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Also included under this topic are the subtopics of mathematics, computing, and of course, and be cross examined with other topics such as social issues, particularly religion, ethics & genetic engineering, health, etc.
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Q1: “Computer games have great appeal but little value.” Comment.
(For more recent examples, bring in Minecraft, Genshin Impact, Maple Story, and many other of your favourite mobile apps.)
In today’s world of personal computers (P.C.s), Compact Disc Read-Only-Memory (CD-ROMs), networking and internet, almost everyone’s life has been affected in one way or another by computer technology. The evolution of the first large bulky computer to the present, powerful, compact and affordable version has enabled many households to own computers.
A decade ago, computer games began appearing on the market. They were simple and mostly in text form, requiring little processing power of the computer. How ever, today, manufacturers introduce new games at a rate of one new game per week and may require the processing power of a high end P.C. such as the 586 Pantoum with 16 megabytes of random-access memory to work smoothly. The development of these new computer games and the rapid growth of the computer games industry have been due to the great appeal and resulting demand for the games.
The great appeal of computer games is mostly due to the fact that the games are mostly of the simulator type, immersing a player in the role of the main character in the game, be it a business tycoon monopolizing the car industry, a warrior slaying monsters and rescuing damsels in distress, or a fighter pilot dogfighting with other fighters in the sky. The realism of the games, made possible by the intensely ‘real’ looking graphics, great storyline, superb animation and awesome sound effects, combine to give the players a sense of ‘reality’. For example, in a game called “The Seventh Guest”, the player has to solve difficult puzzles to escape from a haunted mansion and as the player walks around, the lighting effects, shadows and old style furnishings have been so accurately rendered that walking down a dark corridor and hearing an eerie scream make a player jump out of his seat and break into cold sweat. As the player plays these computer games, it enables him to experience different roles that he normally would not get to do in real life, such as a maverick pilot piloting a F-14 Tomcat. Also, in this way, he can understand the workings and difficulty involved in different roles and in turn apply what he has learned to real life. Computer games have an escapism effect, allowing players to escape from real life and get away from the drudgery of routine life and provide enjoyment, re laxation from the games. But there is a side-effect, that if the person is obsessed with playing games, it will affect his real life and lead to the neglect of his work, family. and friends.
People may argue that apart from enjoyment, computer games have otherwise, little value. This is not the case. For example, computer games have been increasingly. used in schools and even at home, to teach young children reading, speaking, listening, creative and hand-eye coordination skills. A story such as the one of the tortoise. and the hare may be in the form of a computer game whereby the child, while listening to the commentary. reads the text of the story and by following instructions, clicks on the relevant object using the mouse to get to the page. There is consistency in this kind of teaching as the game can be replayed again and again. Modified computer games are also available for those children with learning disabilities and they are able to learn at their own pace using these computer games. Even in advanced fields such as medicine, computer ‘games’ which require medical students to react to various medical situations, can help to train them to be decisive and work under pressure before handling the real thing. Not just in the field of medicine, in the engineering, construction, architectural, defence sectors etc., computer ‘games’ based training has also been utilized to a certain extent. In the case of the Air Force, the flight simulations (computer generated) for trainee pilots, prepare them for actual flight and solve the problem of loss of life and aircraft as an unprepared trainee pilot may crash an aircraft during training. Thus, computer games have become an invaluable, relatively cheap tool for educating and training people of all ages and in many fields of study and jobs.
Computer games, in all, provide a cheap source of fun and relaxation, help to relieve boredom, and stimulate the mind to think creatively and analytically. On the educational side, it is an invaluable learning tool for children of all ages and types and also, for the training of people for jobs. Therefore to say that ‘computer games have great appeal but little value’ is not fair and I strongly disagree with the comment. As my essay shows here, computer games do have great appeal and are also of great personal, professional and commercial value.
Q2: “Mathematics is the most perfect language of all.” Discuss.
Mathematics is a versatile subject used by virtually everyone in their lives, its form of application varying from simple counting to the enigmatic fields of complex numbers. Being a medium that enables humans to inter act and communicate, it may appear to be applicable as a language. However, because development of the language is dependent on mental maturity and the level of the per son’s intellect, and because it would deprive us of complete expression of our feelings, it would definitely be difficult for us to concede that it is the most perfect of languages.
