Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Science Policy for the University (1972)

U.P. President Salvador P. Lopez together with U.P. faculty dialogue with President Ferdinand E. Marcos during the period of the First Quarter Storm (source:

 By Salvador P. Lopez
(Editor’s note: These are the remarks of Dr. Salvador P. Lopez at the dedication ceremonies of the UP Natural Science Research Center on November 13, 1972 where he explains not only his science policy but also UP’s role during turbulent times. The speech is uploaded with permission from the University of the Philippines System Information Office)
About 10 days ago, when Director Bienvenido T. Miranda came to invite me to the ceremonies marking the formal inauguration of the UP Natural Science Research Center, I was elated to accept. This building is, after all, the most important academic structure begun and completed during my administration. Since the day in February 1969, when President Marcos approved the release of funds for this building during a visit to the University, I have literally seen this Center rise, day after day, from the ground up. The fact is that between 1969 and 1971, I used to jog every morning at half past five around the old golf course behind this building. In addition, this building also happens to be visible from my bedroom window at the Executive House.
Then, there were worrisome moments before and after the construction started when Prof. Miranda, the members of the Executive Advisory Committee, and I had to resolve a dispute about the authorship of the architectural plans for the building, or to wait impatiently for the end of a strike which had interrupted the work of construction. There was a lobbying in Congress, in the Budget Commission, in the Reparations Commission, and with President Marcos himself in order to ensure the inclusion of an item in the budget and its subsequent release by the Budget Commission, as well as the inclusion of an allocation for scientific equipment in the schedule of Japanese reparations.
Through all this, the ever loyal and indefatigable moving spirit and lobbyist extraordinary for the Center was Prof. Miranda. Prof. Miranda’s enthusiasm was such potency that it communicated itself to me, and I am still “suffering” from the infection. I have been a willing, even a cooperative victim, for Prof. Miranda is the type of faculty “activist” I like to have on our campus – unassuming, motivated not by personal interest but by something bigger and more important than himself, namely, the desire to strengthen the University as a center for scientific research and an arm of national development.
From what I have just said, you may now concede that I do have a reason, perhaps even a right, to be here this morning. And yet as I stand here I realize that I am not really in my element; I feel more like a fish out of water. Aside from the fact that I happen to be the President of the University, what entitles anyone to be making a speech here today who is by avocation a writer, by vocation a diplomat, by accident a university president, and by coincidence an educator?
My discipline were literature and philosophy; I took my PhD in English (there was such a degree in my time), and my MA in Philosophy. As I could not hurdle the UP entrance test in Mathematics, I gave up the premedical course I had intended to pursue – at no great loss, I feel certain, to medical science and the medical profession. I did take the required courses in botany and zoology. (Now, ever since becoming an amateur orchidist under the tutelage of Dr. Jose Vera Santos and Dr. Helen L. Valmayor of Los Banos, I wish I had taken more botany.) But I avoided physics and chemistry like the plague, and when confronted by a choice between physiography and anthropology, I opted for anthropology, finding the study of man more fascinating than the study of the earth he inhabits.
Today, 40 years out of college and nearing the end of a varied career as a writer, journalist, diplomat and university administrator, I have had occasion to regret the inadequacy of my training in the natural sciences. It is true that once out of college, as a writer and journalist, I had to acquire such basic scientific knowledge as I could, on the run, avidly reading popular science books and periodicals, and the excellent articles on science in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
This I did, not simply because a good writer and journalist do need to have a smattering of the sciences, but because my studies in philosophy had in fact predisposed me to the scientific attitude and the scientific method. Philosophy is, after all, the oldest intellectual disciplines, and two of its branches, logic and metaphysics, lead straight to the threshold of the natural sciences. The respect for reason, which goes back to Socrates, gave birth in more modern times to the inductive logic of Francis Bacon, and thence to the brilliant development of the scientific method which has made modern science possible.
And yet we must accept as dangerously real what CP Snow calls the dichotomy of the two cultures – the “traditional culture” based on philosophy and the humanities, and the “scientific culture” based on the natural sciences. In his famous lecture titled “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution,” Snow says that “there seems to be no place where the cultures meet,” and that those belonging to the two cultures, namely, the illiterate scientist who think the “Divine Comedy” is a humorous play about the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, and the ignorant non-scientist who cannot describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics to save his life, “can’t talk to each other” – a situation, according to Snow, that is fraught with grave danger for humanity. Thus, the scientists who developed the atomic bomb had neither the inclination nor the wisdom to ponder the moral and political consequences of their discovery, while the politicians who ordered the bomb’s manufacture and use in warfare did not fully comprehend its awesome destructiveness. They were not on speaking terms with each other because, first of all, they were not on the same intellectual wave-length.
