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Chapter XVII: Science and the Science of Science


The explosion of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima, in its dramatic and tragic impressiveness, awoke mankind to a vivid realization of the life-and-death importance of science in human affairs. As an application of modern physics it exemplified the astonishing advance of scientific discovery and organized collaboration. It promised a great step forward in the release and control of the forces of nature — men began at once to discuss the uses of atomic energy in industry and medicine. But while these beneficent uses of atomic energy were promised, the first uses that were realized were destructive. Hence there arose the fearful doubt that this epoch-making discovery, instead of contributing greatly to human convenience and happiness, might be the instrument of catastrophe.

This danger, now so widely recognized and feared, raises in acute form the question of the good of science. There was a long period in human history when this question would have seemed quite unnecessary, if not impertinent — at least in Western Europe and the United States. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the opinion widely prevailed that in order to be beneficent science needed only to be delivered from authority and obscurantism — needed only, in short, to be true to itself. During the nineteenth century the prestige of science continued to increase — through its spectacular discoveries, through the multiplication of its applications, and through its alliance with an industrialized economy.

At the same time, it is true, the position of science was becoming less tenable. Its old opponents, who accused it of stressing “material” to the exclusion of “spiritual” values, rallied against it. Along with all intellectual enterprises it was undermined by the growth of divers forms of anti-intellectualism. In its applications to man it appeared to be self-defeating; since, curiously enough, it described man in mechanical terms that made him incapable either of pursuing science or of profiting by it. Nevertheless, when the First World War, with its disastrous consequences, broke upon the world the prestige of science was still high. After the First World War social tensions and conflicts were in large part attributed to the technological developments of industry. War itself had become increasingly technological. Thus the scientist, however innocently or reluctantly, appeared in the role of the ally of the monopolist and the right hand of the warmaker. The world awoke from the Second World War as from a terrifying and unforgettable nightmare in which nazism represented the awful partnership between the most advanced developments of science and the lowest forces of bestiality. Communism, in turn, derived from science not only the tools of economic progress, but weapons of oppression and terror. And then came the atomic bomb, suggesting the possibility that science, of which man had been so proud as the one incontestable guarantee of his progress, might lead to his total and final self-destruction. The scientific laboratory, once considered as a wellspring of life, took on the aspect of a witch's cauldron where scientists brewed the elixir of death.

This is the situation which calls for a fundamental examination of the role of science in human life. Is science intrinsically beneficent or intrinsically harmful? Or is science itself merely an instrument which may be put to good or bad uses? Is there anything in science itself which predetermines the uses to which it shall be put, or by which it finds the good use more congenial than the evil? Is the scientist qua scientist a benefactor of mankind, or does he become such only by accident, or by forces independent of his own scientific motivation? If science contains such evil possibilities that it must be controlled, how shall it be controlled, and by what principles? How can it be controlled without depriving it of that freedom which is the condition of its development? These questions are not academic. Unless answers can be found, man may seem to be faced with the necessity of restricting or abandoning one of his greatest powers for good lest through its abuse it become a fatal instrument of evil. The cultural science to which these questions are assigned is the science of science.


Since science is a kind of knowledge, description of science must begin with theory of knowledge; and since knowledge is itself a form of cognition it is necessary to go even further back. This subject constitutes one of the major tasks of philosophy, and it is evident that it cannot be introduced here save in its bare essentials with little or no argument. The position taken is, in brief, that cognition is expectation, that knowledge is qualified cognition, and that science is highly qualified cognition. The first of these theses, which identifies cognition with expectation, has already been introduced in connection with the cognitive mediation of interest. This thesis requires a brief restatement and defense.

The most serious of the apparent difficulties which beset this definition of cognition lies not in the identification of knowledge with expectation, but in the temporal ambiguity of expectation itself. The time of the act of expecting and the time of what is expected are different. How can one now expect what has not yet occurred? The present act of expectation has its object now, and must be said to have had its object even if that later object should never occur.

This paradox rests fundamentally on the false assumption that the description of a temporal event must be confined to the contemporary, whereas it is of the very essence of temporal occurrences that they are fully describable only in terms of other times, past or future. This is the case with time itself. It is of the very nature of any specific moment that it succeeds earlier moments and precedes later moments. When one states that at fifty-nine minutes past eleven it is about to be noon, one is describing that moment of time. Every “now” is before and after a “then.” The same analysis holds of events in time. Suppose that a broad jumper is now ready to leap. His neuro-muscular system and his bodily energies are now organized in a specific manner which can be described in terms of the present. But something has been omitted, the very fact indeed, which the expression “ready to jump” is designed to accentuate: the fact, namely, that this organization is headed towards a future act. The jumper is now about to jump later. If he should die of heart failure so that the event of jumping did not occur, it would still be the case that he had been about to jump. Various states of mind are thus describable only in terms of futurity: interest, will, disposition, expectation, and cognition.

The apparent difficulty of identifying cognition with expectation requires the introduction of another factor, namely, the object of expectation. There is no expecting without an expected. An expecting is always an expectation of something; it is always proper, when expecting occurs, to inquire, “What is expected?” If the answer were, “Nothing is expected,” there would be no expecting. In order to take account of this fact it is necessary to provide expecting with an object which it has when it, the expecting, occurs, but which is itself non-occurrent, and which may or may not occur at a future time. This object has been designated as the “objective” or “problematic object.”

It is not necessary for the present analysis to assign the problematic object a precise status in the realm of being. It may be supposed to belong to a peculiar realm, called ‘subsistence.’ It may be anchored to mental existence, as a qualification of the act of expecting; or to external physical existence as what would characterize it if the expectation were fulfilled; or it may be anchored to both, as their connecting link. It is the same kind of entity as the hypothesis, or conceptual framework, of science. The one thing that is clear, and that it is essential to note at this point, is that taken in itself, abstractly, it does not occur at the same time with the act of expecting or with the event by which the expecting is fulfilled.

These distinctions make it possible to reconcile the future reference of expectation with those kinds of cognition which, on the face of it, are nonpredictive: with sense perception, which appears to be cognition of the present; and with memory and history which are cognitions of the past.

Sense perception varies between two extremes. At one extreme, presentation serves only to stimulate ulterior expectations. At this extreme the object of perception is a physical object — a system of expected presentations, in short, a problematic object. At the other extreme, presentation itself may assume a cognitive role. Attention is then directed to the color, shape, hardness, sound, and apparent shape which are being sensed. Is there or is there not then an attitude of expectancy? The answer is clearly affirmative. The attitude of purely sensory cognition (sometimes called “immediacy” or “intuition”) points to the prolongation of the present sensory content. The preparation for this content requires no new adjustment but the maintaining through time of the present adjustment. Because of this continuity and sameness of the content, and because its next moment is so close at hand, the future reference tends to be ignored. But when this interval of futurity reaches the zero point, when there is no expectation of the near or remote, no dwelling upon, or persistence, no return to the same, the sensory process sinks below the threshold of cognition. Most perceptual cognition lies between these two extremes — a mixture of continuing presentation with expectation of ulterior presentations more or less numerous and complex, and more or less systematic. It is this, as has been pointed out, which distinguishes the object of sense perception from the stimulus. What of cognition of the past?1 Here also there is no escape from the fact that cognition lives in time, and points ahead in time. But there is no reason to deny that it cannot also, in some distinguishable sense, point backward in time. It is a matter of empirical fact that this does happen; it is one of the commonest, though not one of the simplest, things in the world.

