PART I: WHAT SCIENCE DOES
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY.
CHAPTER II. HISTORICAL
CHAPTER III. THE EXISTING ORGANIZATION OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN BRITAIN
CHAPTER IV. SCIENCE IN EDUCATION
CHAPTER V. THE EFFICIENCY OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
CHAPTER VI. THE APPLICATION OF SCIENCE
CHAPTER VII. SCIENCE AND WAR
CHAPTER VIII. INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE
PART II: WHAT SCIENCE COULD DO
CHAPTER IX. THE TRAINING OF THE SCIENTIST
CHAPTER X. THE REORGANIZATION OF RESEARCH
CHAPTER XI. SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION
CHAPTER XII. THE FINANCE OF-SCIENCE
CHAPTER XIII. THS STRATEGY OF SCIENTIFIC ADVANCE
CHAPTER XIV. SCIENCE IN THE SERVICE OF MAN
CHAPTER XV. SCIENCE AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
CHAPTER XVI. THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF SCIENCE T
I. Figures concerning Universities and Scientific Societies.
II. Government Aid e d Research.
III. Industrial Research.
IV. War Research Expenditure
V. Report of Parliamentary Science Committee.
VI. The Organization of Science in France.
VII. Science in the U.S.S.R.
VIII. Project for Scientific Publication and Bibliography.
IX. Report of the International Peace Campaign Science
X. Associations of Scientific Workers.
The events of the past few years have led to a critical examination of the function of science in society. It used to be believed that the results of scientific investigation would lead to continuous progressive improvements in conditions o£ life; but first the War and then the economic crisis have shown that science, can be used as easily for destructive and wasteful purposes, and voices have-been raised demanding the cessation of scientific research as the only means of preserving a tolerable civilization. Scientists themselves, faced with these criticisms, have been forced to consider, effectively for the first time, how the work they are doing is connected with the social and economic developments which are occurring around them. This book is an attempt to analyse this connection; to investigate how far scientists, individually and collectively, are responsible for this state of affairs, and to suggest what possible steps could be taken which would lead to a fruitful and not to a destructive utilization of science.
It is necessary, to begin with, to consider the social function of science not absolutely, but as something which has grown up imperceptibly with the growth of science. Science has ceased to be the occupation of curious gentlemen or of ingenious-minds supported by wealthy patrons, and has become an industry supported by large industrial monopolies and by the State. Imperceptibly this has altered the character of science from an individual to a collective basis, and has enhanced the importance of apparatus and administration. But as these developments have proceeded in an uncoordinated and haphazard manner, the result at the present day is a structure of appalling inefficiency both as to its internal organization and as to the means of application to problems of production or of welfare. If science is to be of full use to society it must first put its own house in order. This is a task of extraordinary difficulty, because of the danger of any organization of science destroying that originality and spontaneity which are essential to its progress. Science can never be administered as part of a civil service, but recent developments both here and abroad, particularly in the U.S.S.R., point to the possibility of combining freedom and efficiency in scientific organization.
The application of science furnishes other problems. Here the tendency in the past has been almost exclusively that of directing science towards improvements in material production primarily through lowering the cost and towards the development of the instruments of war. This has led not only to technological unemployment but to an almost complete neglect of those applications which would be of more immediate value to human welfare, in particular to health and domestic life. The result has been an extraordinary disproportion in the development of different sciences, the biological and still more the sociological sciences having been starved at the expense of the more immediately profitable physical and chemical sciences.
Any discussion of the application of science necessarily involves questions of economics, and we are driven to enquire how far the various economic systems now existing or proposed can give the opportunity for the maximum application of science for human welfare. Further, economics cannot be separated from politics. The advent of Fascism, the sequence of wars now raging in the world and the universal preparations for a more general and terrible war have affected scientists not only as citizens, but also through their work. Science itself, for the first time since the Renaissance, seems in danger. The scientist has begun to realize his social responsibility, but if science is to fulfil the function which its tradition demands, and to avoid the dangers which threaten it, we require an increased appreciation, both on the part of scientists and of the general public, of the intricate relations between science and contemporary life.
To make an analysis of modern science itself has become a task far beyond the means of a single mind; indeed, there is as yet no such survey even in the form of-a composite work. It is even more difficult to analyse the complex relations which have grown up in the course of centuries between science, industry. Government, and general culture. Such a task would need not only a general grasp of the whole of science but the techniques and the knowledge of an economist, a historian, and a sociologist. These general statements must stand in part as an excuse for the character of this book. I am aware, and aware now far more acutely than when I began to write, of my lack of the ability, the knowledge, or the time which it needed. As a working scientist immersed in a special field, and having besides many other duties and occupations, I could never complete even the bibliographic research which the subject demanded nor give it concentrated attention for more than a few days at a time.
Accuracy both statistically and in detail should be a cardinal necessity in any general survey, but such accuracy is either not attainable at all owing to the scantiness of some of the records, or, owing to the superabundance and confusion of others, only obtainable with' immense effort. No one knows, for instance, how many scientists there are in any country, except perhaps in the U.S.S.R., and how much is spent on them and by whom. What they are doing should be ascertainable, as it appears in the numbers of the thirty thousand odd scientific periodicals, but nowhere is it possible to find how and why they do it.