Practicality and applicability are qualities of mathematics that suggest that it is the most perfect of all languages. It is a system used by all societies, regardless of its level of development or geographical location on Earth. It is taught world wide and is internationally accepted, and is not a totally new concept to any society. Therefore, there are no barriers to it reaching each individual, and break down in the flow of communication will not occur be cause of the occurrence of foreign jargon. This will eradicate the need for interpreters, and actively facilitate international communication, thus lubricating world wide transactions, increasing its speed and efficiency and reducing the number of misunderstandings between contacts.
Mathematics can also be seen as the most perfect language because of its feasibility. Mathematics is said to be the language behind all languages – the encryption of morse codes, data and computerized messages involves numbers and mathematics, which then can be translated into different media to suit the needs of different people. Mathematics uses only numbers and notations to express ideas, and has proven itself more successful than other types of communication as the use of mathematics does not require one to note tenses, parts of speech, grammar and other technicalities. Mathematics has proven itself to be a very effective medium to work with. Also, transfer of information can take place in forms varying from the conventional ‘pen and paper’ method or through computer networks, which are becoming of increasing importance to man today, placing the world at our fingertips. The use of mathematics as a language would therefore pose no problems in transmission, and thus it appears to be the most perfect language.
The importance of mathematics in the lives of man, together with its characteristics of versatility and aptness, suggests that it can be the most perfect language of all. This can be seen by the fact that its scope transcends all barriers, infiltrating into other disciplines. Mathematics forms the basis of scientific theories and discoveries, which has led to the development and advancement of mankind. For example, the significance of non-Euclidean geometry was realized early in the 20th century when the geometry was applied in mathematical physics as it came to play an essential role in the theory of relativity. Also, many processes base themselves on mathematics. For instance, rocket launching and telecommunication systems would fail catastrophically without math. Therefore, the relevance and significance it holds in society makes it appear to be the most perfect language.
On the other hand, mathematics is not a language with out flaws. It is often misunderstood as being the simplest way of expressing ideas and of involving the least hassle when people actually speak of only elementary maths. Despite the fact that the knowledge of mathematics is widespread, it is only the basic concepts that the ordinary layman is familiar with, and the more abstract and sophisticated aspects are only dealt with when one indulges completely in it. Since not everyone is able to attain that high level of mathematical intellect, communication and interaction using mathematics will be frustrating and confusing, and communication will inevitably breakdown.
Also we must not forget that, by using mathematics as a language, we inhibit our communication of feelings and other emotional facets of thought. Simple processes of recording daily reflections into a diary would become a complex and tedious, if not impossible, process. Furthermore, one cannot imagine how badly the Arts would suffer if mathematics was used as the form of communication. The use of mathematics would take all sensitivity out of our lives, making it joyless, mechanical and mundane, averting the full development of the human race, thus suggesting that mathematics may not be the most perfect language.
Verbal communication in the mathematical language is difficult and cumbersome, involving recitation of strings of numbers and formulas, therefore decreasing the ease of relating information. Also, this transfer has to be meticulously carried out, for a slight error in relaying mathematical information could result in a disastrous consequence. Therefore, this suggests that mathematics may not be the most perfect of all languages due to its difficulty in the level of application.
Mathematics has proved its practicality in our daily lives, and has shown itself to bear many attributes of a form of expression that facilitates smooth communication, offering itself as an alternative to a foreign language because of its wide acceptance. By this line of argument, we have to agree that it is one of the more desirable languages. However, at the same time, it contains flaws in that it inhibits our emotional expression and poses difficulties in the conveying and recording of information, both of which are vitally important to man. Thus one must admit that it is not the most perfect of languages.
GP Teacher’s comments: Entertaining piece of argument. A timeless and evergreen answer! Simply update examples to newer ones, namely Google’s search engine, which uses the mathematical concepts of Group theory, to form their proprietary search algorithm. Not to forget maths in powering search queries and coding in programming languages.
Q3: “Science and religion cannot co exist.” Discuss.
The general belief is that science and religion have nothing to do with each other and are mutually exclusive. Their methods differ widely; their spheres of activity too are different.
