Thursday, 16 July 2009




According to Bertrand Russell, the earliest beginnings of scientific technique can be traced back to the prehistoric times. The use of fire, the use of agriculture, and the domestication of animals etc are prehistoric in origin. In this essay, Russell tells us that the most important characteristic of the scientific technique is that it proceeds from experiment, not from tradition.

Beginning of Writing – beginning of History:

The beginning of writing coincides with the beginning of history. The next great advancement in scientific technique was the working of metals. Roads have been constructed chiefly for military reasons. The Middle Ages invented the gun-powder and the mariner’s compass, and finally the invention of printing.

Protests against Machinery and Return to Nature:

Lao-Tze, who lived in the sixth century B.C., protested against the destruction of ancient beauty by modern mechanical inventions. Roads, bridges and boats filled him with horror because they were unnatural. He believed that men should live according to nature. Rousseau also believed in the return to nature, but no longer objected to roads, bridges and boats.

According to Rousseau, return to nature, if it were taken seriously, would involve the death by starvation of some 90 per cent of the population of civilized countries.

The Application of Science in Technology and Production:

Science advanced very rapidly throughout the whole of the 17th and 18th centuries, and it was only at the end of the 18th century that it began to affect the technique of production. Ancient Egypt to the year 1750 saw less change in methods of work than there have been from 1750 to the present day.

Certain fundamental advances had been slowly acquired: speech, fire, writing, agriculture, the domestication of animals, the working of metals, gun-powder, printing, and the art of governance etc. These advances, because they came slowly, fitted in, without too much difficulty, to the framework of traditional life, and so, men were not conscious of a revolution in their daily habits.

The Scientific Technique: Its Impartiality:

The scientific technique is closely connected with the social virtue of impartiality. According to Piaget, the reasoning faculty in a child, is a product of the social sense. Reasoning develops as a method of arriving at a social truth upon which all men can agree. The advantage of this method is that, private emotion will not be regarded as the test of truth.

Another aspect of the scientific method is that, it gives power over the environment and also power of adaptation to the environment. It is success in this practical test of power over the environment or adaptation to it, which has given science its prestige. All modern life is built upon this practical success of science.

Scientific versus Pre-Scientific Technique:

The essential novelty about the scientific technique is the utilization of natural forces in ways that are not obvious to untrained observation, but discovered by deliberate research. The use of water-power in an old-fashioned water-mill is pre-scientific, but the modern use of water-power by means of turbines is scientific.

Clearly the line between scientific and traditional technique is not a sharp one, and no one can say exactly where the one ends and the other begins. Primitive agriculturists used human bodies for manure, and imagined their beneficial effect to be magical. This stage was definitely pre-scientific.


The most essential characteristic of scientific technique is that it proceeds from experiment, not from tradition. It is this scientific spirit which is characteristic of modern times, and it is because of this spirit that the power of man in relation to his environment has become so immeasurably greater than it was in the civilization of the past.

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