Speculations are rife as to what the next century (or even the
millennium) will be like. One thing is certain, says Sir John
Maddox, former editor of Nature-in many fields the pace
of discovery will be even faster than it is now, and the social
and ethical dilemmas created by the exploitation of new knowledge
even more haunting. Writing in Time magazine, he reflects
on what can be expected in the future:
Our understanding of the world has deepened at an accelerating
rate since the beginning of modern science 500 years ago. Our
century, for example, has had the wit to ask how the universe
is constructed, how even the tiniest particles of matter move
and now life manages to exist in the face of all the odds against
The 20th century has made science more exacting. We demand more
of its explanations. To say that the earth goes around the sun
is no longer sufficient; we insist on knowing why. And in some
fields-space research, for example-decades can go by while novel
instruments are designed and build. A further complication is
that every discovery provokes new questions. The more we know,
the more we do not know.
To predict what lies ahead, we must often rely on guesswork.
But the nature of our present ignorance points to problems science
cannot avoid. The most obvious of these is the question of what
happens in our head when we are thinking. Nobody yet has a compelling
answer for that. People surmise, but no surmise can yet meet
the tyrannical test that every assertion about the nature of
the world must be proved by experiment or observation.
Maddox mentions some of the scientific and philosophical issues
that will be studied in greater depth in the coming century:
(1) Human evolution and the history of the human race from its
beginnings. (2) The grander question of how life began and evolved
over billions of years. (3) Understanding life, which means not
only figuring out how the processes essential for survival are
carried out within the cells of living creatures and what all
the genes do, but also understanding the subtleties of human
behaviour and how human personality evolves by the interaction
of genetic and environmental influences. (4) How man manages
to think- "a conundrum with a millennial time scale,"
says Maddox. (5) A theory of everything, which can explain how
the universe began and what its true nature is.
Investigators in various fields of study are realizing how little
they know in comparison to what needs to be known, and this is
evoking in them a sense of humility. "We should discard
the idea that scientific inquiry will ever be complete,"
says Maddox. "What we know so far is that each question
answered merely spawns another."
As H.P.B. stated at the end of Volume I of Isis Unveiled:
The few elevated minds who interrogate nature instead of prescribing
laws for her guidance; who do not limit her
possibilities by the imperfections of their
own powers; and who only disbelieve because
they do not know, we would remind of that apothegm
of Narada, the ancient Hindu philosopher:
"Never utter these words: 'I do not know
this-therefore it is false'"
"One must study to know, to understand,
understand to judge."
There is increasing apprehension that today's
scientific discoveries and their application present
certain risks for society. There is also a growing
alarm that some decisions are taken without a
full appreciation of their ethical implications
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International
Council for Science (ICSU) held a world conference
on science in Budapest this June, bringing together
several scientists, inter-governmental and non-governmental
organizations and other representatives of civil
society. This first global conference on science
in 20 years was planned to adopt a "world
declaration on science and the use of scientific
knowledge," and a framework for action, intended
to provide scientists and others with new ground
rules for common thinking and joint action.
According to UNESCO, new developments in the life
sciences-including cloning and genetically modified
organisms-have provoked great public concern and
have made it imperative that ethical concerns
be at the forefront of research in the 21st century.
This concern stemmed from the birth of Dolly,
the sheep, in April 1996 in Scotland-a living
being produced by cloning a single mammary cell.
The world-wide attention that followed raised
urgent questions on the consequences of research
in the life sciences.
Ethical issues, such as the potential misuse of
genetic information, the question of who owns
genes and genetic code, and the acceptability
of cloning human beings for reproductive or other
purposes "need serious reflection,"
Earlier, UNESCO's 55-member International Bioethics
Convention (IBC) drafted a "universal declaration
on the human genome and human rights" that
explicitly outlawed human cloning for reproductive
purposes as "contrary to human dignity."
The declaration was adopted unanimously by UNESCO
member states in November 1997 and subsequently
by the U.N. general assembly in December 1998.
According to Noelle Lenoir, former IBC president,
"Human dignity, inherent to each individual,
excludes all practices that tend toward the 'reification'
of an individual or his or her 'instrumentalization.'
In other words, a human being is a subject, not
an object for science."
Scientists admit that they have not always discussed
with the public the problems that science sometimes
brings. To the ICSU, which represents the scientific
community world-wide, as well as to large parts
of the public, the core of such problems is the
fact that the gap between the scientifically possible
and the ethically unacceptable is closing rapidly.
The pineal gland is perhaps the least understood
of our physiological organs with regard to its exact
function. At one time it was believed to be an entirely
useless, although harmless, structure. But scientific
investigators are now beginning to look into the
purposes it serves.
It is now established that the rhythms of behaviour
and of physiological functions of humans and animals
do not depend merely on changes in the environment
but are internally generated, and that it is the
pineal gland which acts as the regulatory "biological
clock." Roger Dobson writes in The Sunday
Hidden deep inside the centre of the brain, it is no bigger
than the size of a pea, yet it sees all and knows all. To Hindu
mystics it is the third eye, while for ancient philosophers,
the site of the pineal gland was nothing less than the soul,
the spiritual heart of the body.
Some sects still believe that this tiny ball of living tissue
is the departure point for the soul after death. But despite
the reverence that has surrounded the pineal gland over the years,
doctors and scientists are only just unravelling some of its
What they now know is that it is part of the body clock, an
internal timer that regulates the production of hormones, which,
in turn, control human activities from sleeping and growing to
sexual development and maternal instincts. Far from continually
being in a steady state, our bodies fluctuate from hour to hour,
from night to day, month to month, winter to summer, and our
lives are dominated by these rhythms....
