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The Inevitability of Science

THE Twenty-Eighth Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture was delivered by Professor Sir Solly Zuckerman. C.B.. F.R.S., on Tuesday. 17th November, 1959, in the Physiology Lecture Theatre.UniversityCollege,Gower Street,London, W.C. 1. The President of the Research Defence Society, the Right Honourable the Earl of Halsbury. was in the Chair. The President said that he would be brief in his introduction of the Lecturer because Sir Solly Zuckerman was so well known by repute and action. He would simply say that Sir Solly was one of the most outstanding figures in scientific policy-making in this country.

Sir Solly Zuckerman then delivered the Twenty-Eighth Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture on "The Inevitability of Science."

 

The Inevitability of Science

By PROFESSOR SIR SOLLY ZUCKERMAN. C.B., F.R.S. Department of Anatomy,UniversityofBirmingham

THE crusade to which Stephen Paget dedicated efficiency through the encouragement of research I himself in founding the Research Defence—is the thought which is commemorated in the Society—the advancement of national health and Memorial Lecture that was established in his name the year after his death in 1926, and which it is ray privilege to deliver on this occasion. More precisely, the theme to which I have addressed myself is the somewhat negative one of the promotion of health by discouraging opposition to the one proved method which man has so far elaborated in his quest for knowledge. This is the method of science. By it we essentially understand the elucidation of presumed rela­tions between observed facts: the statement of these relations in the form of working hypothe­ses; and the validation or invalidation of the hypotheses by the kind of reproducible observa­tion which we call experiment. I have chosen as my title “The Inevitability of Science" because scientific knowledge seems to have become the only knowledge on which humanity— however diverse the systems of moral values by which we are guided—is prepared to base its present and its future; and because the know­ledge which is gained through the methods of science cannot be assailed except by the same methods of science.

 

The Primacy of Science

What one may call the social primacy of scientific knowledge was certainly not obvious before the Renaissance, when the contenders for intellectual liberty first began to prevail over the forces of mysticism and dogma, and so ushered in our present scientific age. Nor, indeed, may the social significance of science have been apparent at the start of the industrial revolution, when the application of science usually had as its immediate purpose the gaining of individual wealth. Inevitably, however, the accumulation of riches led to a social revolution whose objects were the elimination of poverty, disease and illiteracy. This revolution is still with us, even in the most industrialized and wealthiest parts of the world, where health and the existence of health services are taken for granted, and are regarded as a pre-requisite of social advance­ment. The revolution goes on because there can be no absolutes in matters such as these— there is always room for more progress : for further increases in productivity ; there is always greater opportunity for the harnessing of more science for the achievement of greater wealth : there is always the possibility of still better health and greater longevity. In the less-developed parts of the world, where disease, drudgery and poverty still combine to make life short and bitter, the aims of this social revolution are the only hope there is for the future ; and they will always be the main spur to political action. There is, indeed, no sign that either the needy or the rich will ever allow the process of applying the fruits of scientific knowledge to stop. Whether they live in democracies such as ours, or in authoritarian regimes, the simple fact is that men behave as if there is no other way of assuring the material progress of society. This, the betterment of society, is the enduring force behind the striving after health and the elimina­tion of disease.

 

Richard Fort, who delivered the Stephen Paget Lecture last year, and whose life was so tragically cut short by accident, took as his theme "Irrationality in Public Life." Irrationality has undoubtedly played its part in retarding pro­gress, and it is fairly certain that fifty years ago, when the Research Defence Society was founded, there were many more than to-day who, in their opposition to science, must have implicitly held anti-scientific views as an act of faith, and who presumably believed that there are ways other than the harnessing of scientific knowledge which can banish want and sickness from the globe—although it is just conceivable that these were not goals in which they were interested. But if such ways do exist, they have been singu­larly successful in remaining hidden. Every institution, national and international, which has been set up since the end of the Second World War fifteen years ago to help the poorer nations of the world, has based itself on the same applications of science out of which have grown the riches of the West and of the U.S.S.R. In working out their present destiniesIndia. China, Ghana, to name only three out of dozens of countries now striving to improve their lots, are tying themselves as firmly as they can to the chariot of science.

 

Surely there is only one conclusion that we can draw from this trend. If the struggle for social advancement is inevitable, so, too, is the striving after science and after its applications through technology. If there are some who still set themselves against science, they are pitting themselves against the tide of opinion of all men—and not just against the views of the world of science.