Science is basically concerned with the material world. It deals with tangible realities. It is objective, analytical and empirical in its approach to problems. Religion on the other hand takes the ultimate reality for granted. It follows the metaphysical path. The concept of God is a matter of faith, and it is this faith in God that gives meaning and purpose to the life of a believer. Science relies on experiments whereas religion is based on experience. Any religious experience is personal and subjective; the hall mark of science is objectivity. Any scientific theory is proved beyond doubt; no religious experience needs to be corroborated with tangible evidence. Science is concerned with matter and accounts for human civilisation. Religion, though concerned with civilisation, deals with the spiritual well-being of man.
Does all this mean that science and religion are mutually exclusive? To answer this question, we shall have to see when exactly the conflict between science and religion arose in ancient times, when human knowledge was limited. There was no conflict; actually there was only a set of beliefs – which we may call religion, and there was no science. Everyone believed in the forces of Nature and in God. A person did not understand the reasons for natural calamities which he attributed to God’s work. And then came a time when human intelligence and ingenuity enabled him to explain the phenomena around him. At first the discoveries made and the explanations offered by enlightened men offended the religious sentiments of their fellowmen who were not prepared to revise their beliefs. They could not accept the facts about the Uni verse placed before them by Copernicus and Galileo be cause what they heard from the two scientists went against their Christian beliefs. Newton’s laws of motion were not, however, opposed because these did not directly offend the Christian belief about the origin of the Universe. All the same, the conflict between organised, systematic knowledge and blind beliefs continued, and came out in the open when Darwin propounded his famous theory of evolution.
In the light of what is said above, it is almost clear that science and religion belong to distinct, separate realms and there need be no conflict between the two. Nor need we attempt to reconcile the two. There are too many things in the universe that are incomprehensible and inexplicable. Religion gives us a set of beliefs about the Universe, Even as certain things about the Universe are inexplicable, there are also certain discoverable truths about the Universe. Science discovers these truths; sometimes these truths offend beliefs, and the beliefs are revised. This does not, however, mean that the fundamentals of religions are at stake. As A.N. Whitehead has said: “There can be no living science unless there is widespread instinctive conviction in the existence of an order of things, and in particular, of an order of Nature.” Religion aims at an aware ness of the whole while science analyses parts of the whole and discovers certain truths about the parts. “The worship of God”, to quote Whitehead again, “is not a rule of safety; it is an adventure of the spirit, a flight after the unattainable. The death of religion comes with the re pression of the high hope of adventure.”
The roles of science and religion are not conflicting. but complementary. True religion upholds values of life and cherishes them and takes care of man’s spiritual life. Science, on the contrary, takes care of man’s material com forts, and makes him enlightened about the material world. What Alexander Pope sang about Newton is true as regards the role of Science: “Nature and Nature’s law lay him in Night”. God said, “Let Newton be! And all be light.” Science not only attempts to provide us with knowledge about the universe but also helps us in our material progress, But material progress is meaningless unless it goes hand in hand with moral and spiritual progress. True religion takes care of man’s moral and spiritual progress. Both religion and science are needed and vital for man in his all-round progress.
Q4: “Genetic engineering is a means to a better future.” Discuss.
Genetic engineering is the manipulation of genes by artificial means. Since the discovery of the chromosomes in the 1960s, science has progressed at an impossible rate. The location and identification of the gene, a seemingly small and unimportant object, has unlocked the doors to how life is made possible on Earth. Though our grasp of the mechanism of the gene is still limited, humankind has at last chanced upon playing God!
Though this immediately brings to mind scenes of evil scientists plotting to control the world by cloning an army of mutants, genetic engineering has in fact improved the lives of humankind in both small and big ways.
Take for instance the reduced cholesterol eggs or hybrid honeydew apples that we buy from the supermarket. These products are the results of genetic engineering by companies which aim to improve the quality of food for consumers. Humans have lent a helping hand to Mother Nature in introducing new breeds of animals and plants which are created for human consumption. These are just how the fruits of genetic engineering have improved our lives in small ways.
However, the advantages of genetic engineering are not just limited to producing low fat cattle for consumption. In fact, genetic engineering has contributed vastly to the world of medicine. For example, knowing that cancer and heart disorder and other form of diseases may be hereditary and that these diseases are the products of harmful genes allows scientists and researchers to have a better chance of eliminating them.
