, and need not exist in the future. Sometimes, fortunately, two forms of scientific rationality come into conflict despite such redefinition, as happened in the case of the Silent Valley forest in Kerala. The first involved the raising of a dam, the construction of which would have destroyed a major part of the virgin forest. The other was a discovery, coming late to science in general, that certain species of fauna and flora would be lost to science itself if the dam were built. It can be argued, however, that the destruction of earlier forests was equally against science. How could what had once been scientific now turn unscientific? One possible answer is: it was not that a virgin forest had a right to survive; its survival was necessary for a utilitarian purpose sanctioned by modern science. We shall come back to this.

Where modern science and its 'forests' begin to make a direct and disastrous impact on the lives of people, the collusion between scientific forestry and industry is too obvious not to be noticed. The only reaction can be an open attack on such monocultures. Perhaps the uprooting of eucalyptus in some parts of Karnataka is an indication of future trends.

On 8 August 1983, villagers from the Korategere taluk in the Tumkur district of Karnataka entered the Holanthaalu Government nursery in large numbers and destroyed thousands of eucalyptus saplings. On 14 August, villagers entered a Forest Department nursery near Negilahaalu and removed thousands of eucalyptus seedlings. Despite a massive show of force by the police in the service of the science establishment, the villagers not merely uprooted seedlings; in their place, they planted indigenous trees. There are signs that the anti-eucalyptus movement, as a form of ludditism, may develop into a larger agitation by Indian farmers, all too aware that the interests of eucalyptus plantations coincide with those of modern science and not with their own.

Food and Warfare

We are fond of extolling the achievements of man and are apt to talk with pride of his 'conquest of Nature'. This is at present of the same order as the Nazi conquest of Europe. As Europe is in revolt against the tyrant, so is nature in revolt against the exploitation of man. When man preys upon man it is a form of cannibalism. When man sets out to 'conquer' nature by exploitation, it is no less a form of cannibalism, for man is a part of nature. - E. B. Balfour23

Balfour, who wrote these lines in 1943, and scientists like Albert Howard, who invented the Indore method of composting, were already in their own time disturbed at the conversion of agriculture based on organic inputs to one dominated by chemicals which had begun after the discoveries of Justus Liebig. In his essay, 'Chemistry in its application to Agriculture and Physiology', published in 1840,24 Liebig proposed that everything that a living plant required could be found in the mineral salts present in the ash of such a plant after all organic matter had been destroyed. These came in the form of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potash). If they were fed to the plant, the plant would prosper and yield. Physics and chemistry thus refined on biology, and the plant became a processing machine.

This reductionist methodology produced its own range of problems. The plant became susceptible to attacks from pests and fungal diseases. Neither could it cope with weeds. The soil became deficient as nutrients were lost, and dead as chemical fertilizers eliminated earthworms. Liebig's science, guided only by the urge to control, had a single goal: higher output. The quality of the seed, its nutritive value, were sacrificed.

Seshadri and Balaji have shown that the concept of fertility on which modern science has based its agriculture is hollow. They begin by observing that modern agriculture based on scientific principles provides a radically different concept of fertility of the soil. It ignores, for example, the importance of humus in maintaining such fertility, which has been the preoccupation of traditional agriculture. Soil nutrition has been converted into a branch of the chemical industry. While the high yields are undisputed, it is also undisputed that soil fertility declines.25

Between 1946 and 1968, the use of nitrogen fertilizers in the U.S.A. increased by 534 per cent. In 1968 it took 57,000 tons of nitrogen to produce a crop that required a mere 11,000 tons in 1949. In Illinois, for example, in 1949, 20,000 tons of nitrogen produced 50 bushels of corn per acre: in 1968, it took 600,000 tons of the same fertilizer to produce 93 bushels per acre. Further, the application of chemicals also led to a loss in soil nitrogen. Seshadri and Balaji write:

The broad conclusion we can arrive at would be that the modern concept of fertility can treat soil only as a reactor, whose output changes/increases with changes in the input. This concept seems to be directly related to the industrial mode of utilization, wherein increased input is expected to give increased output. Thus, one needs to imagine some input whose increase can increase the output immediately and the NPK concept provides the basis for producing such inputs. The industrial production unit is usually a 'steady-state' system within which processes go on, independent of time, day or night. Clearly, the agricultural plot cannot be thought of as such a unit.

