Nurturing Science Culture

Manila Bulletin, September 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Nurturing Science Culture


THE country is again at a crossroads, the future looks grim, and no one can give us assurance that it would get any better. As had been said earlier, the crisis is not only political; it is also moral and ethical.

The search for truth had become the battlecry and the motivating force of the opposition. At the same time, the pro-administration allies argue that they, too, are in search of the truth which in this case is demonstrated by their equally eloquent plea for the rule of law.

The one-day symposium and workshop on Nurturing Science Culture sponsored by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) under its president, Dr. Perla D. Santos Ocampo, provided a forum on a critical concern expressed by many - the search for ethical guideposts. In the concept paper prepared by National Scientist Dr. Gelia T. Castillo entitled "Defining Excellence in Science Communication,'' she underscored an important function of science - to enable us to "learn from the past" and "learn for the future." The issue of sustainability in the use of our natural resources and the call for "changes in our lifestyles" (which is a priority advocacy message of the administration-FRB) need socially viable institutions which will govern our relationship to each other as individuals, communities, and countries, she added.

One central theme of the symposium paper - "science as a matter of integrity and love of truth" - indeed resonates with the central message of those advocating for reform in our governance and political institutions. Dr. Castillo further states the view that science has a distinctive set of values which provides the ethical compass for the way we live our lives, the way we relate to nature and to each other. Science is supposed to be objective, intellectually honest; open; universal, verifiable; gives credit where credit is due and recognizes the value of collaborating with others even as scientists strive for individual excellence.

Even as we recognize the contribution of science in shaping our mindsets and individual consciousness, it is a known fact that science and scientists are not highly valued in our society. In many of our Asian countries, the ministry of science is regarded as an important department. In our country, our Department of Science and Technology does not fall into the same category as the favored ones (budgetary allocation and other criteria of importance) like Defense, Finance, and Foreign Affairs. As the symposium paper states, "scientists have no political constituencies and even carry little entertainment value. If we were to go by the content of everyday media (print and broadcast), science is but a tiny blip in our national consciousness."

But as the author argues, citing the various inventions and scientific breakthroughs which have revolutionized society, science and technology is no longer the exclusive domain of ministries of science and technology. …

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