by Rev. Thomas Sherlock, B.Sc.
Science, almost unknowingly, faces I crisis. Everything that men of science have held most dear is at stake. Knowledge of nature for its own sake, freedom to follow wherever the spirit of enquiry leads, international fellowship, all these are threatened. The danger does not come from without but from within. The peril arises from the outlook of certain contemporary scientists.
We may yet witness the paradoxical situation of Me true spirit of science being saved by the very Church which has so often. been accused of trying to stifle it. but in whkh alone love of truth has never faltered, in which freedom is properly valued, as the means of achieving good, and whirl: alone maintains its international char:Teter in the face of tyranny.
The value of being an actual spectator at the secent Conference on Science and World Order, as distinct from reading reports of what was said, is this: that by being present One can assess which statements had the enthusiastic support of the gathering and which fell on deaf eats.
After three days' vigil there could be no doubt. Any remark which contributed to the view that thc salvation of the world lay in the power of science, and there atone, received marked endorsement. Any warning, and there were many, that science was not all-sufficient for all things and could only attempt to be so at its peril was ignored.
To appreciate the position we must remember that to these speakers evolution in the widest sense is no mere hypothesis which has been verified only in parts. It is the very
air they breathe. " Evolution is the permanent background of modern science." " From now on man must mould his own environment and so evolve to higher things."
Such men are drunk with the success of material science, They feel that where so much has been accomplished who shall put a limit to the triumphs which still lie ahead. The question of the partial responsibility of men of science for the present war was not even raised. Many speakers pointed out that no country had cultivated science as intensely as Germany, but none pointed the moral.
Science Alone Can Discover . .
The social doctrine advocated can be gathered from the following quotations;
,, Morality needs no supernatural sone
:ions; science alone can discover how men can live in peace together. There is already a ' communitas' amongst scientific men which Is better than any religion." '" We must look to a classless. State for social stability."
" The young should be given a far greater part in the government of the world because they are intellectually equal to, and emotionally more mature that: their elders, hating been freed from the taboos and complexes from which their elders suffered."
" Science must be the predominant ingredient in education so as to supply the very large number of technicians who are required for the new world order and also to ensure that the legislators of the future shall appreckte the possibffities of science."
It appealed that the function in education of learning languages is to facilitate the in ternational progress of science. Large-scale planning ultimately leading to world planning is the final goal. The relationship of science to the State is best exemplied in the U.S.S.R. Each exercises an influence on the other, analogous to the alleged reciprocal influence of the British Government and the Bank of England. All these statements were received with considerable enthusiasm.
Russia, in fact, obviously supplied the conctete realisation of the ideals aimed at by this section. Furthermore, the success which has attended planning in Russia helped to kindle the enthusiasm which inspired both speakers and audience.
As M. Maisky said : " Planning is the very foundation of the economic life of the U.S.S.R. The only road to salvation is large-scale planning in world affairs, with the help of science. In this scientilic planning the experience of the Soviet should be of the utmost help.'
Are There Scientists?
One can readily appreciate that all members of the audience would make the best of their opportunities to dernonsoate sympathy with Russia at this moment of her history when she is making such a gallant light against a common foe. On the other hand, the enthusiasm of the gathering quite frequently seemed specifically for Russian culture and the Russian outlook, as was shown particularly by the applause which greeted so many of the remarks of Professor .1. B. S. Haldane. Hence it was not tut prising that when both American speakers pointed out that very successful really largescale planning had been carried out in their country with the help of private capital theii statements became matter for critical comment.
Such ad 171Clli r.% have ceased to be scientists. They are no longer searching for objective fact in that spirit of scepticism which science is said to engender. 1 hey have become doctrinaire enthusiasts who will presently, become fanatics.
They are being carried away by that faith and hope which Dr. Negrin describes us necessary for action, but which he points out is the exact opposite of the spirit of science.
Not So Extravagant
It would he most unfair to the Rritish Association to pretend that the views of one vociferous section in any way represented their official outlook. That is much more modest and more conservative and has been summarised by them in their charter of Scientific Principles.
There they recognise the special respon
sibilities which scientists have. They nowhere put forward extravagant claims. For them the fellowship of the Commonwealth of Science has the discovery of Truth as its highest aim. For this they ask liberty to learn and opportunity to teach. For this international co-operation is necessary. From this will continue to come the many benefits which science has brought to the world. They recognise, however, that " fresh discoveries open up undreamed-of potentialities for good or evil, but their proper use de
mands correspondingly high ethical standards."
