Peace and Security through Science

Discussion Leaders: M. Shamsher Ali and Robert Hinde

M. Shamsher Ali, Bangladesh Academy of Sciences – Peace has been a long-cherished view of mankind, but since September 11, 2001, it has assumed a new dimension. I will only raise the issues, as will my colleague, and it is for you to answer the questions that we raise.

There has been a lot of talk, following the actions of September 11, about peace and security, especially security. It is known to all cultures that religion and cultures have never had any sanction for violence or terrorism, so it has nothing to do with religion. The terrorists have no religion of their own. This terrorism itself is a religion. It has to be treated harshly, but the question is Do you face terrorism with terrorism? In other words, do you globalize terrorism? In this process, things of a constructive nature may be affected negatively, as we have been discussing—exchanges between people, the building up of knowledge—that is one thing. The other thing is—although it is not within our purview—the root causes of violence and terrorism have to be understood.

Some individuals living in abject poverty have been known to get violent at times. It is just like treating a child in the family who breaks a glass—you have to understand the root causes of the violence.

In the book given to you by Torsten Wiesel the other day, there is a statement by Amartya Sen, who comes from my land, Why is half the country hungry? That is the problem that has to be addressed because, over the years, science has become a power, an instrument of change. So what do we do with these powers of change? There is, according to Ghandi, enough in the world for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed. Are we sharing the technical know-how? Science has the power to convert things so why is it necessary, at this juncture of the 21st century, that the people should suffer? And because of the mundane problems of food, hunger, and disease, why should their peace and security be endangered? The politicians have the responsibility—and so have we, the scientific community—of seeing that science is actually put to the good uses of mankind. How actively have we been doing this?

Yesterday, many people were enamored with Tagore. Tagore addressed this question also. I will say it in Bengali and then translate:

If man disappears from this planet, it will be for the reason that he newly discovered the truth, but he didn’t know the proper applications of this truth. He wanted to bless himself in the role of a god, but he did not obtain the divinity.

So if you have gods without divinity, those gods are not going to be constructive— whether it is a state power or despotism, science has to be put to good use.

These academies of science were built all over the world, from about the 17th century, for the promotion of science, for recognizing its challenges. The Chinese and the Russians have a different model, yet they recognize talent and address basic problems. The question is Are our

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