To account for this possibility it is necessary to recognize, in the first place, that the past is “irrevocable.” That which existed in the past may cease to exist at some later time; indeed if it is identified with the time of its existence it cannot exist at a later time, since it is of the essence of time that its moments cannot persist or recur. But this does not mean that the past is excluded from the domain of existence; for existence embraces what occurs at any time. The past is “there,” waiting with inexhaustible patience for the time of its discovery.

It is necessary, in the second place, to recognize that it is possible to think an idea of the past, now: the time of the thinking is 1953; the time of that which is thought of may be 1000 B.C.; the time of the thought, a problematic object, is neither now nor then, but is timeless.

But while this analysis is necessary to clear the ground it does not provide for the temporal reference of the idea — for the “pastness” of the past, for the “then” as distinguishable from the “now,” or for the relations of “earlier” and “later” in the specific senses which distinguish these from “before” and “after.” The past cannot be thought in terms of the timeless. It can be thought only because there is a “sense of time,” or immediately presented temporal perspective. This sensory perspective suffices to establish a direction, called “retrospect”; which may then by the introduction of concepts of order and magnitude be prolonged beyond the range of sensation. In this way — by the extrapolation of immediate memory, the remote and intermediate past can be arrived at, and the whole assumes the form of the chronological past.

The chronological past, once it has emerged, can then be explored at any time when an explorer of sufficient diligence and capacity appears on the scene. The later explorer may visit and revisit the earlier — the order of his visiting reversing the order of events in the region visited. And if he be cognitively minded he will form expectations of what he will find there. He may find what he expected, or he may find the novel and surprising.


Cognition is expectation, but knowledge is not the same thing as cognition. Without this distinction it is impossible to make sense of the question, “Is knowledge possible?” Cognition is an indisputable fact, but whether it is possible that it should acquire the further requirements which distinguish knowledge is debatable. Without the datum of cognition it would be impossible to settle this debate, or even to ask the question.

It is demanded of knowledge that it shall be true, proved, and certain. Unless a cognition possesses these characters, it is cognition without being knowledge. When there is a cognitive interest these are the qualifying attributes of its object. The cognitive interest, in other words, is an interest in cognition because of its being true, proved, and certain; these become the standards by which it is judged. And the qualifications must be so conceived as to be applicable to cognition. True, proved, and certain cognition, that is to say, knowledge, must fall within the realm of ideally or theoretically possible cognitions, even if it should be unattainable.

Each of the qualifications of knowledge has its opposite: the opposite of truth, is error; of proof, dogma; of certainty, doubt. That which is capable of truth must also be capable of error; that which is capable of proof must also be capable of dogma; that which is capable of certainty must also be capable of doubt. The application of this requirement to truth, excludes a common use of the term, in which it is synonymous with ‘real’ or ‘existent.’ A mountain or river cannot be said to be true because it cannot be erroneous. An expectation, on the other hand, because of having a problematic object, can be either true or erroneous.

A judgment, construed as expectation, is true when that which is expected agrees with that which is going to happen, or when a readiness to deal fits a prospective occasion. Two series — an unfolding series of attitudes and acts, and an unfolding series of events in the environment — are convergent. The judgment is true now, when it, the judgment, occurs as a state of preparedness in advance of that conjunction with the environmental occasion in which it finds its prepared dealings appropriate. The possibility of error consists in the fact that the judgment may occur when the corresponding occasion is not going to occur. The judgment may be destined not to fit the impending situation. It may be headed towards surprise rather than fulfillment.

Truth so conceived as the alternative to error, and as qualifying an act which in itself can be either true or erroneous, means that truth and error are “contingent.” Given a certain judgment, including its problematic object, its referents of truth or erroneousness are conditioned by circumstances beyond its control. Judgment itself is free and creative; the judging mind can form hypotheses and entertain ideas, of limitless variety and complexity. But though it “proposes,” the nature of things “disposes.” Which, if any, of its proposals is true as opposed to erroneous remains yet to be determined by events which are independent of itself.

The same analysis explains the conflict of judgments. In order that this shall occur, two judgments must both take place; the occurrence of the one act of judgment does not exclude the occurrence of the other act of judgment. But they cannot both be fulfilled or surprised; that which fulfills one will surprise the other. Similarly, the conflict of truth and error signifies the incompatibility of the same judgment's being both fulfilled and surprised by the same event.

If a cognition is to be said to constitute knowledge in the preferred sense, it must be more than true: its truth must be proved. And it can be true without being proved. Thus a man may judge truly that the sun will rise tomorrow, in the sense of being prepared to deal with that state of affairs, without a scintilla of evidence to support his judgment. As a matter of fact, such is the case with most cognitions, whether true or erroneous. They may be “hit upon” by accident; one may “guess the truth”; one may imbibe it unconsciously from one's surroundings, or possess it unconsciously by instinct or imitation, or adopt it more or less consciously by “wishful thinking” or submission to authority. That which is proved, the judgment, is capable of being proved or disproved, or of being neither proved nor disproved, that is, dogmatic.

Since proof is the chief criterion of that preëminently qualified form of cognition called science, this topic will be examined more fully below. Suffice it here to call attention to a broad consideration which follows from the analysis of cognition. The proof of cognition will be proof of expectation; that is, it calls for evidence that a given expectation is destined to fulfillment rather than to surprise. The proof of a cognition will look to the sequel, rather than its internal structure. This implies that of the two types of proof which are ordinarily accepted, namely, a priori proof and empirical proof, the latter must be considered as conclusive, the former only as provisional. Insofar as induction is empirical, and deduction is a priori, final proof will be inductive rather than deductive.

Certitude, construed as decision, a fixation of belief, differs from both truth and from proof. Man is often “most ignorant of what he's most assured” when ‘ignorance’ means the absence of truth and proof. There is a meaning of ‘certitude’ which has its own opposite, distinct from the opposites of truth and proof. The opposite of truth is error; the opposite of proof is dogma; the opposite of certitude is doubt. The choice of words is optional, and verbal usage is variable; the important thing is to recognize the difference between these three pairs of opposites, by whatever names they are called.

‘Certitude,’ as the term is here employed, signifies commitment. Cognition being defined as a set, readiness or preparedness of future response, it follows that the mind may be more or less finally and irretrievably “made up.” When the mind is wholly made up in a certain determinate manner the prepared response has been carried to the point at which alternative responses are excluded; like the train which having passed all junctions and sidings is bound to follow a single track. To this is opposed that attitude in which several responses are held open; or in which each response is adopted only tentatively. The state of the believing mind is then hesitant, wavering, undecided, doubting.

Indubitability is thus a condition of the individual at the moment of judgment. He can no longer doubt. But what he is incapable of doubting someone else may doubt, or he may himself doubt later. All objects of judgment are dubitable, but the act of doubting may be impossible in any given condition of the individual or of society.