 

The Method of Science

But, the layman may well ask, is there not more than one method of science, in the same way that there are many fields of science? The only answer to this question is that, however many compartments of scientific knowledge there may be, they are all ultimately dependent on reproducible observation, in which experi­ment plays a variable but essential part. Science begins with observation. The realization that

there may be a particular relation between the things observed leads to the formulation of hypotheses, which have the power of extending or generalizing the area of observation. And we know that the most valuable hypotheses are those which are amenable to experimental lest; for experiment not only provides a means of deciding whether a hypothesis which has been formulated is valid, but also constitutes a process of acquiring new knowledge.

 

These truisms indicate that there is a practical use to differentiating scientific hypotheses into two classes, the one constituting predictive pro­positions, and the other propositions whose main value is that they constitute a summary statement of known relations. As an example of the former, one may cite almost any theory falling into the field of genetics. In the ex­treme case one believes that were the genetic composition of two simple gametes fully under­stood, one could make a reasonable prediction about that of the zygote formed by their union. As a prominent example of the latter type of hypothesis, there is the theory of the evolution of species through the exercise of natural selec­tion on varying biological systems. Although we believe this is a reasonable explanation of what has happened in the past, we know that it tells us little about what may happen in the future. While the distinction between these two classes of hypothesis is fairly clear, it is certainly not as absolute as some writers have argued. This point is well made by Bernal[1] who describes the two classes as "active theories, usually provisional and analogical . . ." which "lead to the discovery of new relationships," and "passive theories, inclusive and system­atic,” which, however, must also be continually changed as new facts and relationships gather. But ultimately, as he points out, "theories are only auxiliary methods of advancing and main­taining science"; they are not science itself.

 

The working scientist thus knows, at least in theory, that no scientific hypothesis is more than the best statement which can be made at the moment of the relations of the matters to which it refers. He also knows that the growth of science always necessitates the freedom to qualify, or to reject, established hypothesis or presumed fact as soon as a better fact or hypo­thesis can be revealed. This thought has been expressed in many ways by different scholars. T. H. Huxley, in his 1863 " Lectures to Working Men."[2] saw theories being demolished, being proved worthless, by the first small observation with which they proved inconsistent, or which, professing to account for, they failed to explain. “One fact with which it is positively inconsistent is worth as much, and as powerful in negativ­ing the hypothesis, as five hundred." In one of his earlier essays, J. D. Bernal[3] put this idea even more bluntly. "From the point of view of the advancement of science," he remarked," it is not in the least necessary that a theory should be true, or, in the strict sense, that it should even have any explicit meaning. . . . For the working scientist a particular theory is merely a popular champion to be abandoned and ridiculed the moment a new and more effective theory beats it in the field." And he went on to say that when, scientists regard scientific theories as true, they do so only for emotional reasons, in order that they may feel a com­fortable exhilaration at their work."

 

This essential aspect of the world of science— the fact that its hypotheses are only provisional propositions—is in no way invalidated by the knowledge that many working scientists are reluctant to change their views, and that they sometimes go wrong through assuming that their theories are necessarily true and final statements about the particular aspect of the external world which they are investigating—whether it is physical or biological in nature is immaterial. The consequence of their failure is merely that some personal hypothesis might be transformed into some personal dogma. What is more important than the obstinacy of the individual scientist is that the risk of a similar but more public and dangerous transformation is run whenever there is any restriction on the liberty of the scientist to explore, by whatever methods he finds necessary and reasonable, some hypothesis to which his work or some other scientist's work may have given birth. Obviously, the detri­mental consequences of dogma vary according to the size and importance of the area of thought and action to which the dogma applies, and which it therefore sterilizes. In the reverse way, the importance of hypotheses also varies accord­ing to the extent to which they generate new knowledge, or provide a summary statement of the relationships of old knowledge. But it is wise to remember that dogma, whether within or outside the field of science, always acts as a sterilizing influence on new ideas.

 

The Distortion of Knowledge

If, in its internal construction, the body of scientific knowledge consists essentially of a series of provisional statements or hypotheses which link an infinity of observable facts, it follows, therefore, that the price of imposing any handicaps on the principle that the scientist should be able to test his hypotheses by whatever means seem most appropriate, is the possibility of distorting knowledge itself.

These generalities apply as much to the biolo­gical and, by definition, medical sciences as they do to the physical. Those who wittingly or unwittingly wish to deny their importance in the field of medical science have, therefore, to bear in mind two major implications of their actions. First, as I have already implied, they are pitting themselves against the wishes of the overwhelm­ing majority of their fellow-beings, to whom the continued growth and application of science has implicitly become the most essential prospect of their material worlds. I propose developing this theme in greater detail. Second, they are pretending, at least to themselves—and either consciously or unconsciously—that arbitrary restraints on the methods of science do not necessarily have any effect on the development of our understanding.