In describing and criticizing the conduct of scientific work I have had to depend primarily on personal experience. This is open to a double disadvantage: the expedience may have been unrepresentative or the conclusions biased. As to the first, the, result of many conversations with scientists of every category in many fields convinces me that much of what I have experienced can be matched almost anywhere else in science. As to the second, it must be frankly admitted that I am biased. I have resented the inefficiency, the frustration and the diversion of scientific effort to base ends, and indeed it was on account of this that I came to consider the relation of science to society and to attempt this book. If in detail bias may seem to lead to harsh judgments, it cannot be denied that the existence, of a resentment which is widespread among scientists is itself a proof that all is not well with science. Unfortunately, it is not possible in any published book to speak freely and precisely about the way science is run. The law of libel, reasons of State, and still more the unwritten code of the scientific fraternity itself forbid particular examples being held up alike for praise or blame. Charges must be general and to that degree unconvincing and lacking in substantiation. Yet if the general thesis is correct, scientists will be able to supply their own examples, while non-scientists can check the ultimate results of science by their own experience and appreciate to what extent the thesis of this book provides an explanation of how this occurs.
For those who have once seen it, the frustration of science is a very bitter thing. It shows itself as disease, enforced stupidity, misery, thankless toil, and premature death for the great majority, and an anxious, grasping, and futile life for the remainder. Science can change all this, but only science working with those social forces which understand its functions and which march to the same ends.
Against this grim but hopeful reality, the traditional piety of a pure unworldly science seems at best a phantastic escape, at worst a shameful hypocrisy. That, nevertheless, is the picture that we have been taught to make of science, while the one here presented will be unfamiliar to many and seem blasphemy to some. This book will, however, have served its purpose if it succeeds in showing that there is a problem and that on the proper relation of science and society depends the welfare of both.
In writing this book I have had the help of more people than I can name here. I owe very much to the criticisms and suggestions of my friends and colleagues, particularly H. D. Dickinson, J, Fankuchen, Julian Huxley, Joseph Needham, John Pilley and S. Zuckerman. For much of the material, particularly the statistical material, I am- indebted to the work of Mrs. Brenda Ryerson, M. V. H. Wilkins and Dr. Ruhemann, who also contributed an appendix on science in the U.S.S.R. Finally, my special thanks are due to Miss P. S. Miller for her revision of the manuscript.
Birkbeck College, September 1938.
Part I. WHAT SCIENCE DOES
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY
The Challenge to Science
What is the social function of science? A hundred or even fifty years ago this would have seemed a strange, almost meaningless, question even to the scientist himself, far more so to the administrator or the plain citizen. Ifscience had any function at all, which few stopped to consider, it would have been assumed to be one of universal beneficence. Science was at once the noblest flower of the human mind and the most promising source of material benefactions. While it might be doubted whether it furnished as good a liberal education as the study of the classics, there could be no doubt that its practical activities were the main basis of Progress.
Now we have a very different picture. The troubles of our times seem themselves to be a consequence of that very progress. The new methods of production which science has brought into being lead to unemployment and glut without serving to relieve the poverty and want which are as widespread in the world as ever before. At the same time, the weapons devised by the application of science have made warfare a far more immediate and more terrible risk, and have diminished almost to vanishing point that personal security which was one of the chief triumphs of civilization. Of course, all these evils and disharmonies cannot be blamed exclusively on science, but there is no denying that they would not occur in their present form if it had not been for science, and for that reason the value of science to civilization has been and is being called into question. As long as the results of science appeared, at least to the more respectable classes, as unmixed blessings, the social function of science was so much taken for granted as not to need examination. Now that science appears in a destructive as well as a constructive role, its social function must be examined because its very right to exist is being challenged. The scientists, and with them a number of progressively minded people, may feel that there is no case to answer and that it is only through an abuse of science that the world is in its present state. But this defence can no longer be considered to be self-evident; science must submit to examination before it can clear itself of these accusations.
The Impact of Events. —The events of the last twenty years have done more than cause a different attitude towards science by people at large; they have profoundly changed the attitudes of scientists themselves towards science and have even entered the fabric of scientific thought. With what appears to be a strange coincidence, the disturbing events of the Great War, the Russian revolution, the economic crisis, the rise of Fascism, and the preparation for newer and more terrible wars have been paralleled inside the field of science by the, greatest changes in theory and in general outlook that it has undergone in the past three centuries. The basis of mathematics has itself been shaken by the controversies on axiomatics and logistics. The physical world of Newton and Maxwell has been completely overturned in favour of relativity and quantum mechanics, which still remain half-understood and paradoxical theories. Biology has been revolutionized by the development of bio-chemistry and genetics. All these developments, following quickly one after another in the life-time of individual scientists, have forced them to consider, far more deeply than in preceding centuries, the fundamental basis of their beliefs. Nor have they been spared the impact of external forces. The war, for scientists of all countries, meant using their knowledge for direct military purposes. The crisis affected them immediately, blocking scientific advance in many countries and threatening it in others. Finally, Fascism showed that even the centre of modern science could be affected by superstitions and barbarities which were thought to have been outgrown by the end of the Middle Ages.
Should Science he suppressed? —The result of all these shocks has been, not unnaturally, a state of great confusion both for the scientists themselves and for the estimation of science. Voices have been raised—and raised in such an unexpected place as the British Association—for the suppression of science, or at least for the suppression of the application of its discoveries. The Bishop of Ripon preaching the British Association sermon in 1927 said:
“... Dare I even suggest, at the risk of being lynched by some of my hearers, that the sum of human happiness outside scientific circles would not necessarily be reduced if for ten years every physical and chemical laboratory were closed and the patient and resourceful energy in them transferred to recovering the lost art of getting on together and finding the formula of making both ends meet in the scale of human life...”—From The Times of 5th September 1927, p. 15.
The Revolt from Reason. —Not only have the material results of science been objected to, but the value of scientific thought itself has been called in question. Anti-intellectualism began to appear as the result of the impending difficulties of the social system towards the end of the nineteenth century, and found expression in the philosophies of Sorel and Bergson. Instinct and intuition came to be rated as more important than reason. To a certain extent if was the philosophers and ......... [..........]