Although proof and certitude are different there are causal relations between them which are partially accountable for their confusion. Proof tends to create certainty, while disproof tends to create uncertainty. When proof follows fast upon judgment there is “little room for doubt,” as compared with a situation in which the proof lags behind. Cognitions which are not demonstrable at all easily acquire certainty by imitation or unconscious contagion.

These considerations shed some light on the dark topic of probability. There is a probability which means degree of uncertainty; but there is a difference between this “subjective” probability and objective probability; or between psychological probability and mathematical or logical probability; or between a probable judgment and a judgment of probability. The last may be as indubitable as any mathematical or logical judgment.

Cognition cannot be said to have earned the name of ‘knowledge’ until it has reached a decision. It does not consist in merely “entertaining” judgments, or in adopting them tentatively in order to prove them, but in adopting them. The mind which is not “made up” has not concluded its cognitive business. This does not mean that the mind may not be reopened, or that it may not be ready to open itself, or that it may not be a little open, but that it must not be too wide open. Certitude plays an important role in the value of knowledge. A wholly doubting judgment is of no practical use, nor would it satisfy a lover of knowledge for its own sake. But certitude is also necessary if new knowledge is to be built on old. So much for the definition of knowledge as qualified cognition. Be it noted for future reference that these qualifications do not in themselves connote value, for which it is necessary to introduce the factor of interest. A cognition can be true, proved, or certain, without as yet being either good or bad.


There is much confusion at the present time as regards the meaning of the term ‘science.’ In the curricula of schools and colleges it is preeminently identified with physics and chemistry, somewhat more doubtfully with biology, and still more doubtfully (apologetically or pretentiously) with psychology, politics, economics, and sociology. It is evident that it will not do to define science in terms of a part of itself — in terms of natural science, or physical science. The historical definition encounters the same difficulty. All scientists and scientists of science agree that something of great scientific importance happened in Europe during the seventeenth century, associated with the names of Galileo, Francis Bacon, and Newton. This is often referred to as “the beginning of modern science.” But though granting the importance of this period of science one cannot properly define science in terms of one of its own periods.

A more instructive approach to the definition of science is afforded by an examination of its method. Innovations of method are less precipitate than they first appear to be, and the more one learns about the history of science the more one is compelled to doubt that it began with Galileo's Dialogues in 1632, or with Newton's Principia in 1687 — there is always an Archimedes or Roger Bacon to dispute priority. But if attention is focused on method the question of dates is subordinated, and the question is shifted from “When did it happen?” to “What happened?” And here the answer is fairly clear, namely, that in the course of the development of European thought a certain human enterprise, which we call ‘science,’ became, after many ups and downs, more successful and progressive. It appears that what has made progress is cognition; that its progress has revealed more and more clearly those criteria which distinguish knowledge — namely truth, proof, and certitude; and that in proportion as these criteria have been explicitly recognized, the methods of satisfying them have been improved.

The emphasis on method in science must not be taken as substituting the method for the intent and the subject matter. Scientific method is not an activity to be carried on for its own sake, and to be applauded in proportion as it grows more ingenious and highly organized: if it does not yield a knowledge of something it is only an intellectual game. Nor must it be supposed that only those branches of knowledge whose methods are most highly perfected shall be recognized as knowledge. At the present time, and perhaps at any time in human history, the areas in which the most improved techniques are applicable comprise only a small fraction of the field of knowledge. The fundamental maxim of knowledge is to know as well as possible what there is to be known. It violates this maxim to disparage all knowledge except mathematics and physics and those parts of other branches of inquiry which employ the methods of mathematics and physics.

Science is distinguished, then, by its achieving, relatively to its subject matter, a comparatively high degree of those characteristics which distinguish knowledge, namely truth, proof, and certitude. The method of modern science enables it to satisfy these criteria. In its dedication to truth science defers to things as they are, independently of human subjectivity. Cognition is expectation, and the purpose of knowledge is that expectation shall agree with impending events not of its own making. During the modern period of European intellectual history men acquired an increasing respect for facts — otherwise the race would not have survived. But during long periods of human history certain beliefs have prevailed (very naturally and excusably) which have tended to dull the edge of their brutality.

In proportion as men have felt themselves powerless to control their environment, they have been eager to believe that it was already on their side. Having found it to be sometimes friendly they have interpreted its indifference and hostility as friendliness in disguise. As science has developed it has endeavored to rid itself of this optimistic dogma that pleasingness to man is a condition of the occurrence of natural events. Even when it has stressed its usefulness, science has come to recognize that it can serve men only when it tells them the worst. The only way men can control nature is by first letting it speak for itself.

This fundamental “realism” of science would seem to be controverted by its increased activity and inventiveness. It may be argued that if the aim of science is to discover things as they are, it should simply expose the mind to them, and submit passively to their imprint, or at most pay attention; whereas it is generally agreed that as science develops it becomes a more and more complicated “operation.” But assuming that its aim is to discover, it does not follow that this is easily accomplished. Indeed, the hasty assumption that all that is necessary in order to discover things is to glance in their direction has been largely responsible for the failures of science: it has left men prey to their unconscious subjectivity, their habits, bias, and limitations of outlook; and it has led them to be satisfied with superficiality. If things are to answer for themselves they have to be asked the right questions, and devising the right question becomes a major part of the scientific procedure. The course of events has to be detected; and the deeper and more constant course of events requires a correspondingly intenser and more elaborate effort of detection.

Modern science is distinguished by its emphasis on experiment and on mathematics. These methods can be understood in terms of truth, construed as discovery. Experiment is a method of isolating or repeating certain situations — so that they may speak clearly for themselves. In the world as one finds it there are a great many things going on at the same time. Astronomy began to be scientific at a comparatively early date because the celestial bodies, in their grosser characteristics and motions, stand out by themselves and repeat themselves. The laboratory attempts to achieve something of the same isolation with events that occur on the surface of the earth. It sets them apart so that they can speak unambiguously for themselves. The so-called “controlled experiment” means precisely that: the creation of an artificial situation in which only selected factors are present, and can be repeated, and so that there can be a maximum assurance of precisely what it is that is under observation.

The contention that the fundamental purpose of science is to bring to light the independent and “stubborn” facts may seem to be belied by the appearance of mathematics on the scene, and by its increasingly prominent role. The contrary, however, is the case. Even if it be supposed that mathematical systems rest on assumptions and postulates, the “if-then” by which they proceed is more relentless than the clap of thunder; one may contrive to prevent the clap of thunder from following the flash of lightning, but there is no way of preventing a conclusion from following its premises.

But why should mathematics be conjoined with experiment and enter into the knowledge of existence? Because while mathematical entities do not exist in themselves, they are nevertheless constituents of all existent things. Mathematics comprises those formal or structural characteristics, such as number, magnitude, and order, which belong to the existent world because the existent world is numerous, large or small, and more or less orderly. While mathematics does not deal with space and time, it is peculiarly revealing of those spatial and temporal relations which do fit the realm of natural existence.2

The mathematical emphasis of science can be further understood as meeting the demand for generalized expectations. Knowledge of particulars is knowledge. The expectation of a particular smile from a particular friend, or of the next note in a melody can be, and usually is, an about-to-be-fulfilled expectation, and hence true. Truth does not consist in generality. But if true knowledge consists in being prepared for contingencies there is a peculiar virtue in being prepared for a class or system of contingencies. Hence the end product of science, is a law, stated in terms of universals. And mathematics serves to reveal the structures and relations of universals.