Therefore, right at this level a conceptual mismatch has come up. Because of such a conceptual block, even when it is realized that the soil fertility is on the decline through repeated application of artificials, no serious attempt has been made to overcome such a difficulty. The usual answer in such a situation was that so long as fossil fuel remained cheap, one could go on increasing fertilizer production and come out of the difficulty. This view leads us to realize that efficiency of modern agriculture is largely an empty term, as it does not refer to agriculture but to the sector controlling its input.26

To use the language of the scale of restrictions, the single goal of productivity was sought to be attained by eliminating the 'noise' due to diversity - multicropping, rotation, soil life, organic material from trees, the nutritive quality of the final output, the seed. This 'productive' agriculture has now been given the name of scientific agriculture. It needs a vast array of poisons to do its work: pesticides, weedicides and fungicides. It has become a massive war machine in order to produce food for human life. This war has become increasingly dangerous not only for pests but for human life. And there is no evidence that we can either control or eliminate the pests we have created. Created, for, in nature and for nature, pests do not exist. We shall see below how identical methods directed by an identical understanding have produced a similar vicious circle in modern medicine.

Can agronomy at any time come to match nature in maintaining seed variability? Obviously not. Pat Mooney observes:

Subsistent farmers in the Third World have been cultivating major food crops for over ten thousand years. By observing natural process of mutation and by careful seed selection over the centuries, these farmers have developed an astonishing range of crop variability. This diversity has been necessary for survival. No one wheat or rice variety can provide adequate protection against monsoon failures, pests, rusts or blights. Practical farmers welcome a dozen or more varieties of wheat to their fields, because come drought, flood or rust, something will make it to harvest time. Despite recent impressive advances in genetic engineering, most agronomists would continue to argue that science cannot begin to match the variability of nature, and that no adequate technological replacement exists for the Vavilov Centres. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency, in its 1971 report, advised that induced germ plasm mutations through radiation is no alternative to the conservation and screening of natural germ plasm sources.27

In agriculture we get a clear indication of the difference between plant growth according to natural principles and plant growth according to the principles of modern science, backed by modern agro-business and the global scientific establishment. A forest, I have already indicated, is a form of natural agriculture based on a non-violent, cyclical process of generation of plant tissue, an ideally closed system, capable of maintaining itself for centuries, if not disturbed. So-called wild plants are merely plants not domesticated by man; no one finds such plants dying of disease or attacked by pests.

Masanobu Fukuoka, has demonstrated that if one can bring agriculture into close approximation with nature's methods, one can throw the entirety of modern agricultural science out of the window. This he himself has achieved.28 Fukuoka's yields have turned out higher than those of the leading agriculture research stations in Japan. What is more significant, his soils are full of life, insects live in symbiosis with his plants, and the conception of weeds has been thrown out of use. The bankruptcy of modern agronomy and its violence against nature has no better proof than what Fukuoka has provided.

Medicine as Warfare

The other major area where western scientific intervention in the life processes has taken place is modern medicine. Medical interventions parallel the interventions in agriculture. The processes of restriction are at work; the same distortions are actively produced. Despite all the sophisticated gadgetry, health remains a dream; in fact, so expensive has modern medicine become that even the dream is fast receding in industrialized countries.

The unifying principle of allopathic practice, on which India's medical development programme is based, is its philosophy of treating illness by counteracting the indicators of illness. Thus, if high blood pressure indicates a disease, anti-hypertensive drugs are administered; if serious inflammation occurs on the body, surface anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed. Such a principle of treatment distinguishes allopathy from Indian or Chinese medical systems which rely less on external drugs and more on the body's own regenerative powers, granted in principle by natural evolution to all living organisms.