‘Good’ genes are also being relentlessly researched upon. For example, it has been discovered that a family in France possesses an amazing gene that totally eliminates the possibility of heart diseases. It is obvious that if the gene could one day be extracted and implanted into the rest of the human population, the death rate due to heart attacks would definitely plummet down to nil. Similarly other genes could be used to improve the health of people.
Such an improvement would benefit humankind in definitely. The suffering from diseases could be totally eliminated!
However, all these come with a catch. Now the question of ethics comes in. For example, a certain fish breeder has recently produced a breed of trout with more meat by introducing human genes in the fish. I think the idea of eating such fish would send shivers down a person’s spine. It would (or so we think) be tantamount to cannibalism. Even though the breeder assures us that the fish is definitely not becoming ‘humanized in any way, I think many would rather be safe than sorry and keep away from such doubtful food sources. In another case, newspapers have reported that in an attempt to ape the production of a mythical centaur, a human sperm was fertilized with a mare’s egg. The result was a horse with an ape-like face who showed no signs of human intelligence, but had trouble eating grass because of his face structure. As can be seen, the question of ethics in using human genes to improve the stock of other creatures, or worse, to clone hu mans, is raised.
Lastly, the much written subject of producing a perfect race: will this dream of producing a perfect human with super intelligence and character really benefit hu man kind? Or will this dream turn out to be a nightmare? Newspaper reports have identified a certain scientist who has successfully helped a few couples to artificially conceive children of blonde, blue-eyed children of above. average intelligence. These children, aged from 9 to 15, have no idea that they are not their parents’ children and that they are the results of meticulous genetic engineering. True, producing another genius like Einstein improves the human race. However, these humans would no longer. be a true human. They are more like living, breathing androids who have been programmed from birth for such a cause.
Though genetic engineering has benefited the people vastly, there are still many grey areas raised in the area of ethics and morality. However, the benefits of genetic engineering vastly outweigh the doubts raised about it, and it is indeed a means to a better future.
Q5: How has technology changed the way people socialise?
As we approach the twenty-first century, technology has become more and more advanced. Cars, computers and televisions are no longer novelties. For many of us. living in either developed or developing countries, they have become the norm. Sending a man to the moon is no longer just a dream. It has become a reality. Such technology was invented for the sake of helping mankind and it is undeniable that it has indeed done so. However we have allowed technology to infiltrate our lives to the ex tent that we no longer dominate technology. Instead, we have allowed technology to rule our lives. Our way of life and social activities now revolve around technology. The way we socialize has also been greatly affected by technology.
With the invention of television, we now have an additional way to relax. Yet, instead of making the television work for us, we have instead allowed the television to control us, to the extent of planning activities around the television programmes. Television has also become a substitute for valuable family time. The time that families would have, in the past, spent with their children, either reading to them or simply socializing with them is now spent in front of the television watching programmes which, researchers have found, do not leave much impression on the viewers. As such, communication between. the parents and the child has now been drastically cut down due to the lack of time they spend talking to each other. Parents and children do not establish a bond and this will affect the way the children behave in their social circles. It is through time spent with the family that children learn how to socialize, for the family itself is also a kind of social circle.
It is also not unusual to find guests of the house in front of the television together with their host and hostess. To them, television programmes have become their topics of conversation. This is a far cry from the past when, after a good meal, the host and his guests would sit in the living room discussing politics, economics or lighter topics like their children or pets.
Dating, has also lost its old-fashioned meaning. To many, dating is a form of courtship where couples in love go out, often to the movies or the park, to understand more about each other. However, with the invention of computer dating and Internet, dating has become a to tally different game. Computer dating now pairs couples together on the basis of their interests. Couples who meet each other through computer dating already know what they want to know about each other and more. This takes away the thrill of finding out for yourself what your partner is really like.
With Internet, couples “meet” each other via letters sent through the computer. Although Internet has broadened the social circle of many, it has also, in its own way, changed the way of socializing. Couples who “meet” each other via the computer only possess information the opposite partner is willing to release. Being unable to meet, couples can only visualize how their partner looks for they have a limited amount of information to work upon. This totally changes the format of the normal dating game in which couples first meet and then slowly understand each other. Hence, technology has once again changed the way people socialize.