It has been contended that the characteristic feature of science as revealed in modern science is its progressiveness. That this is a notable feature of science is incontestable. The nature of science is to be found, however, not in its progressiveness, but in the reasons for its progressiveness. Science is progressive, in the first place, because of its continuity. If, as has been suggested, the latest achievements of physics would be acclaimed by Galileo and Newton,3 this is because successive scientists are engaged in a common task of knowing, for which they accept the same criteria of success or failure. The later scientist succeeds in doing what the earlier scientist failed to do, or he does the same thing better. But modern science is progressive, in the second place, because its theories, being proved in general terms, create a surplus, both of other theories which they generate, and of further particular judgments in which they can be applied. Because it provides explanations, and types of explanations, in excess of the requirements of the data with which it originates, every advance in science opens new vistas.


The thesis that science is simply knowing carried to a comparatively advanced stage of excellence, requires that it shall satisfy in a preëminent degree the criterion of proof.

The fundamental fact to be kept firmly in mind in the examination of this vexatious topic is the fact that the demonstrandum, that which is to be found, is the truth of a cognition; not the truth of a “proposition” in the purely logical sense of that term, but the truth of a judgment or expectation in the psychological sense of the term. So conceived all proof is of the same general type. An expectation or advanced preparedness is true when it is about to be fulfilled; it is proved true or proves true, when it is fulfilled, or is “verified”; having been so proved, it retains its proof in the form of verifiability. In other words scientific proof is only a more refined and elaborate form of what is called “learning by experience.”

When scientific proof is so defined two important consequences follow: “deduction” and “induction” are not two distinct and opposing forms of proof, but two inseparable parts of proof; no proof can escape contingency and fallibility.

When an expectation is formulated conceptually, it becomes a hypothesis or theory. It is then possible to examine its structure and its relations to other conceptual structures. This is to discover “what a theory implies.” Thus the concept “man” may be found to imply the concept “organism” and the concept “death.” This procedure of “finding” is sometimes called “analytical” but it is nevertheless a cognitive procedure. There is a judgment that can be fully described only by stating that there is an expectation of one concept's being implied in another, which is fulfilled.

But in the second premise of the famous syllogism, the premise that “Socrates is a man,” the procedure is similar. There is an expectation of the individual Socrates, namely, the concept ‘humanity’: humanity is expected of him, and if this expectation is fulfilled the judgment “Socrates is a man,” is proved.

And, finally, the conclusion that “Socrates is mortal” is said to “follow from” proof of the two premises. Man's being proved mortal and Socrates’ being proved a man, taken jointly, imply that Socrates is mortal. The expectation here is the implication of the conclusion by the premises.

This final proof is said to be a priori because it is not necessary to inquire further and test the judgment of Socrates’ mortality by the fact of his death.

Proof, so construed, rests on the assumption that every particular is subsumable under some universal. Everything is a something; it remains to be seen what. This is the only sense in which the so-called “uniformity of nature” is assumed.4 But it is by no means a “pure assumption.” Nor is it a “law of thought.” It is the most frequently and unexceptionally verified of all hypotheses. Or, it may be stated in terms of the judgment that particularity implies universality; so that to conceive Socrates as a particular is already to conceive him as subsumable under a universal.

All judgments are fallible and no kind of proof, whether deductive, inductive, empirical, or “intuitive” can relieve them of the possibility of error. Deduction is not infallible. The truth of “then” or “therefore” is attended by its own corresponding hazard of error. It is possible to “conclude” erroneously that “it follows.” In deductive reasoning it is always possible, only too possible, to make “mistakes.” The whole elaboration of logical fallacies, as well as the schoolboy's miscalculations in arithmetic, testifies to this fact. The possibility of such mistakes is proportional to the length of the train of reasoning, that is, to the number of “there-fores” that are introduced.

Empirical knowledge is also inescapably fallible. The perception of the physical object is notoriously so — since it consists mainly of sensory expectations, which are not fulfilled. Sensation itself is cognitive only when it assumes the form of an expectation of further sensory quality in a certain quarter defined by sentient attention, or is open to confirmation by the sensory experience of other subjects. Even the so-called “mystical” experience, insofar as it is identifiable and describable, is shot through with expectancy which may or may not be fulfilled; the mystic will always assume that his experience is recoverable under specified conditions, whether by himself or by others; and will expect its persistent or unfolding characteristics.

Even the moment of verification itself is fallible. One expects a bell to ring momentarily; and one says that the expectation is fulfilled when it does ring. But this is an oversimple statement of the matter. It is not the ringing of the bell, but the perception of its ringing, in which the expectation is confirmed. The ringing of the bell would not confirm the expectation unless it were itself an object, and the same object as that of the original expectation. The ideational object becomes a perceptual object, but it is still a problematic object: even when the ringing of the bell is heard it is possible that the bell should not, in fact, be ringing.

Although there is no such thing as an infallible cognition, and no such thing as a true judgment which may not be erroneous, it is legitimate to speak of a minimum of fallibility. The common names for this are ‘self-evidence,’ ‘observation,’ ‘inspection,’ ‘immediacy,’ ‘intuition.’ The meaning is that the interval between the expectation and its fulfillment approaches zero, as its limit. When it reaches zero, there is no longer any cognition; when it is greater than zero there is a possibility of error. This penultimate stage of an expectation, just short of surprise or fulfillment, marks the maximum of proof, and is taken as “evidence” by which to prove other more remote judgments. It appears in two forms: “sensible” immediacy or intuition, such as the apprehension of a color or a tone; and “intellectual” immediacy or intuition, such as the apprehension of a mathematical or logical relationship.

Science is distinguished by the criterion of certainty as well as by the criteria of truth and proof. It takes these criteria in a certain order. Scientific proof is a proof of truth, and scientific certainty is a certainty of proof. It is still a subjective criterion, namely, the absence of doubt; but it is the removal of doubt not by default, but by evidence. In sensible and intellectual immediacy there is the minimum “room for doubt.” Doubt being removed, the judgment assumes the form of commitment; and may then become a premise of other knowledge, or a part of the permanent corpus of knowledge or a knowledge on which to base action — a knowledge on which to stake one's fortunes.


The analysis of interest has revealed the intimate relation between cognition and practice. All interest is mediated by cognition on some level — whether it be sense perception or articulate judgment, and whether it be true or erroneous, proved or dogmatic, certain or doubtful. This mediating cognition is the entering wedge of science into action, and justifies the most extravagant claims for the utility (or disutility!) of science in human life. Insofar as it does mediate action science may be said to be “applied,” as distinguished from “pure.”

Technology, as distinguished from knack or skill, is a kind of knowledge, and is immediately motivated by the cognitive interest; that is, the interest in truth, proof, and certainty. But its ulterior motive may or may not be cognitive. This may be expressed by saying that in technology the cognitive interest is a dependent interest. Technologism, in one of its untenable senses, is the doctrine that the cognitive interest is always a dependent interest.