 

The Growth of Civilization

Let me spend some minutes developing the theme that man has derived his material present from the applications of science, to whose continued application he also relates his pros­pects for the future, so as to indicate some measure of its force.

Our urban civilization, to which the world seems inevitably committeed as population multiplies, derives ultimately from the village settlements of the Mesolithic and Neolithic eras. These, in turn, depended on an appreciation of those rudiments of biological knowledge which made a fixed agriculture possible. It is a safe guess that over the thousands of years in which primitive man wandered as a nomad, he slowly learnt about the rhythm of reproduction of edible plants, and about the fact that he could control their growth through the cultivation of seed in watered soil. He learnt about the way livestock reproduced, and about the fact that those which he managed to domesticate not only thrived better in fields where grasses and corn were established than they did on wild pasture, but that the fields also benefited from the natural manuring to which they were consequently exposed.

 

It was upon the twin discoveries of crop culti­vation and animal husbandry that the Neolithic revolution was based. Both innovations neces­sitated the establishment of permanent settle­ments, which automatically became associated with an increase in the size of the individual community. The making of pots, which may have been discovered in the last phases of man's earlier food-gathering existence, became an essential part of neolithic life, and marked the fact that agricultural communities could preserve and store food surpluses not only for future con­sumption, but also for purposes of trade. Then came the invention of writing and the use of metals, and the further specialization of labour and function within the community—a process which had almost certainly begun in the first neolithic settlements. All these developments resulted in an even greater enlargement of what has been called "the unit of cohabitation of human societies." A metal-using civilization also meant more trade, as well as colonization and the multiplication of new settlements. And this, in turn, led to the still further growth of population.

 

But above all, the evolution of a settled form of life also emancipated man from those rigid controls of nature which determine the numbers of animals in the wild. When food is scarce, wild animals have fewer young, and fewer of those that are born live to reach sexual maturity. The more adults there are in times of scarcity, the fewer survive to enjoy the full span of repro­ductive life. And the more crowded a com­munity becomes, the more readily will communi­cable diseases, such as parasitic infestations, spread. These are examples of the so-called "density-dependent " controls, which regulate both the rates at which species reproduce, and the interaction of the population cycles of the different kinds of creature that prey on each other.

The emergence of the neolithic and later civilizations, of which trade has from the start been a characteristic feature, not only began the process of man's emancipation from a state of nature: it also initiated those trends in human society that were the reverse of the centrifugal forces which in the non-human world as well as in the palaeolithic human world played so powerful a part in the emergence of new varieties and new species.

 

There is no need to try to follow here the evolution of the city-states of classical times from village settlements and to trace their subsequent spread from theMediterraneanBasin, acrossIndiaand so to theFar East.  As towns grew larger, they needed water supplies whose inadequacies, coupled with primitive ideas about sewage disposal, became automatically reflected in continuous waves of plagues and pestilence. These served as a check on the growth of popu­lation, which, it is believed, remained fairly stable through the Dark Ages. Then, as the European Renaissance brought the Middle Ages to an end, accurate observation and experiment swept into the limbo the magical ideas which then prevailed about the humoral nature of plagues and disease, and which derived from the traditional supersti­tions of the ancient philosophers and physicians. By the middle of the 19th century, the cellular basis of bodily organization and the bacterial nature of disease had become basic concepts of European thought. On them the structure of modern medicine and modern hygiene rests.

 

This revolution in European thought occurred in parallel with the transformation of industry which derived from the harnessing of steam to make machinery for use in mining and manufac­turing. As factories and mines multiplied, so again did human numbers, with the ever-spiralling demand for more food, more homes, more clothes, and more things of every descrip­tion. Towns grew bigger and bigger, and so, too. did human misery, until the political environ­ment changed as a result of the great movement of liberalism which the utilitarian philosophers sparked. In our own country, as in many other advanced nations, these adverse features of the scientific and industrial revolution are largely a matter of the past. The pendulum has, indeed, swung so far that the urgent social and economic problem of theUnited States, the richest indus­trialized country of all history, has become that of adjusting to an age of affluence. Our own version of the age of affluence may not be as luxurious as the American, but we, too, have our Welfare State. There is no country which is near the present crest of the wave of scientific devel­opment that is not imbued with the thought that anything is possible materially, given a sufficient number of men trained in science and engineer­ing, and given the necessary personnel and physical resources. Science has given endless wealth and leisure, and already promises to extend man's control of the universe far beyond the moon.