Charaka, a physician of ancient India, defined disease as imbalance or inequilibrium. When analysing, say, infectious diseases within such a frame, the initial causative change is not seen as an invasion by germs, but changes within the person that permit a breakdown of the normal harmonious balance between the body and the micro-organisms within it or without. The frame allows one to recognize that all but a tiny percentage of all bacteria are harmless and, in fact, essential to the well-being of life forms.

For example, staphylococci are normal inhabitants of our body. Most of the time, their relationship to us is symbiotic; only sometimes does the balance break down. The problem is to restore the balance, not to make the germ disappear altogether. Those operating with a crude germ theory of disease use agents such as antibiotics to destroy those very germs that are most inclined to form harmonious relationships with their hosts, and allow the ones with a less genial inclination to survive. Modern hospitals have virtually become factories for turning out new resistant strains of staphylococci that are not only highly resistant to several generations of antibiotics, but also more aggressive in their attacks on their human hosts.

As in agriculture, so in medicine. As cell physiologists testify, the differences between our own cellular life processes and those of pests are less important than the similarities. Consequently, the application of insecticides must rebound on us. Insecticides are a foolhardy and poor substitute for natural selection. In the same way, antibiotics have become selective agents modifying the evolution of bacteria. Their increasing use over the past thirty years correlates neatly with the appearance in greater and greater numbers of organisms that are ever more virulent in their parasitic relationships with man, and adept at developing resistance to the new antibiotics being churned out.

The more powerful antibiotics are also more toxic to humans and can be as dangerous as a generalized infection. Penicillin, the first true antibiotic to be discovered, interferes with the cell-wall formation of certain bacteria, and bacterial cell walls are different in important ways from human cell walls. But newer, more powerful antibiotics are toxic to basic cellular processes - processes we have in common with bacteria.

It is, however, resistance that ultimately defeats the purpose of antibiotics. Biologists have now discovered that resistance to certain drugs can be transmitted directly from one bacterium to another, whether or not these were from the same genus. With such transmissions, we have a situation in which bacteria essential to life are capable of becoming pathological or disease-causing, and resistant to a whole range of antibiotics. Even in people who have never had antibiotic treatment.

And then there is the observation, made in the 1960s, that people treated with antibiotics did not develop as complete a natural immunity to reinfection as might have been expected. This was thought to be so because the elimination of the disease-causing bacteria apparently reduced the opportunity for normal immune reactions to take place. But it could also be that the 'immune-deficiency diseases' which have emerged in recent times are not unrelated to the increasing use of antibiotics. Diseases of this kind, which involve the failure of the intricate and powerful natural defence systems that have evolved over many millions of years to protect man and animals from disease, did not appear till after the use of antibiotics became widespread.

What is the final record of modern medicine? After Illich's criticism, some have defended the record by saying that modern medicine is after all in its infancy. If so, why leave it so unmonitored? Why is it not restricted to small experimental groups? Why are its concerns infecting other systems? To these questions there can be no easy answer. But it is significant that Ayurveda, which began once as the science of nutrition and health, has increasingly focused on the treatment of disease under the pressure of modern medicine. The patient in India is now forced to choose between an anti-life allopathic system or a perverted indigenous system.

In this context, Manu Kothari and Lopa Mehta sum up the achievement record of modern medicine as follows:

'It is a sobering thought that after several decades of research, a number of international conferences and many other meetings, seminars and symposia, the problem of human malformations remains essentially unchanged.' Having so introduced a symposium, McKeown proceeds to chastise Modern Medicine (MM) further on human malformations - etiology unknown, rate unchanged, relative contribution to infant mortality greatly increased. Trauma, MM can 'treat', for God, a Ambroise Pare, continues to head the wound with the same pristine secrecy that a century's research on wound-healing has not scratched even on the surface.

A few things are certain in life, and the rapid appearance of bacterial resistance to a newly introduced drug is one of them. The latest bug to bug antibioticism is the penicillinophagic gonococcus, reported from St Thomas's, London. Dubos begins his chapter with a disquieting heading - THE SO-CALLED CONQUEST OF MICROBIAL DISEASES - pointing out that there has been no decline in the percentage of hospital beds occupied by patients with infections, as compared to 50 years ago. On the tumour front, the outcome of untold man-hours of research and uncountable moneys - now more people live on cancer than die of cancer - has been 'precisely nil', the whole anticancer crusade having been declared as 'scientifically bankrupt, therapeutically ineffective and wasteful'.