Technology, then, is knowledge selected and processed for some ulterior use. The captain of a ship wishes to bring his cargo to a certain port; if he employs a navigator then the navigator is proved worthy of his hire by the captain's success. But the procedure of the captain and the navigator are not the same. Whereas the captain runs the ship, the navigator has to make calculations and observations before he can offer the captain useful advice; and in these operations he is governed by criteria of knowledge rather than by the success of the captain's voyage. If the captain wishes to sail the Seven Seas at all seasons of the year he has to employ an accomplished navigator, who can impart instructions as to how to reach any one of a large number of ports under different conditions. Proceeding from this small beginning we may now imagine that our captain desires to be prepared for all emergencies on land and sea, expanding his field of action until he becomes a sort of composite man whose practical interests, present and foreseeable, embrace those of every man. In this case the qualified consultant must be able to show his client how to do anything he can conceivably desire to do. The client becomes the practical man in general, and the consultant becomes the general technologist, or walking handbook of engineering.

But the difference of motive and standard still remains. The practical man enlarges his sphere of practice, but does not become less practical. The consultant, on the other hand, becomes more and more theoretical. He must increase his general funds to cover greater and more diverse demands. He must pass beyond the scene of action, and do more and more “homework.” He retreats into a laboratory where he does only the kinds of things which are done in order to know truly, demonstratively, and certainly. Eventually he ceases to be even a general technologist and becomes an astronomer and physicist. As the practical man and his consultant move away from the particular situation towards generality they nevertheless move in opposite directions — towards two opposite poles of generality. The practical man is interested in control, and ends by being a lover of power; the consultant is interested in truth, proof, and certainty, and ends by being a lover of knowledge.

Knowledge is knowledge, and power is power, but one must not add “and never the twain shall meet.” Knowledge gives power and is a condition of its possession. It is also correct to say that power conditions knowledge. In order to know one must be able to know, or to do those things by which knowledge is achieved. As science advances its implementation grows more elaborate, whether it be the calculations of the mathematician or the equipment of the laboratory. There is, in other words, an industry and technology of science, in which the results of science are applied to the uses of science. But knowledge does not constitute power; nor does power constitute knowledge. Blind and unenlightened action is still action; and unused knowledge is still knowledge.

The distinction between pure and applied science would seem to be contradicted by the fact that successful application is itself a proof of scientific truth. Thus, for example, the truth of the judgment that the earth is a sphere is proved by the voyager's circumnavigating it. The same event, namely, the arrival at the place of origin by continuing to move east to west is at one and the same time a practical success for the voyager, and a verification of the hypothesis of the geographer or astronomer. But although the same event plays two roles, the roles are different and their difference becomes more marked as the theoretical and the practical intents diverge. The theoretical scientist, like the closet geographer Kant, may have no ultimate interest in trade or zest for travel. If he could remain at home and discover the sphericity of the earth by geometrical and astronomical techniques, or by collecting the reports of other observers, he would probably prefer to do so. The voyager, on the other hand, is not interested, ultimately, in making calculations, or in verifying hypotheses, but in novel experiences or in bringing a cargo to market. The successful applications of science, while they do constitute proof — so far as they go — are not selected for that purpose. The application is a relatively clumsy, wasteful, and inconclusive proof, as compared with that conducted in the laboratory or the study. It may be the last which would be selected by the devotee of science.

In proportion as the theoretical interest asserts itself, hypotheses of wider generality will be substituted for hypotheses of lesser generality. The hypothesis that “if today I sail west from Lisbon, and keep on sailing, I shall eventually find myself in Lisbon again,” is replaced by the hypothesis that “if any one sails at any time from any point on the earth's surface and continues toward the same point of the compass, he will arrive at the point of departure.” This second hypothesis will be elaborated by spherical geometry, trigonometry, and astrophysics, and these will yield a vast number of further implications, such as the earth's precise deviation from sphericity, which may not in the least serve the mere voyager or trader.


Science as something which occurs in human history has its historical conditions. How is it to be explained, that is, accounted for? The subject is vast and complex, and it must suffice for present purposes to deal with certain broad considerations. There are two general questions: first, the question of the conditions of scientific opinion; and second, the question of the conditions of the scientific interest and enterprise.

The first of these questions is confronted by the challenge of social relativity.5 Since scientific opinion is a part of culture, it is influenced directly or indirectly, more or less, in one way or another, by all of its other parts. It does not follow, however, that scientific opinion based on evidence and comparatively free from irrelevant social influences may not itself be the product of social influences; as a monastic enclave of un-worldliness is a product of worldly forces. Indeed, this appears to be precisely what has happened. It involves no contradiction, once it is clearly understood. Disinterested science has proved as consistent with an individualistic social environment as Aryan mathematics or communist biology with a totalitarian social environment. It is a task of explanatory cultural science to account for an “atmosphere” favorable to science, and of applied cultural science to create such an atmosphere.

Scientific agreement and certainty are peculiarly affected by extra-evidential causes. Agreement is not a proof of truth. Taking the history of mankind as a whole there has been more agreement on error than on truth. Any opinion, however dogmatic, may be widely disseminated by habit, suggestion, emotional contagion, and artful propaganda. The fear of “indoctrination” often comes from those very scientific circles in which extreme emphasis is placed on “corroboration.” The scientific value of agreement depends altogether on how it is reached. When there is appeal to the same evidence, corroboration serves to clear the judgment of the accidents of individual subjectivity. Judgments about the same ought to be agreed on when they are true, because when they are true they conform to the same objective evidence. Agreement of opinion is usually a mixture of these two causes: a uniformity ascribable to a common subject matter, and a uniformity ascribable to extraneous influences. Similarly, there are two forms of certitude: the certitude which reflects the removal of doubt by evidence, and the certitude which is ascribable to mass psychology.

The choice of scientific subject matter is undoubtedly due in large measure to non-evidential accidents. Especially in its beginnings, science deals with those aspects which the environment presents to men. The fact that he occupies the surface of a particular planet, at a particular period in its history, that he became consciously and methodically scientific at a certain period in his own history, that he is an animal organism requiring food, drink, shelter, and all the local varieties of these and other human conditions, determine what man shall be scientific about — what shall be his field of inquiry, the angle from which he shall make his cognitive attack upon the unknown. Science, in short, is human; but its humanity does not prove its truth, nor does it preclude its truth.

As to the conditions of the scientific interest itself — its rising or declining fortunes — detailed historical studies6 reveal the influence of economic and social change. War and peace make a difference to science, but in opposite ways. Economic prosperity sometimes stimulates technological advance, but sometimes retards it; and the same is true of economic depression — it may diminish, or it may increase, the demand for technological invention. Scarcity of labor, the price level, the distribution of wealth, the rise and fall of living standards, all affect technology, but there appears to be no constant effect. Since technology is stimulated not by the continued use of its past products but by the demand for new, not even competition can be counted on to have this effect, since competition may take the form of reducing capital expenditures. The only generalization that can safely be made is that any general cult of unworldliness or “the simple life” which rendered men indifferent to physical comforts and conveniences, or any widespread conservatism which led men to prefer the accustomed ways of life to any form of innovation, would remove a major incentive to scientific and technological activity. It would remove “a major incentive,” but not all incentive. It is doubtful if any cultural change could altogether extinguish man's desire to do more efficiently what he is already doing; or his apparently innate desire to invent and contrive;7 or his interest in knowledge for its own sake.

