Essay No. 24:
Scientific Education: Science is the soul of today’s man’s file. That is why man cannot do without scientific education. Huxley, who was a great champion of scientific education, said: “The position that science is now assuming is such that those who remain entirely ignorant of even its elementary facts are in a wholly unfair position as regards the world of thoughts and the world of practical life”.
Science is the main ingredient in the scheme of liberal education outlined by Huxley, “That man, I think, has had a liberal education who has been so trained in youth that his body is the ready servant of his will, and does with ease and pleasure all the work that, as a mechanism, it is capable of, whose intellect is a clear, cold, logic engine, with all its parts of equal strength, and in smooth working order; ready, like a steam engine, to be turned to any kind of work, and spin the gossamer’s as well as forge the anchors of the mind; whose mind is stored with a knowledge of the great and fundamental truths of Nature and of the laws of her operation; one who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to come to peel by a vigorous will, the servant of a tender conscience, who has learnt to love all beauty, whether of Nature or of art, to hate all villainess, and to respect others as himself”.
If science helps us in achieving this, science must form an integral part of modern liberal education; but if science does not do this, we should dismiss it as mere weariness of the flesh, jejune insanity. Scientific education gives us a clear deep insight into the nature of the reality of things. Wonderful changes in the world are due simply to the application of scientific knowledge. Scientific discoveries and inventions, modern achievements and researches have increased our comfort and happiness, peace and prosperity.
The Europeans are civilized people simply because they have benefited themselves from scientific education. Their secret of success is due to this fact. Scientific knowledge makes people utilize the natural resources of their country and reveals the whole mystery of nature. Literature acquaints us with the thoughts, feelings, ideas and aspirations of others, but science makes us students of Nature.
It enables us to see the sights of Nature with our eyes wide open, hears the sounds with our ears open, and to be thrilled by its beauty. The beauties and wonders of mountains, the glories of the sky studded with stars, and the marvels of animals and plants are laid before our eyes. The lilies and the roses do not only appeal to us for their inexpressible beauty, but also give us message too deep for thoughts. Every flower is an object lesson in the power and wisdom of Allah.
Says lord Avebury, “without botany, we may admire a great man or a beautiful woman in a crowded, but it is as strangers. The botanist, on the contrary, when he goes out into the woods or into one of those fairy forests which we call fields, finds himself welcomed by a glad company of friends, every one of which has something interesting to tell”.
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What is true of botany is true of other branches of science as well. But the abuse of scientific knowledge is harmful to humanity. The Great World War shows how terrible a weapon for the destruction of life and property it may become by its being used for greed and ambition. Mere scientific knowledge affords us material or worldly comfort, but it does not give us spiritual knowledge, rather it leads us far away from the right path. The right feelings of the heart, the noble virtues of righteousness and charms of life are all best touched by or come under the scope of literature. This is not the work of science.
Each branch of study thus supplements the other, and each renders us substantial help in attaining to a comprehensive understanding of the whole. Those who are eager to establish the superiority of scientific education over the literary, by pointing to the wonders of scientific inventions and by dilating on the material comforts which the sciences have conferred on us, fail to recognize the truth that these discoveries and inventions of science cannot make men happy without the purer and nobler moral forces and impulses to control and regulate them.
Those, again, who belittle the importance of these discoveries and inventions as being materialistic, forget that a deeper knowledge of the mysteries of physical nature gives us a truer insight into the unity that underlies diversity in Nature. Physicists by increasing their knowledge of so-called “matter” have been led to doubt its reality, and have dematerialized the atom and with it the entire universe which the various atoms compose.
The trinity of matter, ether and electricity, out of which science has hitherto attempted to construct the world, has been reduced to a single element – the ether (which is not scientific “matter”) in a state of motion. That the mind and sense are also quasi material has the support of some forms of Western philosophy such as that of Herbert Spencer, for he holds that the universe, whether physical or psychical, is a play of force which in the case of matter we experience as an object. We affirm that scientific “matter” is an appearance produced by the play of cosmic force, and that mind itself is a producer of the same play.