It is becoming almost a boring truism that the interaction of science and society provides one of the most baffling problems of the present age. Examples abound; their mere enumeration could almost fill a book. We hear that the ever-increasing acceleration of scientific research is leading rapidly to applications that invade every aspect of human life in advanced societies and this to an extent undreamed of even a few generations ago; the mass media bombard us daily with references to what science has in store for the future of man, with special emphasis on the horrible. We are awed by the increasing scientific sophistication of weapons of war. The computerization of industrial and governmental activities, laid by most at the door of scientific research, is said to threaten the privacy of the individual. The latest crisis, concerning the deterioration of the environment, is envisioned by many as a direct result of mans insistence on the use of his scientific ideas to interfere with the ordinary course of nature. It is widely felt that the decline in the influence of religion as a basis for ethical behavior of human beings is directly due to the increased secularization of social ideas, stimulated by the feeling that science and technology provide the only rational guide to life and that all else is irrelevant superstition.
The voices that are continually reminding us of the nature and consequences of the interaction of science and society are numerous, often impressive, but also cacophonous. We do our best to listen to the words of wisdom from the Mumfords, the Galbraiths, the Polanyis, the McLuhans, the Poppers, the Bronowskis, the Reichs, and to many it all seems very confusing. It is doubly so to me, since as a scientist in the special field of physics I have devoted my professional career to trying to find out how things go in certain portions of our experience with minimal interest in the so-called consequences and to endeavoring to impart to youth some notion of what science is all about. At the same time I have been unable to avoid the realization that there is something bothersome, not to say actually wrong, about the relation between science and society. I present my comments with all due modesty, realizing that as a scientist I possess a built-in bias, and that in a field so vast my grasp is bound to be fragmentary. …
R. B. Lindsay is professor emeritus of physics, Brown University.
A Minister-Scientist Looks at Science Teaching in Relation to the Separation of Religion from Science by Charles A. Howe
The existing dichotomy between science and religion is of deep concern. Despite many glib statements to the contrary, the dichotomy does exist—it is real. Many people assert confidently that there is no conflict between science and religion, but I suspect that many of these persons have compartmentalized their thinking, placing science in one compartment, religion in another. There is, of course, no conflict possible under such circumstances, but neither is there any relationship possible either, and the dichotomy is certainly there. A dichotomy, by definition, is a division resulting from a cutting in two, and this is precisely what has happened in the modern age in terms of mans understanding of himself and the universe.
Prior to the advent of modern science, men held a coherent, unified view of their place in the universe. This view varied from culture to culture, but in each case it was a unified one. With the coming of the scientific age, however, the process of dichotomization began. Mans understanding became cut in two—into a scientific sphere and a religious sphere. The religious sphere, moreover, has gradually atrophied, and with this dichotomy and atrophy has come a tragic loss of meaning. Many young men and women despise the prospects of their futures. They see adulthood as meaningless, absurd, as lived in an existential vacuum. They see the universe as a gyrating stupidity in which the mind of man is nothing but a chemical fantasy doomed to frustration.¹ Not all look at things this way, of course, but enough do to cause grave concern.
We ask, Why has this happened? …
¹ Alan Watts, Beyond Theology (New York: World Publishing Co., 1967), p. 223.
Charles A. Howe, formerly a professor of chemistry, is now a clergyman with the First Universalist Church of Syracuse, New York.
A Conversation in the Afternoon by Richard Schlegel
Herbert called, Come in, in response to a knock on his office door. He raised his eyes from the book on his desk and turned in his leather—covered swivel chair to face Martha as she entered. Her question-You said you would have some time this afternoon?—indicated that she did not wish to intrude on her professors work. Herbert replied, Indeed I do, and arose to place a chair for her by the end of his desk.
The view is a splendid one today, Martha began. The windows of the office looked out on a campus lawn, bright in the May sunshine and bordered by a curved line of trees and shrubs. Some ornamental cherry trees and a row of lilac bushes were in blossom. Herbert agreed, and thought of his good fortune in having had, for many years, congenial surroundings in which to live and work.
Martha smiled. I dont know what to do, she said, about the opportunity to work with the University Center in Detroit. In many ways its what I want to do. I like to teach, and I think I would enjoy working with the mixed adult and student groups that I would have there. But it means giving up my Ph.D. program. …
Richard Schlegel is professor of physics, Michigan State University.