The most disputed question in what is called “the sociology of science” is that of the relative priority of pure and applied science. The answer is that sometimes the one, and sometimes the other takes the lead. Much of the usefulness of science has been unforeseen. The science of electricity (Benjamin Franklin to the contrary notwithstanding) has not arisen as a result of a demand for lightning rods, but from the devotion of the physicist to the solution of his own outstanding problems. Science provides the knowledge, regardless of its utility, and then, often much later, “a use is found for it”: the technologist searches in the corpus of science for what will enhance the efficiency of existing practices.

The unpredictability of the applications of science is due, furthermore, to the fact that technology (such, for example, as the manufacture of motor vehicles) draws from several lines of scientific development, in which each investigator was quite unaware of the manner in which his discovery was to be combined with the discoveries of other investigators working quite independently. The synthesis of technology is not a product of scientific collaboration, but of a practical collaboration which draws upon, and draws together, many different, and originally unrelated, theoretical tributaries.

The possibilities of application would not exist if pure science had not been allowed to go its own way. Too much preoccupation with the application may result in there being nothing to apply. On the other hand, pure science is largely indebted to its applications for the support of public opinion and for the provision made for science in the organization of a modern society. The pure scientist is maintained in his aloofness because mankind are persuaded that sooner or later he will pay his way. Again, the applications, even though dictated by practical exigencies, such as war, may open new vistas of research and suggest new hypotheses. Finally, insofar as research involves the experimental laboratory it depends on the apparatus which it derives from the applications of past science. There is, in short, not only a scientific technology, but a technology of science.


The values of science arise from its relations, direct or indirect, to interest. Science, like all knowledge, has its intrinsic values: in other words, there is an interest in science for its own sake. There are words which refer to the fact that man likes or desires to know, quite apart from any ulterior use to which knowing is to be put: there are belittling words, such as ‘curiosity’ and ‘inquisitiveness’ and eulogistic words, such as ‘wonder’ and ‘love of truth.’ It requires a strong scruple to outweigh the impulse (when no one is looking) to open a sealed letter, or a locked drawer or closet. One is uncomfortable in the dark, or in an empty house, or in a world bounded by a curtain of ignorance, for lack of knowing what to expect.

Despite the present emphasis on its usefulness, modern science has more single-minded devotees, even fanatical and mystical devotees, than the science of any earlier period. In proportion as truth has become not merely an object of love but a pursuit and organized enterprise, it has developed a set of activities of its own, employing both mind and body, which are enjoyable in themselves and whose joys are enhanced by participation in a common enterprise. If the demands of industry and war should cease altogether, the scientists would seek some way to pursue their vocation — some way of being scientists.

The extrinsic, instrumental, or utilitarian, values of science are those which are imparted to objects by the dependent scientific interest — an interest in true and proved knowledge which draws its motive from some non-cognitive interest. The test of an interest's dependence on a second interest is to eliminate (actually or imaginatively) the second interest and observe whether the first interest is still alive. Remove the greed for gold, and if the prospector does not “lose interest” but continues to explore, this is evidence that he has an independent interest in the science of metallurgy.

While the distinction is valid and important, purely dependent or purely independent scientific interest is rare: there is usually an interplay between the two. Thus though a scientist be independently and sufficiently motivated by his love of truth and experimental proof, his motivation may be augmented by an impulse to rival and excel competitors, and by the prospect of money and fame. The aesthetic interest in his theory, considered as a work of the imagination, enriches the scientist's pursuit, but is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition of it. The same may be said of all the incidental values that spring from human association in the scientific enterprise. The independent values of science consist of the qualifying attributes of knowledge, that is, those characters of truth, proof, and certitude, for which knowledge is esteemed when it is esteemed for its own sake. Judgment by these attributes taken as standards constitutes the final and internal part of the normative science of science. In proportion as cognition “measures up” to these standards, it is good cognition or knowledge; and when it reaches a more or less vaguely defined level of such goodness it is called ‘science.’ Thus the development of science, normatively considered, is both a progressive increase of truth, proof and certainty, and a rejection of past cognitions as erroneous, dogmatic and uncertain.

The question, “What is the value of science?” has two answers. It is intrinsically valuable because of the cognitive interest itself; it is extrinsically valuable because of the many interests which the cognitive interest affects. In the latter case it is judged externally, and it may be judged either good or bad externally, whether it is good or bad internally. “For hath not nature furnished man with wit and valour, as it were with armour which may be used as well unto extreme evil as good?”8

Present doubts regarding the beneficence of science do not arise from its uselessness, but rather from its excessive and indiscriminate usefulness. The “ivory-tower” scientist is at worst a harmless eccentric who has to be maintained at the expense of society; the danger arises from the scientist who descends to the plane of action and places himself at the disposal of all and sundry. The fact that useful science is not better than the use to which it is put has been obscured by a habit of dwelling on its good, and forgetting its bad, uses; and by certain fallacious but persistent philosophical trends which may be appropriately designated as ‘noölogism’ and ‘technologism.’ Noölogism is the doctrine, deeply rooted in ancient philosophy and never wholly discredited, that all knowledge is knowledge of the good, and inclines the knower to its pursuit. Technologism, the doctrine that all technology is inherently and automatically beneficent, is compounded of several errors, which at this stage of the argument it would be superfluous to discuss.

Both pure science and general technology are useful, but they are indifferent to the uses which they serve. They are capable of practical applications, but lend themselves with equal readiness to any practical application. Pure science arrives at proved truths, but is itself concerned only that they shall be proved true. The laboratory does not inquire into the personal affairs of its patrons. A shopkeeper asks a technologist for the difference between ten and six; the technologist performs his calculations and reports that the difference is four; whereupon the shopkeeper is enabled to give his customer the right change, or to shortchange him. Which the shopkeeper does is not the affair of the mathematician; he has done his job when he has given the true answer. The general technologist is prepared to tell anybody how to do anything, whoever he be and whatever he does. The neutral enjoys a freedom from commitment which has its merits, but there is at the same time a suggestion of being too free, like the woman of easy virtue. Being equally accessible to all comers is admirable as a sort of large-mindedness, but of shady repute when it is called ‘promiscuity.’

Between the promiscuity of pure science and the promiscuity of general technology there is a difference. It is like the difference between the man who has no friends, but may unwittingly render friendly service to all, good and bad alike; and the man who has both good friends and bad. Pure science is infinitely useful, general technology is an infinitude of utilities. The first differs from the second as the chemical laboratory, which creates the elements of both medicine and poison, differs from the apothecary who carries both medicines and poisons in stock. Pure science is indirectly capable of uses both good and bad; technology is nearer to the good use, but also nearer to the bad.


The most important external judgment upon science is the moral judgment — most important because the social order is at stake. While science qua science is not obliged to consider its moral relations, society may well consider them, and ask how far science, being what it is, tends to serve or thwart the moral purpose. In balancing its moral account, what is to be set down on the credit side, and what on the debit side, of the ledger?