In offices, people are also starting to use E-mail which allows memos to be passed to one another within a shorter period of time. Since production has become more efficient, it is true that E-mail indeed is an asset. However, the normal hustle and bustle is now gone, reducing the office to the monotonous sounds of computer keyboards. When passing messages was done the old-fashioned way, by word of mouth, people could stop to chat a little, socialize and at the same time, take a breather but with the invention of E-mail, social life in the office has been cut to the core.
Technology has also changed the topics of many conversations. Eavesdrop on any group at a party and one will probably hear a man talk about the improvement the Internet has made in his office. Or the root of a harassed housewife’s complaint may be how her coffee-maker keeps breaking down on her. A typical teenage conversation may be filled with cute stars from “Beverly Hills 90210”, which you can be sure is one of the television programmes she has worked into her daily activities. Whatever happened to men discussing how well the roses were doing or a mother complaining about her children or a teenager discussing the books she has read? All I can say is that with developments in technology, many of our social lives have changed. Whether it is for the better or for the worse, will depend on the individual’s ability to dominate technology and not allow technology to be his master.
Q6: It is foolish to prolong human life span. Do you agree?
Since time immemorial, longevity has been man’s desire. But the oldest man ever, according to scientific records, was Pierre Joubert who died at an age of 113 years and 124 days. This is a far cry from the biblical claim that Methuselah died at an age of 969 years. Is immortality really an unattainable myth?
To answer this question, we must first understand why people get old. There are numerous theories to account for this. The first one is that man’s life span is pre-deter mined genetically. According to this theory, there exists a biological clock that counts the age of a cell, the basic building block of all organisms, including man. As a cell’s age approaches the upper limit permitted by the gene, senescence, the process of ageing will set in.
What actually happens during senescence? A normal cell can undergo mitotic division to produce two exact replicas of itself. The more cell division cycles a cell undergoes, the less efficient its copying mechanism will be. An error in making the exact replica of deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) may result in the production of a wrong protein by the cell. This slight alteration in shape and feature brings deleterious consequences, especially if it is involved in the production of an enzyme and the protein coat of DNA. As enzymes are involved in all the body’s metabolic processes and the protein coat of DNA is involved in determining which part of the DNA (gene). is to be switched on, any malfunction in this key protein will result in the drastic decline of a cell’s activity and hence senescence is inevitable.
Other theories of ageing focus on factors that can in fluence the differential expression of genes. The “wear and-tear” theory tries to make an analogy between cells and machines. According to this theory, a cell ages sim ply because it is worn out. Besides that, the accumulation of waste products, such as age pigment and cross linked collagen also cause the cell to age. The auto-immune theory assumes that the immune system of an old organism will begin to attack cells of its own body. As a result of this, ageing will be accelerated and the individual will become more susceptible to diseases, such as cancer.
If it is possible to determine the cause of human ageing, researchers can devise methods that can delay the process of ageing and thus prolong man’s life. In theory, the first viable option to delay ageing would be to tinker with the gene that specifies the life of a cell. Research on cancerous cells has revealed that there is probably one recessive immortal gene found in chromosome 4 which replaces the normal ageing gene in abnormal cells. This. gene is responsible for the proliferation of immortal ab normal cells, as in tumours. Though potentially hazardous, the gene has nevertheless offered us a way to immortalise normal cells by introducing a milder version of the gene whose activity is controllable. Though theoretically feasible, the technical details of where to locate the exact site of the gene in chromosome 4 and the sub sequent problem of learning how the cell is regulated and hence controlled still elude the researchers.
The second possible way of prolonging human life is to try to slow down the ticking of the biological clock. Cancer researchers of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, have found that a short strip of DNA known as telomerase is acting as a possible molecular clock that counts the cell’s age. There are thousands of telomerase strung along the ends of the chromosome of a young cell, just like beads in a necklace. Ten to twenty telomerase are lost at the end of each cell division. Thus, repeated cell division causes the necklace to become shorter and shorter. When there are no more telomerase left, the cell ages rapidly and dies eventually. So, by changing the programme that pre-determines how many telomerase are lost in each cell cycle, it is possible to increase the number of cell cycles a cell can undergo and thus prolong man’s life.