This graphically illustrated the polarization of the two cultures and the risks of narrow specialization which the general education program in the universities is supposed to correct. But, with the enormous expansion of the field of knowledge and the endless proliferation of artistic creation and scientific research, there is growing doubt regarding the efficacy of the general education program in preventing the production of “illiterate scientists” and “ignorant non-scientists.”
Furthermore, there is among scientists themselves a division that is also fraught with serious consequences. I refer to the polarization between the pure scientists and the applied scientists. They are normally disdainful of each other, the former considering the latter as mere technicians or at best engineers, and the latter returning the compliment by referring to the former as impractical theorists or idle dreamers.
In most countries, but especially those in the underdeveloped world, the accent is understandably on applied science, on invention, technology and engineering. And so, too, it is going to be in this country; the emphasis will be on practical results, the discovery of improved techniques, the invention of better machines, the creation of new jobs, the production of more wealth, in short, the instant conversion of science into technology. And whether we like it or not, the University of the Philippines will somehow reflect this bias.
This is what makes this Natural Science Research Center so important in the life of the University and the nation. It is our guarantee that we shall not completely succumb to the lure of applied science, but that we shall continue the search for knowledge wherever it may lead, whether or not at the moment it can serve any practical purpose. After all, even the discovery of penicillin was the “accidental” result of pure research, and the release of atomic energy would not have been possible without Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc2 .
Let me now refer to more mundane matters and give you a brief projection of our science policy in the University. As a non-scientist President, who however believes in science as the great benefactor and liberator of mankind, I intend to devote increasingly substantial resources to the development of our science departments and the improvement of our scientific research facilities. Our faculty development program will give priority to advanced training in the scientific disciplines. Our natural science researchers will receive a fair share of available funds for research, whether coming from the University budget, from the National Science Development Board, or from other domestic, foreign or international sources.
A new science pavilion is being constructed across the street with funds donated by Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas. Should our researchers begin to feel cramped in these quarters, we shall consider building an annex in the area adjacent to it. Since the master plan for Diliman calls for the grouping of all student residence halls on the northern side of the campus, we intend eventually to convert the Sampaguita and Kamia dormitory buildings into additional office spaces, laboratories and lecture halls of the UP natural science complex.
It is not that we intend to discriminate against other disciplines and spoil our scientists. It is simply that we believe that UP can most conclusively prove its mettle as a university and its title to excellence by maintaining its zeal and capability for the pursuit of truth and knowledge for their own sake. This belief is founded on the certainty that basic research is truly basic in the sense that without it applied science is soon impoverished and must wither and die.
Finally, may I ask you to indulge me in the expression of a wistful thought not, I trust, a presumptuous hope. Assuming that the practice of naming certain academic buildings after deceased former Presidents of the University will continue, may I put in a bid for the UP NSRC building as the one which I would prefer to be named in memory of me when I am gone.
Let me close by thanking Prof. Miranda, the Chairman and Members of the Executive Advisory Committee for asking me to come to this inaugural ceremony. Prof. Miranda was candid enough to say that he wanted to hold the ceremony as soon as possible this month, while I am still around as President. Like so many people in and out of the University, he is fearful I would not be here for long.
My “courtesy resignation” is, of course, on file, and it may be accepted anytime. This, then, may be an appropriate occasion to say that the only thing that keeps me in the University is a sense of obligation and responsibility. This University is one of the most valuable institutions of the Republic and it has been placed in my care. Fate has decreed that I should be at the helm during the most turbulent and perilous period of its history confronted in the last four years by student power, and now confronted, for nobody knows how long, with State power. I see my duty clearly: for as long as I am able, I shall endeavor to preserve the University, to keep it going, to keep it intact through these years of crisis to better times.

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