Science & Technology

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Marxists seek to understand the laws governing society so as to be able to carry out revolutionary change, in the same way that natural scientists seek to uncover the laws of nature so as best to increase our control over nature. In this sense, Marxism is a scientific endeavour. Indeed Marx and Engels referred to their outlook as “scientific socialism”.

The key to the Marxist method is the philosophy of dialectical materialism. Marx’s lifelong collaborator, Engels, described this philosophy as “the most general laws of motion of nature, society, and human thought.” At root, this philosophy is a philosophy of change, which has found itself confirmed in a hundred and one ways by the latest discoveries of modern science.

Today capitalism in decay threatens the sciences from multiple angles. Cuts in research spending and the casualisation of labour are grinding the sciences down. At the same time, the capitalist class funds all kinds of obscurantist movements. The extremes to which capitalism has extended the division of labour has also begun to threaten the sciences. A divorce exists today between theoretical and practical sciences. The result has been an increasing trend towards speculation that eschews “mere” experimentation. This has led to a revival, on the intellectual peaks of capitalist society, of mystical, idealist trends dressed up in very “scientific-sounding” phrases.

At the dawn of the capitalist epoch the sciences were a key battleground in the struggle against the rubbish of the feudal era. The same is even truer today and all revolutionaries should take an interest in these struggles.

Flight, and later space travel, were viewed as an indication of humanity’s progress and ability to overcome even the most enormous of obstacles, in this case, the Earth’s gravitational pull. But the recent explosion of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket on October 28, and the explosion of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo just a few days later seem to highlight the primary obstacle in the way of humanity’s development today: the private ownership of the means of production.

Since the dawn of civilisation, humans have questioned the workings of the natural world around them and their own place in the Universe. Through a long process of investigation over millennia, mankind has built up an understanding of Nature and the wider cosmos. Each successive generation has expanded the horizon of our knowledge and in the process extended the boundary of the known Universe. From Ptolemy and Copernicus and through to the modern day, at every stage scientific discoveries have refined and redefined our picture of the Cosmos and our place within it.

Americans’ dysfunctional relationship with food is regularly lamented or mocked in the media and in academia. What is never explained is the root cause of this dysfunction. Marxism explains that conditions determine consciousness. Your physical and social environment heavily influences the choices you make by limiting the very choices that are available to you.

Centuries of scientific research and investigation have helped to propel society forwards and improve the lives of millions. This strength of the scientific method and its ability to discover and innovate has been so great that it has created a mystical sense of infallibility surrounding science. But, as with all other areas of society, the senility and decay of capitalism is now being reflected in the question of science also, and many are starting to worry about the reliability of research.

Quantum physics occupies a fascinating place at the cutting edge of modern scientific research. First developed in the early 20th Century, quantum theory is allowing today’s scientists to plumb new depths when it comes to matter and motion. A new book, Quantum Social Science, by Andrei Khrennikov and Emmanuel Haven argues that applying the logic of quantum theory to social systems can take our understanding of human society to a whole new level.

The development of genetically-modified organisms (GMO) has opened up whole new possibilities for improving the nutrition of humanity.For the first time, humans are able to genetically engineer species or organisms by transferring DNA between totally different organisms, potentially allowing for food to be grown in harsher climates, for example, or for existing crops to yield more food. However, under capitalism, GMOs are being abused by large agro-corporations, such as Monsanto, to maximize shareholders’ profits at the expense of ordinary people around the world.  Instead, GMOs have reduced the safety and security of the food system for billions of people. What is a working-class

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The Marxist analysis of history – that is, the dialectical and materialist analysis of history – explains that the main motor force in history is the need for society to develop the productive forces: to increase our knowledge of and mastery over nature; to reduce the socially necessary labour time needed to produce and reproduce the conditions of life; to improve lifestyles and raise the standards of living.

Capitalism has become an absolute fetter on the development of the productive forces. This also affects the development of science, which is geared to the profit motive. After the October 1917 Russian Revolution the arts and science experienced a short-lived period of freedom, as the Bolshevik leadership under Lenin and Trotsky understood that this was the only way of moving forward. But as the revolution, isolated in a backward country, underwent degeneration under Stalin, this also affected these recently won freedoms. The fate of Nicolai Ivanovich Vavilov, a brilliant Russian geneticist who ended up in Stalin’s gulags highlights this process.

Last week, Edward Snowden became the latest in a long line of whistleblowers. It has been revealed that the US National Security Agency has been given backdoor access to telephone exchanges and a long range of online accounts from major service providers, underlining how the state breaches users’ privacy on a massive scale in order to get intelligence.

The cat-and-mouse game between piracy supporters on the one hand and state authorities and major multinational companies on the other is heating up. Over the past few years there has been a marked increase in the persecution of websites and individuals involved in piracy. Democratic rights are being thrown overboard and the full force of the state applied in the media industry’s ruthless pursuit of profits.

On the 24th August 2012 Samsung was ordered by a court in San Jose, California to pay Apple just over $1 billion in damages for patent infringement. Apple is now seeking to ban the sale of certain Samsung products in the USA and a hearing is scheduled for 20th September for that claim. This long-running dispute between these technology giants over infringement of smart phone patents shines a spotlight on the failings of a decaying capitalist system.

Ten years ago the great palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould died in New York of cancer. It was the second time that Gould had faced this terrible disease and this time he was defeated by it. The name of Gould will always be linked to his “punctuated equilibrium theory”, published in 1977 with his colleague Niles Eldredge.

A new documentary produced by the BBC, called ‘The Secret Life of Chaos’ has attempted, with a degree of success, to reveal how the latest developments in science through ‘chaos theory’ are finally beginning to make redundant any religious explanation of the workings of the universe and the emergence of intelligent life.

We are constantly bombarded with the myth that capitalism drives innovation, technology, and scientific advancement. But in fact, the precise opposite is true. Capitalism is holding back every aspect of human development, and science and technology is no exception.