Since the number of cell divisions a cell can undergo is fixed, in order to prolong a cell’s life, it is logical to increase the time interval between successive cell cycles. The study on how cell division is regulated has revealed that there are basic regulators of cell cycles in all eukaryotic cells. The regulators are cell-division-cycle-2 (cdc-2) protein and cyclin. A form of cyclin accumulates. during interphase and combines with the precursor of Maturation Promoting Factor (pre-MPF) to form an in active MPF. With the help of enzymes, this inactive form of MPF can be converted to an active MPF, thus triggering simultaneously the process of mitosis and the degradation of cyclin. While the cell undergoes mitosis, the cyclin is slowly destroyed, MPF disappears and cyclin degrading enzymes are deactivated. Cyclin thus accumulates once again and the cell cycle repeats. To lengthen the period of each cell cycle, a possible way may be to slow down the process of cyclin synthesis or tinker with the enzymes that modify pre-MPF. Again, to do so, the genetic programme of the cells has to be altered first.
The stiffening of tissues and the general decline in efficiency of cell functions are characteristics of old age. The origin of many old-age diseases, such as cataracts, arteriosclerosis and cancer can be traced from a molecular point of view. Ageing researchers in Rockefeller University have postulated that non-enzymic haphazard attachment of glucose to protein and nucleic acids might be the cause of tissue stiffening and mutations that frequently occur in old cells. This process, glycosylation, results in the formation of irreversible cross-links between. long-lived protein molecules, such as collagen and the protein coat of DNA in chromosomes. Such irreversible cross-links cause the protein molecules to become rigid and disrupt their normal functioning. Researchers have shown that diabetic patients whose blood glucose level is higher develop diseases that characterise old age, such as cataracts, joint stiffening and arteriosclerosis. Thus, they conclude that glycosylation initiates cell senescence and diabetes actually accelerates the onset of the process.
A possible solution suggested by researchers is to introduce substances that can bind to glucose and pre vent it from forming cross-links with protein, such as aminoguanidine. Aminoguanidine is capable of binding with the carbonyl group found in glucose and prevents the occurrence of glycosylation. A second alternative is to enhance the effectiveness of biological processes by macrophages that help to remove a substance, called AGE-product (Advanced Glycosylation End Product) which is essential to the glycosylation process by introducing certain chemicals, such as hormones.
Gerontologists’ studies have made a distinction be tween successful and usual ageing. Successful ageing refers to ageing with minimal physiological losses, or none at all, in contrast to normal ageing where drastic decline in physiological function is observable. The concept of successful ageing stresses that attributions of senescence change per se may prove to be over-exaggerated and that factors such as diet, exercise and nutrition can act as moderators of the ageing process. So, by adopting a healthy life-style, it is possible to delay the onset of ageing and thus prolong human life. A revolutionary in crease in human life span since the Cenozoic era has borne evidence to this. Thus there is no doubt that with increasing high standards in health and proper and careful maintenance of the body’s functions, man can prolong his life beyond its current span.
The crudest method of prolonging human life is to “freeze” ageing people. Already there are reports that terminally-ill patients in the United States have the option of “embalming” themselves while waiting for the discovery of new drugs that can cure their diseases. The “freezing” process involves the lowering of body temperature so low that the body metabolic rate approaches nil. They can be revived once new drugs are discovered. Similarly, this method of “freezing” can also be extended to include the elderly.
Some of the methods mentioned above may be purely. hypothetical, but man’s ingenuity is often capable of turning the impossible to reality. So, it is not impossible that one day we may be able to live for more than a century. What are the implications and consequences of such possibilities to man and society?
The first question is whether the effort to prolong hu man life beyond its natural life-span is an ecologically sustainable venture. Already, during the baby boom era of the 1960’s, the neo-Malthusians warned of population explosion. The world population then was a mere 3 billion people. But since then, the figure has increased dramatically to a staggering 5 billion in 1985 and now reaching 8B by 2040. When we correlate these figures with life expectancy in 1960 and 1985, we conclude that the dramatic increase in human population is not due to an increase in fertility but a decrease in mortality.