Diabetes mellitus, as a paradigm of metabolic disorders, continues to ail from definitionlessness and is comprehended the less and less, the more and more we know about it. Cardiovascular disorders have not decided where they etiologically belong and research on its leading members - myocardial infarction, hypertension, stroke - offers nothing special to write home about. On the senescent front, rats kept in a 'Rat Palace' senesce the same way as do rats in sewers, forcing the investigators to declare that degeneration and death are unalterably, and predictably, built into the rats, the rat findings being comfortably extrapolated to the human situation. While hopes are raised that some wundermittel might decay of aging, Selye concluded a gerontologic symposium on a totally pessimistic note.29

In the process, the image of the human body has metamorphosed from that of a living organism concerned with nutrition and health into a pathological, hopelessly weak entity, permanently dis-eased, constantly on artificial inputs and doctors. Modern medicine has become little else but a bag of increasingly refined techniques of warfare against microbes or bacteria, generating living beings constantly in 'dread' of, and not in symbiosis with, other living beings in the environment. In the United States bacteria and other 'causes' of illnesses are probed as severely as communists.

Natural Feeding

Few better examples of the supplanting of natural organic processes by machine-made ones are available than the case of breast milk. The breast-feeding of infants is an instance that falls squarely at one extreme of the scale of restrictions; using breast-milk substitutes and baby-food powder falls at the other. The two ends are connected by the effort of modern science to transfer all autonomous processes that are outside its domain to an area under its control.

Science sometimes intervenes as aid and as imitation nature. Baby foods are scientifically formulated to be exactly like nature's original. After decades of such claims, modern science has admitted its inadequacy and has now begun to patronize a return to breast-feeding. Now breast-feeding is regarded as a result of modern scientific knowledge: it is science that has 'determined' that breast-feeding is best. (Others, more circumspect, have argued that it is not that breast-feeding is scientific, but that its virtues, its operative mechanism, are all 'trans-science', just as the terrifyingly beautiful diversity of a virgin forest is also beyond science.)

It is possible to view the bottle-feed campaign of multinational companies like Nestle and their Indian imitators like Amul as an instance of violence. High-powered sales of baby food, justified in the name of science, have led to a decline in breast-feeding, in turn upsetting the delicate balance between breast-feeding, hormone release and fertility, and creating an imbalance in population growth. Millions of children have grown up with their right to proper nutrition sacrificed at the altar of development. Though the story has been told in full in the richer countries, it is only now unwinding in the third world.

IV. Method as pollutant

There is general agreement that science is necessarily incomplete: hypothesis competes with hypothesis and the best one wins, which in turn falls prey to competing ones in the future. Technology freezes science at the level or period of invention. That is why as science progresses, so must technology; obsolescence is part and parcel of the same system.

There is growing evidence that the scientific image of nature is incomplete and the application of such incomplete images has led to devastating effects. Pollution is the first indicator that modern science ill fits nature. And because the scientific remedies suggested for pollution are all technological fixes, we arrive at a notion of circular science which, in Fukuoka's vivid imagery, feeds on its deficiencies and almost blunders its way through nature before it is compelled to repeal its principles. In cases like radioactive wastes, even the talk of technological fixes is abandoned, for all that has been recommended by science are sophisticated means of dumping the problem on future generations. If we are not to fall for the false promise of the technological fix, the roots of the problem must be explored. Scientific laws are accounts of the working of experimental machinery into which a part of nature, after being 'purified' and made consistent with the man-made mechanism, has been incorporated. There is no reason to suppose that such machines are models of nature's hidden mechanisms, or that nature left to herself is deterministic. Determinism is a human creation in machines that do violence to nature by denying chance interference. Seen thus, science is concerned only with 'artificial nature', man-made experiments, be it in agriculture or in industry. This nature has nothing to do with 'natural nature', which has its own rules of operation, and which can be only vaguely understood through statistical probability, and in which human intervention must be intuitive and modest.