Many individual speakers emphasised the dangers that lay ahead of science. 1 will confine myself to quoting three:—
Professor A. V. Hill devotes a large section of his paper to precisely this point. " If science becomes tied to emotion, to propaganda, to advel tiaernent, to particular social or economic theories it will cease altogether to have its general appeal, and its political immunity will be lost. Unless indeed the integrity of science is sternly maintained damage rather than advantage will result from its introduction into govetnment."
A Pole from Cracow, who showed himself a most enthusiastic supporter of Mr. H. G. Wells, nevertheless uttered the following warning: " Because of the 'evolutionary nature of scientific discoveries progress should proceed through older channel,. wherever possible. Since it is useless to expect the humanists to take an interest in science. scientists must take the. lead in bridging the gap between them and the humanists. Otherwise scientific planning can only lead to a monstrous organised official tyranny."
Finally, theic was a solemn warning given by Professor Max Born. " Liberty of science is threatened not only by Nazis but also by world planning, which might make men think in only one line. We shall plan when we have thought things out, hut we shall not plan thinking."
There is ,early a distinct cleavage of opinion in scientific circles on the problem Whither Science? One section would hurry it down unexplored paths of leadership in social questions. The other would have it proceed along lines of development which preserved a continuity with its historic past.
Their idea of the nature of their subject I have expressed elsewhere in the following words: " Science is a genuine sustained attempt on the part of the conlraternity of Like-minded men through the ages to understand the nature of the world in which they tind themselves, partly due to interest in that nature for its own sake and partly with the idea that with the aid, of•this increasing knowledge more and more could be done for the good of humanity."
This view of science is the historical one and represents the ideal which has in fact animated science in all its branches in both ancient and modern times. Science owes its greatness to a ceitaM robust confidence in its methods and its mission, and its achievements to date are no small justification of that frame of mind.
Science in Social Sphere To those who hold this s leW the future of science in the social sphere consists in the more widespread and more intensive application of its methods to the many material problems which confront the statesmen of the world. They can show the leaders of the people lines along which development can take place to greater material prosperity. They can solve the many problems of public health and draw up programmes which will have as their inspiration prevention is better than cure. They can do all this and much more of the same kind without in any way being false to the tradition of their branch of learning.
This view of the nature and role of science I shat is now at ,,take. If the holders of the opposite views who received such support from the conference have their way science in the future will become something scry different. It will fuse itself with statesmanship to produce a peculiar alloy which will be neither science nor statesmanship. They will find, as Professor Hill points out, that in the long run compromise is an indispensable ingredient of government. It has. however, no place in science. Ottly by radically altering its nature can science ever become the new thing which they propose.
They may find all too soon that the uneasy partnership on a supposed basis of equality will give place to a state of affairs in which those concerned with government exercise their power and govern, amongst other things, science. Science will then have lost that integrity which arose from its devotion to truth. It will have become one more servant in the absolute state which science itself has helped to create.
Saved by the Church
The notion that perhaps the spirit of science shall be saved by the Church front the dangers that threaten it is by twz means as far-fetched as might at first sight appear. Much was made by the President of the British Association of the international character of science, both past and present.
It is seldcim realised that this traditional brotherhood of scientific men while engendered by a common interest in the marvels of nature had its historic roots in that cornmunity of learning which the Church fostered in the Middle Ages. and found its expression in Latin, the lingua franca of learned men and the mother tongue of the Church.
The freedom of science, said by many speakers now to be extinct in Nazi Germany. will find its champion in the Church. She alone throughout the ages has heen able to withstand national tyranny because she alone understands that freedom is not an end in itself but a necessary condition for achieving good.
In a world dominated by so much materialism the Church is left as the unconquerable champion of truth for its own sake. She has never sacrificed one tittle of truth for the sake of material gain. At this crisis in the history of Science the Church stands as a potential ally of those scientists who share her view on the value of truth..
Zeal for limb and freedom to pursue it in an international spirit of brotherhood have ever been the hallmark of science. Let us not now accept any base substitute massproduced in the laboratories of dialectical materialism.