What will happen if the current life expectancy at the age of 70 is further increased some 50% to over 100 years? Just imagine, if all the people born in 1900 and onwards were still alive and would not die until 2000. If that were the case, the annual population. growth rate would increase by 1.9 fold (i.e. if current annual population growth rate is 1.7%, the new rate would be 3.2%). As a result of this, the initial projected world population by 2000 would have to be marked up from 6 billion to 11.5 billion. Unless new habitats could be found, the future generation would have to share half of the space that we currently enjoy. Already we are now complaining about environmental degradation and various resource crises. What would happen if about the same number of people were added to the current population? Is our mother nature – the earth – capable of supporting such a large population? These are the questions that the scientists and demographers have to answer if they are to continue their research on prolonging human life.
Some methods of prolonging human life may succeed in deferring man’s death date, but will they be 100% perfect, i.e. will the centenarians be able to maintain the same level of productivity and healthiness as their young counterparts? Some critics have already warned of the fact that men are increasingly “living with longer life but worsening health.” If such things really happen, the old will pose a great burden to society. This problem will be further accentuated by the inevitable birth control measures that will have to be adopted if a population explosion is to be averted. This dramatic transition in population structure from a “pyramid” to an “inverted pyramid” would put great strain on the younger generation which forms the base of the pyramid. A study on the problem of population ageing in China serves to illustrate such an effect. Due to the success of the one-child policy introduced in the late 70’s to control its exploding population, China will have 17.6% of its total population aged 60 and over by the year 2025. By then, China’s population structure will be “4-2-1” i.e. four grandparents, two parents and one child, with the concomitant economic and caring burden on the sole child. If such possibilities come true, will there not be a conflict between the ever-increasing older and ever-decreasing younger generation? A “Clash of Generations” would seem to be inevitable if the current research on prolonging human life goes on without the concomitant studies on the problem mentioned above.
Thus, it is clear that the issue of prolonging human life beyond its natural span is not purely a scientific venture but has demographic and social ramifications. While the current scientific research on prolonging human life goes on, similar studies on its impact on population and society have to be carried out. An inter-disciplinary approach to such issues would accommodate both man’s desire for immortality and also the need to ensure that the law of nature is not violated.
Q7: Do you agree that Science must be used to uncover the truth, no matter the cost?
i. consider the key terms
Truth: how laws of nature operate
Cost: consequences • Physical harm to others
Goes against values
Inhibits legal rights/ freedom/ choices
Causes differentiation among people
Consequences should not be limited to those incurred by people alone (social cost). Moral and legal costs should be considered as well whenever applicable. This will widen the scope of discussion.
ii. question type
Absolute + Justification
Issue: even if the consequence outweighs the benefit, research is necessary to discover the truth on how nature works.
2 parts to the question must always be included in each paragraph:
This question can only be done on areas of science that involve research. Hence, the products are not directly relevant. Only the process of finding the truth is.
Students must also ensure that for every chosen area, they are to first state the truth” that the scientists are trying to uncover and then whether the cost outweighs the benefit that thus makes the research unjustifiable.
iii. areas to consider
Testing of new drugs
Truth: how diseases spread in our human bodies and how the drugs control such diseases.
studies have to first be conducted using human subjects at times to test the effectiveness of the drug.
Acceptable: some form of pain or allergic reaction is foreseeable but the benefit in prolonging life outweighs this inconvenience.
Unacceptable: ethical boundaries are challenged such that patients are inflicted with
mindless pain / have not been fully informed of the reasons for the study.
Truth: identify crime suspects using DNA testing.
DNA samples must first be obtained at times through coercion by the use of legal tools.
Inability to exercise right to deny extraction of DNA sample in the interest of justice.
Some states or countries accept DNA evidence as being conclusive in ascertaining guilt, ruling out the possibility of human error or inaccuracy of results. The suspect thus is denied of the right to have the results questioned on the basis of any of the reasons aforementioned.
Human Genome Project
Truth: the study of genes to treat genetically inherited diseases, for gene therapy and eugenics.
Cost: • Abortion of foetuses with genetic disorders
Loss of one life to save many others in the future as the disease could be passed down through generations.
Parents are also absolved from being emotionally and financially burdened in caring for an ill child.
Concept of sanctity of life is challenged. Control over one’s life and death has been taken over by humans.
Human Genome Project
Truth: the study of genes to treat genetically inherited diseases, for gene therapy and eugenics.