Therefore, as far as engineering is concerned, it is a moot point whether nature or modern science produces better results. No better answer to this is available than in the catalogue of plant engineering produced by Felix Paturi, and the documentation on animal architecture prepared by Karl von Frisch. I shall discuss the former volume in some detail, using it to refine my distinctions between artificial nature and natural nature, between principles from nature's development and design from modern science.

Nature, argues Paturi, is certainly a better designer than man and the engineering products of plants in particular are vastly superior to those of ours, and more spectacular too. A few years ago, for example, a European optics manufacturer, Zeiss, announced the invention of sunglasses that adapt to any intensity of light. The glasses were labelled 'umbramatic' and rated as one of the supreme examples of industrial development. In the shade (umbra, Latin, shade), the glasses are clear; with increasing brightness, they become darker, until they become deep brown in brilliant light. The manufacture of such glasses is very complicated, and oculists assure clients that nothing so ingenious has ever been seen before.

What the oculists do not know is that green plants have been using the same technique for millions of years. Leaves and shoots that grow in the shade are a delicate light green or yellow, but become brownish in brighter light and turn almost brown in very sunny places. Shading pigments appear on the surface of the leaf to protect the delicate and sensitive chlorophyll, and these constitute sunglasses or filters of a very sophisticated kind, for the shading is automatic and infinitely variable.

The umbramatic ability of plants is merely one example of plant intelligence. There are many others. Moreover, the context within which nature develops its artefacts is even more impressive. One has merely to compare nature's output with that of the machine, to come to some pretty humiliating conclusions. Writes Paturi:

For 50 harvested energy units the American farmer invests 250 fuel energy units, the Chinese farmer only a single unit of human energy. This means simply that the primitive countryman of the East works at an efficiency rate of 5,000 per cent, and the US farmer, equipped with the most advanced technical aids, at an efficiency rate of only 20 per cent.30

Industrialization based on modern science assumes that resources are infinite and that the earth can digest ever larger quantities of gas, heat and dust.

The latest statistics are horrifying: the amount per head of exhaust fumes and dust poured into the air of West Germany alone in the course of a single year weighs more than the domestic refuse per head which accumulates or is scrapped during the same period. The figures are: eight million tons of highly poisonous carbon dioxide, four million tons of no less noxious sulphur dioxide, four million tons of dust and rust to poison the lungs and larynx, two million tons of nitric oxides, and as many tons of hydrocarbons.31

It is often argued that some amount of pollution is inevitable, if one desires a higher standard of living. This is refuted by Paturi. Plants have tackled some of the same problems that man does today, and for millions of years too, often on a scale larger than man can ever hope to reach. Yet their technical solutions have raised no ecological worries, no shortage of materials, no filth. History shows that whenever man has imitated plants, he has done so to his own advantage.

The blunder lies in design that is inconsistent with its ecological context. The mark of good design is that it meets the requirements of ecology in the present and in the future. This may seem to be an old-fashioned criterion when entire economies are being constructed on the principle of planned obsolescence. But the issue is not whether one technical invention in the plant world is better than its equivalent in the human world. It is that, unlike the plant, human technology often solves problems in a self-defeating way, so that the solution itself raises a host of new problems.

To give another illustration from Paturi, we do not yet know how to make direct use of sunlight on a large scale. So far we have some forms of solar energy exploitation with spacecraft: these have very expensive and highly complicated tracking systems, which, after sensing the sun's beams, move their solar panels to face the sun directly. Plants, however, are masters of phototropism and, unlike our spacecraft, their entire apparatus - for measurement of the direction of light, interpretation, control, propulsion and the part to be controlled - occupies little space, and in the extreme case of unicellular bacteria, the space required is a thousandth part of a millimetre in size.

Or take the specifically human problem of waste and garbage. Paturi observes how every single thing that is produced by man today is potential rubbish and that we never think of the problem of disposal at the manufacturing stage of a product. Our language, he observes, 'has up to now lacked even an approximate term for the process contrary to production, that of reducing manufactured goods to their original materials, and this shows how one-sided our production thinking is, how completely devoid of a sense of building up and breaking down.'32

Plants are 'inspired' exploiters of refuse and have long ago reached the most perfect balance imaginable between production and 'de-production'. The recycling has been going on for the past 450 million years.