In fact, "each of us runs on an internal clock that deeply
affects our individual moods, performance and health," says
Professor Michael Smolensky of the Chronobiology Center at Texas
University. This realization of the importance of body rhythms
is influencing the treatment of a wide range of diseases and
disorders, from asthma and arthritis to cancer and epilepsy....
According to Professor William Regelson, an expert on body
rhythms...there is still much to learn about body clocks and,
in particular, the pineal gland....The pineal gland enables us
to live in perfect harmony with our environment.
The pineal gland has other important functions as well, about which modern
science knows nothing so far. A study of the section
entitled "The Races with the 'Third Eye,'"
in the second volume of The Secret Doctrine
(pp. 289 et seq.), will reveal many truths on
the subject. In The Key to Theosophy (p.
119), H.P.B. describes the pineal gland as "in
truth the very seat of the highest and divinest
consciousness in man, his omniscient, spiritual
and all-embracing mind."
Scientists at the National Science Foundation's Center for
Biological Timing have discovered that the body's 24-hour cycle
may be controlled by tissues and cells throughout the body, not
just by the brain. The researchers found that fruit fly tissue
responds to light with no message from the brain, leading them
to speculate that the skin, liver and other tissues of humans
may also have their own "clocks." (Health and Nutrition,
This amounts to an admission on the part of modern science that
every organ, tissue and cell in the body has its own peculiar
discrimination, intelligence and consciousness.
Occultism tells us that every atom, like the monad of Leibnitz, is a
little universe in itself; and that every organ
and cell in the human body is endowed with a
brain of its own, with memory, therefore, experience
and discriminative powers. The idea of Universal
life composed of individual atomic lives is
one of the oldest teachings of esoteric philosophy....If
plants can be shown to have nerves and sensations
and instinct (but another word for consciousness),
why not allow the same in the cells of the human
body? (H.P.B. in "Kosmic Mind": U.L.T.
Pamphlet No. 20)
What makes some youngsters engage in violent behaviour? The
recent U.S. school massacre has stirred a debate over parental
responsibility and the role of movies, music and video games
in shaping a culture of violence among young people. That and
relatively easy access to guns often been cited as possible factors
in the Columbine High School rampage by two student gunmen. Most
ethicists interviewed were hesitant to place the entire blame
on parents for the behaviour of their children, saying it reflected
wider societal woes. The general feeling is that everyone involved
is accountable, including the entertainment industry.
In India, too, the rise in the juvenile crime rate has become
a cause for concern. Ranjit Khomne writes in Bombay Times
Crime thrillers on TV are very popular among kids, say industry
sources...."Not all but certain gory details or visuals
do affect certain vulnerable children," says psychiatrist
Yousuf Machiswala of J. J. Hospital. He sees at least five parents
a day who complain that their wards are exhibiting behavioural
problems. "It's the same problem with slum children since
TV and newspapers are everywhere now. But few seek medical help
except in extreme cases if the child has scholastic or temper-related
Psychiatry points out that a timid child watching gory visuals
tends to become an introvert or fearful, while the child with
conduct disorders turns aggressive. "Kids like to experiment.
They steal, smoke, watch uncensored films. It gives them a kick.
But these tendencies disappear over time. It's when they don't,
that it becomes a behavioural tendency."
Psychologist Dayal Mirchandani too receives a lot of children
with phobias/nightmares. "Some are inhibited and feel that
the world is a dangerous place while others are hardened and
become aggressive. They often quarrel, thinking that revenge
is the only way of getting justice. I consider violence more
dangerous than sex," he says. "Unfortunately, newspapers
or TV programmes are home-delivered, leaving little scope for
True, good parenting is fruitful. True also that violence in the media
affects child behaviour. Yet psychologists and
other behavioural experts have no answer to the
question why it is that not all children who watch
the same movies and TV shows resort to crime,
as also why children belonging to the same family
and brought up in the same home environment do
not behave alike. Is it not because these "experts"
are oblivious of the fact that each child is a
returning soul who brings his own samskaras-germs
of propensities and impulses from previous births,
to be developed in this or coming incarnations?
These impressions and tendencies from the past
are connected with Karma and its working.
Even with closed eyes, some people have the
feeling, and rightly so, that they are being
looked at. Biologist Rupert Sheldrake conducted
a study of 5000 people over two years and discovered
that most people, even if blindfolded, could
tell that somebody was looking at them. The
volunteers guessed correctly 55 per cent of
the time, the success rate rising to 90 per
cent in some cases. (The Times of India,
Sheldrake, while admitting that the phenomenon
depends on factors as yet unknown to science,
suggests that perhaps some sort of field is
generated by the act of looking which the person
being looked at can detect.
Is not the explanation to be found in the fact
that the real senses are centred in the astral
body, "those in the physical body being
but the mechanical outer instruments for making
the co-ordination between nature and the real
organs inside"? (The Ocean of Theosophy,
People who can forgive offences,
studies find, have better emotional health than
those who nurse grudges, a habit that is tied
to high anxiety and low self-esteem. (Health
and Nutrition, May 1999)
Trying to get even with those who have hurt
us only leads to a vicious circle of retaliation.
Genuine forgiveness is not passive but is a
positive act that requires spiritual strength.
It has more than a therapeutic effect.
"Forgive, forgive and largely forget."
"Cast no one out of your heart." These
sayings of Mr. Judge have a mantramic value.