When the atom bomb was first used for military purposes American nuclear physicists, almost to a man, became good citizens. They abandoned their laboratories, they scurried to Washington or other political capitals, they came out for world government, they organized among themselves to promote the beneficent control of atomic energy. It appeared that the problem might solve itself, since if all nuclear physicists were to become preoccupied with the control of nuclear physics there would soon be no nuclear physics to control. How are we to explain this sudden removal from the laboratory to the forum? What was there in the scientific vocation itself that prompted scientists, unhesitatingly, almost automatically, to concern themselves with justice, humanity, and peace?

Pure science is to be credited, in the first place, with universality.

Morality must take account of everybody, and overcome the bias of selfishness. It relates interest to interest and man to man, and seeks agreement between them, whoever, wherever, and whenever they may be. Similarly, scientific truth, because it rests on objective evidence, is true for everybody. Science concerns itself with those characters of nature which are ubiquitous and permanent. It directs the attention of men to that which they have in common, rather than to what divides them — to the earth of which they are the co-heirs, and to that fixed constitution of things which they must all take as their point of departure whatever the divergent enterprises in which they severally engage.

It is characteristic of the theoretic pursuit, furthermore, that it is relatively non-acquisitive, or non-preëmptive. Other human appetites and purposes must annihilate their objects or appropriate them exclusively, that is, at the expense of rival interests. But one man's knowledge does not rob another's. The scientific interest, divested of its accidental circumstances, instruments, or by-products, is innocent, and is enhanced rather than diminished by being shared. It is thus peculiarly suited to a life of harmonious happiness.

Scientists are brought by their common vocation into a world-wide collaboration, for which all men are eligible. Every man is invited to reaffirm for himself, in the light of public evidence, the conclusions which the scientist reaches. While professional scientists constitute a class and, owing to the need of training and talent, a small class, this class does not coincide with, but serves to offset, those differences of class, nation, race, and religion by which men are most antagonistically divided. Scientists are predisposed to internationalism. Their learned societies tend to embrace the scientists of all societies, and have created one of the first bridges to be thrown across the chasms that divide mankind.

Finally, since the purpose of science is defeated when it is subjected to social, political, economic, religious, or other external pressures, and since it must proceed by the method of discussion and persuasion, the scientist's vocation inclines him to support free institutions.

Turning to the debit side of the account — one of the most ancient of the charges against science can be summarily dismissed — the charge, namely, that its subject matter is morally degrading. This charge arises from the false suppositions that all science is physical science, and that the physical as such is base — a supposition due to the confusion between the physical world in general and certain physical appetites which are peculiarly prone to intemperance. If the physical as such is base, then it is degrading to heal the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, or contemplate the beauty of nature and the wonders of creation.

If pure science is opposed to morality it is not because of its subject matter but because of its preoccupation. The scientific pursuit has, despite its aspect of universality, also its aspect of narrowness. The scientist who in his conceit or in his unconscious absorption affirms the theoretical interest to the exclusion of others is the enemy of a morality which is bound to take account of all interests. He tends to disassociate himself from all organized enterprise devoted to the general good. And, insofar as the prestige of science affects public esteem, the scientist then tends by example to disseminate throughout society a moral irresponsibility like his own.

The cult of science also works against morality through its very dispassionateness. The scientist qua scientist feels himself superior to passion because he stands outside of it; he feels none of its heat, and takes none of its risks. Where interests are concerned he treats them all alike, being the observer of all and the champion of none. He derives equal theoretical satisfaction from their success and their defeat; the battle of life is his spectacle. To the devotee of science any partisan seems childlike, naive or even contemptible. But the scientist forgets that to the man of affairs he himself, with his books and his instruments, is not less contemptible; his aloofness is seen as evasion and escapism.


What shall be placed on the credit, and what on the debit, side of the moral account of technology? Since general technology can serve any interest it can serve the moral interest, and provide the arsenal of the moral will. Technologism, or the belief that technology is automatically and invariably benign, is due largely to the existence of certain human institutions and professions in which it is linked with a moral purpose. The physician, for example, is devoted to the prevention and remedy of disease, and is governed by his professional code. In the pursuit of his humanitarian end the physician employs technologies derived from physics, chemistry, and biology. Similarly, the so-called ‘engineering sciences,’ are commonly associated with the peaceful and constructive activities of bridge-building, industry, and commerce. These technologies thus owe their moral quality to the personal wills or the institutional purposes by which they are controlled.

Technology in itself, in proportion as it follows its own bent, acknowledges no prior allegiance to the moral will. It lends itself without reluctance to any will, good or bad. The captive scientist is the servant of many masters, and wears all their divers colors. If, therefore, technology derives credit from those social arts by which it is linked with constructive purposes, so it derives discredit from those arts of oppression, impoverishment, demolition, extermination, degradation, and corruption in which it has been linked with destructive purposes. Technology is also the arsenal of Satan.

The cult of technology is not only the willing tool of many forces — forces for evil as well as forces for good — but it tends to focus the attention upon the tool, rather than upon the use for which it was originally designed. Men are inclined to do what they can do easily and efficiently. The development of physical technology prompts men to do what they are thereby peculiarly equipped to do, namely, create material goods. Those demands which can be satisfied by material goods tend to be affirmed and developed. As the means are perfected and new gadgets invented, interest shifts from the end to the means. Thus piety requires men living at a distance to come together in a common Mecca, and this end dictates an improved technology of transportation. Presently the pilgrims become camel-minded, or motor-minded, or air-minded, with the result that they move about like water bugs on the surface of a pool, apparently for no purpose whatsoever.

Men tend to do what they can do easily, and to pursue those ends which are best implemented. It is said (perhaps falsely) that whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. In any case, it is false, but human, to suppose that whatever can be done well is worth doing. Unhappily the things most worth doing are the things it is most difficult to do. It is less difficult to manufacture goods or improve their quality than it is to distribute them justly. It is easier to manufacture an improved type of electric refrigerator than to raise the general standard of living or achieve economic democracy. And so men tend to devote their energies to the manufacture of electric refrigerators and to the enjoyment of them and their contents.

The art of politics, in the sense of gaining and retaining power, is easier than the art of statesmanship: there is a proved technology of the first, but not of the second. It is easier to wage war than it is to achieve peace. There is a highly developed technology of war, but no equal technology of peace. Hence men tend to devote their energies to bigger and better wars, rather than to the less efficient struggle to avoid them.

It has been argued that the cure for the defects of science is more science — not more science indiscriminately, but the extension of science into the domain of human relations and institutions. Despite the notable developments of psychology and social sciences in recent times, the evils of the day are still attributed by many to a time lag of the control of human forces behind the control of the forces of physical nature.