In architecture, plants have provided the best of models - some of the world's finest architects were gardeners. Joseph Paxton, for example, a former gardener, designed the famous Crystal Palace of 1851, using a variety of water lily as his model. The Palace was later seen by art historians as a landmark in architectural design. Other architectural devices, such as stiffening materials by folding, the corrugated iron principle, the principles of column architecture and reinforced concrete, have all been long utilized by the plant world. (Reinforced concrete was in fact also discovered by a gardener.)33

It should be obvious by now that there are two fundamentally distinct approaches to the solution of technical problems, one adopted by man through modern science, the other by the plant kingdom. Man, according to Paturi, has a specific mode of progress which is 'design'. Nature, on the other hand, 'develops'. Designs (another term for them could be 'constructs') ignore all environmental factors which are not immediately relevant to their aims - they are not tied to the effect of their action on the ecology. And almost all solutions to technical problems today are devised in conditions isolated from natural environments, often in laboratories.

Science creates, invents, or throws up theories as well as designs that exploit those theories. However, except for a few general laws, all scientific theories are not merely incomplete, they are temporary. Which means that designs based on them will carry with them an inherently limited knowledge about their impact on the environmental system. 'Designs', writes Paturi, 'must first stand the test of practice. The products of (nature's) development have already stood the test by developing. Designs can be mistaken; developments cannot.'34

Secondly, developments follow environmental conditions, whereas designs have other time standards; designs can be speeded up at will. So there is always the chance of designs outstripping the environment's ability to adapt to them. In fact, the product par excellence of design, the machine, does not belong to the environment of natural man; rather

natural man belongs to the biological environment of the artificial machine. The dilemma of our time consists in man having to adapt himself to the machine, because its maturing principle, which is design, advances more rapidly than the maturing principle of man, which is development. Hence the progress of the machine may prove fatal for man. And since he himself is its design engineer, he is committing suicide.35

Is Paturi exaggerating? The first Citizens' Report on the Indian environment, published in 1982, documents on practically every page major infringements of ecological law; many of these arise from modern industries and technological processes.36 Air pollution has gone up: levels of sulphur dioxide and particulate matter now exceed permissible limits. Rivers and water sources are contaminated by poisons, including mercury.

It is modern economics that has often aided the techno-industrial complexes to appear more reasonable than they actually are. Sixty per cent of Calcutta's residents suffer from respiratory diseases because of air pollution. The citizens' Report observes that in a 158 km stretch of the Hooghly river, the average annual yield of fish in the unpolluted and polluted zones was 719.25 and 124.94 tonnes respectively. Such losses remain outside the industrialist's profit calculations as well as the theories of economics. Diseases caused by polluted water, the victims' medical bills, the loss of cattle or sheep, the decline in agricultural productivity, the overall reduced quality of life - none of these costs figure in profit-and-loss accounts or in business theories.

Modern economics takes into account the goods produced by a unit, not the environmental debilities produced by it. There is often a time gap between the two, and a factory can show a sharp profit within a few years when its ecological costs do not show up. However, the costs eventually do emerge, and, balanced against the profits of the early years, there is a net loss. A forest cut down for quick profit (like mining) will years later produce economic costs in the form of erosion, destruction of fertile fields, reduced rainfall and so on. It is certain that if economics adds the cost in terms of ecology to all industrial operations, few will show any profit at all.

The re-emergence of an organic perspective on life, and the widespread conviction that planet earth is a delicate ecosystem, is resulting gradually in a corresponding re-evaluation of technologies that respect the integrity of living organisms. Man is beginning to grasp the savage lesson that activities alien to evolved biological systems are likely to have damaging results and that almost every aspect of existing industrial technology (human business with nature) and medical technology (man's treatment of his own organism) is violent and will therefore provoke a biological backlash. The processes of nature are cyclical and organic; they also employ feedback loops. Those of industrial man are almost entirely open-ended. That may be a proper spirit for scientific inquiry, but it could be in the long run tragic for all living species including humanity.

