A difficult readjustment in the scientist's conception of duty is imperatively necessary. As Lord Adrain said in his address to the British Association, unless we are ready to give up some of our old loyalties, we may be forced into a fight which might end the human race. This matter of loyalty is the crux. Hitherto, in the East and in the West alike, most scientists, like most other people, have felt that loyalty to their own state is paramount. They have no longer a right to feel this. Loyalty to the human race must take its place. Everyone in the West will at once admit this as regards Soviet scientists. We are shocked that Kapitza who was Rutherford's favourite pupil, was willing when the Soviet government refused him permission to return to Cambridge, to place his scientific skill at the disposal of those who wished to spread communism by means of H-bombs. We do not so readily apprehend a similar failure of duty on our own side. I do not wish to be thought to suggest treachery, since that is only a transference of loyalty to another national state. I am suggesting a very different thing; that scientists the world over should join in enlightening mankind as to the perils of a great war and in devising methods for its prevention. I urge with all the emphasis at my disposal that this is the duty of scientists in East and West alike. It is a difficult duty, and one likely to entail penalties for those who perform it. But, after all, it is the labours of scientists which have caused the danger and on this account, if on no other, scientists must do everything in their power to save mankind from the madness which they have made possible. Science from the dawn of History, and probably longer, has been intimately associated with war. I imagine that when our ancestors descended from the trees they were victorious over the arboreal conservatives because flints were sharper than coconuts. To come to more recent times, Archimedes was respected for his scientific defense of Syracuse against the Romans; Leonardo obtained employment under the Duke of Milan because of his skill in fortification, though he did mention in a postscript that he could also paint a bit. Galileo similarly derived an income from the Grant Duke of Tuscany because of his skill in calculating the trajectories of projectiles. In the French Revolution, those scientists who were not guillotined devoted themselves to making new explosives. There is therefore no departure from tradition in the present day scientists manufacture of A-bombs and H-bomb. All that is new is the extent of their destructive skill.
I do not think that men of science can cease to regard the disinterested pursuit of knowledge as their primary duty. It is true that new knowledge and new skills are sometimes harmful in their effects, but scientists cannot profitably take account of this fact since the effects are impossible to foresee. We cannot blame Columbus because the discovery of the Western Hemisphere spread throughout the Eastern Hemisphere an appallingly devastating plague. Nor can we blame James Watt for the Dust Bowl although if there had been no steam engines and no railways the West would not have been so carelessly or so quickly cultivated To see that knowledge is wisely used in primarily the duty of statesmen, not of science; but it is part of the duty of men of science to see that important knowledge is widely disseminated and is not falsified in the interests of this or that propaganda.
Scientific knowledge has its dangers; but so has every great thing. And over and beyond the dangers with which it threatens the present, it opens up, as nothing else can, the vision of a possible happy world, a world without poverty, without war, with little illness. And what is perhaps more than all, when science has mastered the forces which mould human character, it will be able to produce populations in which few suffer from destructive fierceness and in which the great majority regard other people, not as competitors, to be feared, but as helpers in a common task. Science has only recently begun to apply itself to human beings except in their purely physical aspect. Such science as exists in psychology and anthropology has hardly begun to affect political behaviour or private ethics. The minds of men remain attuned to a world that is fast disappearing. The changes in our physical environment require, if they are to bring well being, correlative changes in our beliefs and habits. If we cannot effect these changes, we shall suffer the fate of the dinosaurs, who could not live on dry land.
I think it is the duty of science. I do not say of every individual man of science, to study the means by which we can adapt ourselves to the new world. There are certain things that the world quite obviously needs; tentativeness, as opposed to dogmatism in our beliefs: an expectation of co-operation, rather than competition, in social relations, a lessening of envy and collective hatred These are things which education could produce without much difficulty. They are not things adequately sought in the education of the present day.
It is progress in the human sciences that we must look to undo the evils which have resulted from a knowledge of the physical world hastily and superficially acquired by populations unconscious of the changes in themselves that the new knowledge has made imperative. The road to a happier world than any known in the past lies open before us if atavistic destructive passion can be kept in leash while the necessary adaptations are made. Fears are inevitable in our time, but hopes are equally rational and far more likely to bear good fruit. We must learn to think rather less of the dangers to be avoided than of the good that will be within our grasp if we believe in it and let it dominate our thoughts. Science, whatever unpleasant consequences it may have by the way, is in its very nature a liberator, a liberator of bondage to physical nature and, in time to come a liberator from the weight of destructive passion. We are on the threshold of utter disaster or unprecedented glorious achievement. No previous age has been fraught with problems so momentous and it is to science that we must look for happy issue.
In modern times, the crux of the matter as far as scientists are concerned is that
This fact is mentioned in the first sentence of the passage:"A difficult readjustment in the scientist's conception of duty is imperatively necessary."
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