Selection of desired traits
Acceptable: Creation of the perfect human in terms of health and well being
Unacceptable: Random selection of genes is interfered with, the consequences of which will only be observed in the long run. Creation of a second-class citizen.
iv. issues to consider on science & morality
Are there discoveries that go against our values? Stem Cell Research: YES
One of the sources of stem cells – embryos. Such research thus involves the destruction of embryos. Since many religions especially Christianity and Islam believe begins at conception, science is perceived as having unjustly terminated life.
Stem Cell Research: NO From the perspective of science, life does not begin till about 6.5 weeks of pregnancy. Are there discoveries that are created for the sole purpose to destroy and harm others?
• Are there discoveries that are created for the sole purpose to destroy and harm others? Nuclear Weapons: YES Rogue states that have on many occasions proven aggressive and indifferent to international cooperation, can only have one purpose when embarking on nuclear programme: to use these weapons against those perceived as threats. This is further proven by their refusal to ratify the Nuclear Anti Proliferation Treaty.
Nuclear Weapons: NO. Many countries claim they are merely developing nuclear programmes to create an alternative source of energy.
Are there discoveries that are created for the sole purpose to destroy and harm others?
Chemical Weapons: YES. In the 1980s, Iraq’s ‘Chemical Ali’, a trusted minister of Saddam Hussein, authorised the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds. The only purpose thus in developing those weapons was to drive the Kurdish rebels out of Iraq.
Are there discoveries that cause differentiation among people?
Q8: New media has encouraged individualism. Do you agree?
New Media: The forms of communicating in the digital world, which includes publishing on thumb drive , digital television and, most significantly, the Internet, gaming, chat rooms, working from home and its social networking websites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat which allows members to share applications, videos and updates from other social media such as Twitter, Blogger and YouTube. Facebook users can also connect to the site via iPhone and Android. It implies the use of desktop and portable computers as well as wireless, handheld devices.
Individualism: can be both positive and negative. Positive: belief in independent thought and action when this leads to self reliance and confidence. Negative: the individual is paramount, the belief that the interests of the individual must take precedence over the interests of the social group/community. What the individual thinks, feels and does, matter the most. Narcissism or self centredness / self obsession.
GP pupils can refer to both definitions.
E.g. Blogging: people choose to share their thoughts on issues due to freedom of space in the virtual word as they believe that they do not need to be confined by social norms in the real world.
New media has encouraged narcissism.
E.g. Twitter: People use it to voice their thoughts and see how many followers they have subscribing to them, making them popular. Ashton Kutcher vs CNN. Ashton. won the war against CNN in getting more followers on twitter.
New media has encouraged people to post their views and get their opinions heard. E.g. ST Forum saw a record number of netizens register their unhappiness over the weightage of bilingualism. This gave netizens a chance to air their views and at the same time ‘listen to other perspectives without stubbornly sticking to their own views.
New Media has allowed people to be socially aware of themselves. E.g. With the presence of websites like youtube, people are more wary of how they behave as they do not want to be ‘featured’ for the wrong reasons. Or it can be argued that people are coming out to post videos of themselves singing or dancing in the hope of getting reaction (positive or negative) from netizens.
New media has allowed singles to find new mates. E.g. chatrooms or dating agencies. These have helped create social circles rather than isolate people and make them self centred.
Yes (negative definition of individualism)
1. Has encouraged exhibitionism: the new media has revolutionized interaction among people: a Facebook profile and photo sharing offer a platform for individuals to showcase their private lives, share personal emotions and data to hundreds of friends. This social networking site has transformed into a tool for exhibitionism and self obsession.
2. Encourages self absorption or narcissism; eg Popular blogger Xia Xue has attracted many young netizens with her blog entries and photos that are regularly updated. Many bloggers vie for such popularity probably because it gives a boost to their self worth or vanity.
3. An individual’s obsession with technology to communicate with others reduces face to face interaction with people and can lead to his isolation. 4. Positive individualism: how freedom of expression allows individuals to express their unique identity. Emphasis is on values of independence, self-reliance and confidence.
Can lead to the formation of online communities where like minded people gather to exchange views and establish a meaningful relationship as a group through forums and chat lines.
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