Conclusion: The Luddite Proposal

Science and technology constitute two major oppressions of our time. Yet, if one goes by the literature, not only are science and technology seen as liberators (either from superstition, fear or material deprivation and want), those who control and direct them (technocrats, industrialists, etatists) are seen as liberators too.

A good proportion of India's progressive tes believe that it is lack of science that is the major lacuna in Indian society. I have in mind groups like the people's science movements, groups which speak of science for the people, and others who are convinced that if science is popularized, taken out of the control of reactionary tes, this will enable its better utilization by the non-tes. Science today, according to them, has become an esoteric activity, and access to its potential has been gradually restricted. These groups believe that the knowledge science affords is a good thing and, therefore, every effort should be made to see that it is disseminated.

Thus heroic efforts are often made by such groups to take telescopes into slums to enable people used to muck to look at least once at the stars. We have taken the view that the dissemination of scientific knowledge is dissemination of a specific corpus of knowledge, and, more often, of an alien cosmology that is exogenous to people's living environments and harvested through a method which must conflict with nature, and with the daily technology of the non-tes. Such scientific knowledge may produce sharply spectacular results in the short run, but in the long run its consequences on the environment and living beings are invariably played out on the lives of the already impoverished. I have given examples to show how the substitution of design for natural development has become central to this issue.

What I have said is not new. Lewis Mumford has developed some of these arguments against the pentagon of power with greater finesse and better scholarship. What I have attempted here is a view from a different kind of society and a view liable to be called an extremist view. But then I am consoled that nature itself, in its uniqueness and unrepealability, is often seen as an extreme case by scientific rationality.

In this context, it is the luddite response of the third world that is the most instructive and indicative of future directions. Since modern science is often imposed on communities without their opinion or invitation, and those who wish to impose it are not open to suggestion (the decisions having been made by experts), the natural consequence is often a major conflict over the introduction of such science and technology. The nuclear demonstrations in Europe, in which citizens have actively fought against the installations of nuclear plants or weapons, is a major instance of contemporary ludditism. The battle over the siting of Narita airport in Japan is another.

But it is in the third world generally that actual luddite wars have taken place. The fishing industry is the clearest example. Those using older boats and nets and maintaining the ecology of their areas over centuries have sometimes been forced to literally ambush and burn the mechanized trawlers brought in by modern industries and states to 'improve productivity'. This particular war has taken place all over Asia's shorelines, till governments have been forced to demarcate areas for the operations of the two different sciences.

A second instance could be the extension of the genetic resources of the western world into the gene-pools of India's indigenous livestock. We may soon see the beginnings of a struggle to maintain the indigenous gene-pools in as pure a state as is possible and to actively propagate schemes for the removal, destruction and annihilation of exotic sires and their genetic strains. The awareness is also growing that the propagation of indigenous varieties of seeds, crystallizing Indian science over the centuries, must go hand in hand with schemes to reduce the acreage given over to high-yielding varieties of seeds imported from laboratories controlled by private foundations and state bureaucracies.

These forces against the dual oppression of science and development have been strengthened by frontal attacks against scientific rationality, inaugurated by philosophers of science such as Paul Feyerabend. But an even more powerful effort to totally emasculate scientific rationality has come from strong cultures like India, which invariably compel scientists to compartmentalize their lives, one part given over to the practice of science, the other to the practice of their culture. When the two get mixed, we still fortunately have culture, not science. Such cultures have systematically ridiculed, attacked and debunked notions like the propagation of the scientific temper which they percive as strategies for the further colonization of popular consciousness.

Such ludditism may seem to many a frightening prospect, a surrender to 'irrationality'. Ludditism has never really won a point, let alone a battle in human history. Can such ludditism, the indoctrinated may ask, ever succeed?

All will not succeed. But some may. It is even conceivable that eventually all may succeed, aided by modern science's own crumbling foundations. The permanent eclipse of Galilean science is an idea whose time may have come.