But no one who has lived through the early decades of the present century can seriously affirm that the cure for human ills lies in the development of a technology of human nature that shall parallel the development of physical technology. Enough is now known of the possibilities of such a development to make one shudder at the thought of its success. If man is not ready for the right use of physical technology, still less is he ready for the right use of psychological and social technology. Hitler was a worse monster than his generals, and a Goebbels is more to be feared than a Goering. The destructive and corrupting uses of the artifacts of physical technology is childish innocence as compared with an unscrupulous manipulation of other minds. An age which has mastered, and been mastered by, the arts of deception, advertising, publicity, rabble-rousing and indoctrination is certainly no better off than an age in which “things are in the saddle, and ride mankind.”9

There are two questions that fall within the technology of the science of science. The first is the question of “scientific method”: What are the techniques by which true, proved, and certain knowledge can be achieved? Answers to this question are implicit in the discussions above of these three criteria. The second question is the question of the moral control of science, so that society may be assured of its beneficence.

The moral control of science may be entrusted to some social institution, such as conscience, polity, law, or economy. Such control is not, however, a moral control except insofar as these institutions themselves are subjected to a moral control. Science is not rendered morally beneficent merely through being brought into conformity with prevailing sentiment and opinion; for that sentiment and opinion may itself be blind and prejudiced. If the control of science by the state, or its regulation by law, is to be morally benign then these authorities must themselves be aligned with the purpose of harmony. Science is not rendered benign through being controlled by the existing economy, whether feudal, capitalistic, or socialistic; for these forms of economy may themselves be oppressive and destructive. Similarly the international control of science is morally justified only on the assumption that the international institutions in which this control is vested are themselves dedicated to the end of the just provision for all human interests, personal, class, national, and sectional. In short, if the control of science is to be normally beneficent the moral will must control its controls.

But there remains the crucial question of the kind and degree of control. When science is brought into line with moral requirements it must not be killed. Pure science is a tender plant. It cannot stand pruning or being tied to a stake. It prospers only when, being supplied with the requisite conditions of soil, and protected against winds, parasites, and extremes of temperature, it is then given a free space within which to grow after its own manner. It must be allowed to follow the evidence, and to proliferate along the lines of free inquiry.

It was only after a long struggle that pure science came to enjoy its popular privileges. Society can afford to concede them not only because science pays for them by the volume of its usefulness, but also because pure science is so removed from action. It contains immense potentialities of evil, but these potentialities are not realized until pure science is converted into technology. The control of science can be postponed until at some stage of its application it becomes dangerous.

The difference between the control of pure science and the control of technology is recognized in contemporary discussions of atomic energy. Pure nuclear physics must not be so controlled as to deprive research of its essential freedom to follow the evidence and expand the limits of inquiry; and so controlled as to deprive man of its good applications as well as its bad. It need not be strictly controlled because nuclear physics does not destroy cities until it has been converted into weapons. Similarly society controls, or aims to control, in behalf of the good of mankind at large, the particular technologies required for the manufacture of firearms, noxious gases, or toxic drugs, at the same time that it shrinks from controlling chemical research.

The recent controversy over genetics in Soviet Russia illustrates the confusions which beset the question of the social control of science. The issue between the supporters and the opponents of Lysenko was not whether acquired characteristics are or are not inherited. That is a question for the geneticists to decide by the most scrupulous experimental procedure. Lysenko may be right, or his opponents may be right. The issue was not whether scientists shall or shall not apply themselves to the social and economic problems of the day. It does not matter in the least whether they start with agro-biology and broaden out from there; or start with general biology and eventually focus on agro-biology; or divide themselves into agro-biologists and general biologists. The issue was not whether science shall be “classical” or modern; it should be both. The issue was not whether the U.S.S.R. is or is not a dictatorship. The issue was, and is, whether non-science shall intervene in a scientific controversy: whether a question of genetics shall be settled by a Politburo, a question of chemistry by a Secretary of Commerce. And here the answer is clear. Political judgments are simply irrelevant to genetics and chemistry; because they do not present the appropriate evidence, they are powerless to prove them either true or erroneous.

The moral control of science is peculiarly bound to the principle of liberality. If it is to serve it must be driven with a loose rein. The scientist must be free to follow the evidence wherever it leads him. He must be free to communicate his results to other scientists and thus to obtain their confirmation and their collaboration. And if his results are to be available for good uses they must be deposited in a public fund to the credit of all mankind. Happily, when he discovered fire Prometheus was not compelled to treat it as classified information, to be used only by flame throwers, incendiaries, or pyromaniacs. The moral control of science must look ultimately to the science of morals. But even a true science of morals affords no guarantee of moral beneficence. The knowledge of good and evil does not of itself make men good. It would seem probable that Satan, who chose the evil, was reasonably expert in such matters. Indeed there is Scriptural authority for the idea that man fell from grace, when, owing to the subtlety of the serpent, he learned too much about good and evil. Prometheus, also, knew too much, and Pandora's box was deemed a suitable punishment for his temerity. Assuming that the true moral science is that branch of science which is most fruitful of moral good, it will not bear that fruit so long as it remains merely science. Men must acquire a will inclined to the good, the right, and the dutiful, and opposed to the evil, the wrong, and the undutiful. The pursuit of harmonious happiness is a union of passion with enlightenment. It is the function of the science of that ideal to define its meaning, to illuminate its characteristics, to commend it to such human interests and sympathies as are sensitized to these characteristics, and to discover whatever techniques will enable men both to achieve agreement and to realize the ends on which they agree. But when all this is said and done there will still remain the task of creating the will itself. The striving toward the moral ideal is not a universal human predisposition; it is not a hardy perennial; it has to be implanted, replanted, and continuously nourished.

  • 1.

    For a more detailed examination of this question cf. the Author's article, “Knowledge of Past Events,” Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, III, 23, pp. 617–26.

  • 2.

    The same argument is applicable to logic, though it is not necessary to press the point here. There is a tissue of fact in the nature of propositions, implications, disjunctions, contradiction, etc. which confronts expectation as relentlessly as any physical boulder. Indeed, the logic of the boulder is more relentless than its mineralogy.

  • 3.

    Cf. J. B. Conant, Science and Common Sense, 1951, p. 38, and ch. ii passim. George Sarton, writing in 1941, said that “scientific activities are the only ones which are cumulative and progressive,” and adds that the task of all scientists is “essentially the same … they are aiming at the same goal”; The Life of Science, 1948, pp. 24, 26.

  • 4.

    The view here defended is in substantial agreement with that of John Dewey, when he says: “It is admitted … that propositions about singulars as of a kind are required in order to reach a generalization, and also that any proposed generalization must be tested by ascertaining whether observation of singular occurrences yields results agreeing with its requirements”; Logic, 1938, p. 437 (italics mine).

  • 5.

    It is to be noted that the physical theory of relativity has nothing to do with the relativity of scientific knowledge. Cf. L. Infeld, Albert Einstein, 1950.

  • 6.

    Such as G. N. Clark's Science and Social Welfare in the Age of Newton, 1937.

  • 7.

    “The proximate aim of all industrial improvement has been the better performance of some workmanlike task.” Cf. Thorstein Veblen, “The Instinct of Workmanship and the Irksomeness of Labor,” in Essays in Our Changing Order, 1934, p. 84, pp. 78–96 passim.

  • 8.

    R. Hooker, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 1821, Vol. I, p. 157.

  • 9.

    R. W. Emerson, Ode Inscribed to W. H. Channing.

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