Science and Wisdom

In its April 28 editorial, the Inquirer proposed the teaching of science in all the levels of basic education as a stimulus for the nation’s growth and development.

It began by saying, “In nation with so many young people, education is crucial for progress and development. This is particularly important because as of 2010, 41.8 percent of the Philippine population (or some 38.5 million people) were of school age (5 to 24). Education presents a way out of poverty or a leg up in a career path.”

The article made these proposals: “even more resources apart from financial are required by the education sector in order to put the Philippines in step with the developing world… Toward this end, the value of teaching the sciences should be emphasized in our school systems.”

These are very good proposals and I agree with them. I am a Catholic priest but I studied my high school in a premier science high school of the country and I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

I would just like to add a little caveat. I have learned that science does not give all the answers to all of mankind’s big questions. Science cannot give wisdom. One has to study more things outside the scientific disciplines to become wise. And it is wisdom that tells us the meaning of science and how to draw true good out of it.

David Landes (The Wealth and Poverty of Nations) wrote about how Japan rose from poverty. He pointed out that when the Emperor was restored in 1868, one the steps he took was to educate all the Japanese in their classic literature. The result was that the Japanese acquired a very high literacy rate and they assimilated the values of the Japanese nation. It also united them. They learned science and technology by sending many scholars abroad and they came home and brought back what they learned and even improved on their knowledge. First came the values, then came the science.

Stanley Jaki (The Relevance of Physics) told a little story about the Manhattan Project; this was the famous group of scientists and engineers who made the first atomic bomb. They tested and detonated the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The group observed the explosion from many miles away and after the success the entire group applauded the accomplishment except for one person who commented, “And now we’re all S.O.Bs.” This person realized that they had just created a tremendous capacity for extinguishing lives. Science needs values for it to be a truly human and humanizing endeavor.

Yes, let’s educate our people in the sciences. But let’s not forget to educate them to be human beings in the first place. Let’s teach them wisdom.

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