 

The Achievements of Medical Science

Last year's issue of Conquest gave a catalogue of some of the achievements of medical science in this age of affluence. Diphtheria, it told us, "has been all but banished, whooping cough is on the wane, and hopes run high that the dread poliomyelitis is following the same path. The soldier can laugh at tetanus. . . . Yellow fever, which killed at least 100,000 people in theUnited Statesalone in the nineteenth century, can be prevented with complete certainty by means of a vaccine. Our dogs need no longer suffer from distemper and hard-pad. Foot-and-mouth disease is well on the way to being pre­ventable, when the slaughter of valuable herds will no longer be necessary. Several infective diseases of sheep and cattle, whose unfamiliar names need not be mentioned, have become of minor importance because a relatively effective vaccine is now available. In the realm of chemotherapy there have been equally striking advances. The sulphonamides have tamed a host of different infections — pneumonia, cerebro­spinal meningitis and bacillary dysentery, to name but a few. Sulphones have brought new hope to lepers throughout the world. Various synthetic compounds and antibiotics have changed the prognosis in tuberculosis. Typhus fever and typhoid fever yield readily to certain antibiotics, as do the majority of septic condi­tions. Malaria has become an easily prevented and quickly cured disease. Sleeping sickness in man and trypanosomiasis in cattle are under control. . . . Diabetics can live a normal life. Children with congenital heart disease, at one time doomed to an early death, can be cured by operation."

 

Ritchie Calder[4] tells how he was recently dis­cussing these things with a young doctor, talking about the changing spectrum of disease; about the disappearance of infections and contagions that are borne by air, water and insects: and about the fact that over 80% of the drugs now prescribed by doctors did not exist 25 years ago. In seven years of general practice inEngland, the doctor said, he had never met a case of diph­theria. To him scarlet fever, whooping-cough and mumps were incidents to be treated on his rounds, instead of meaning an ambulance. Tuberculosis with better social conditions, mass X-ray checks, and modern drugs was, he said, "on the way out." He knew the pestilential diseases, small-pox, typhoid, typhus, cholera and yellow-fever only from his text-books. He was sure that polio, with proper public co-operation in the use of the vaccine, could soon disappear. "But supposing that with vaccines, antibiotics and all the new synthetics, we succeed, what then?" he pondered.

What, indeed? Medical science has made such phenomenal advances over the past two or three decades that one can even dare to hope that the mean expectation of life in advanced countries could be even further increased than it has already been, through the elimination of yet further ills.

 

The Uneven Spread of Civilization

It is indisputable that the cultivation of scientific knowledge and the practical applica­tion of that knowledge have carried those of us who belong to the Western World, as well as to the U.S.S.R. and several other countries, into an age of affluence and an era of health. But no process of social change has ever moved evenly over the face of the globe. When the first group of nomads settled down to practise a fixed agriculture in a village settlement somewhere in the Middle East, other nomads, for example, those who then lived in this country, still wan­dered as food gatherers and hunters, utterly unaware of the immense revolution that had taken place in a part of the world of whose existence they were completely unaware. In many parts of the world there were still people who had not yet learnt about the cultivation of crops when the industrial revolution began inEnglandin the eighteenth century. Even today, in spite of the aircraft and radio which have made this a very small world indeed, there are people still living, for example in the Kalahari of South Africa, the same kind of food-gathering existence which preceded the village settlements of the neolithic era.

 

But nowhere, not even in the Kalahari, are there people who have not been touched by the medical consequences of the scientific and indus­trial revolution in which we in the more advanced parts of the world are now living. There are no national barriers in the elimination of disease— of cholera, of malaria, of small-pox, of yellow fever. Some killing diseases, as we have seen, have all but disappeared. Take the case of malaria, until now one of the most potent checks on the growth of population. According to Dr. Candau, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, this disease has been greatly subdued over the past fifteen years, due to the fabulously successful attack on the malaria-carrying anophelene mosquito with D.D.T. and other potent insecticides. He tells us that as late as 1955 it was estimated that in a world population of 2,500 million there were every year 250 million cases of malaria, of which two and a half million died. When it was discovered, in 1951, that a certain strain of malaria-carrying Anopheles was resistant to D.D.T., it then happily transpired that the insect was susceptible to other chlorinated hydrocar­bon insecticides, so that it is now possible to embark not just on a world-wide campaign for the control of malaria, but for its eradication. This, we are told, "has been achieved in 14 countries or territories with a population of 291 million." It is advanced in 24 others. In another 34 countries a beginning has been made, and in 20 eradication is being planned. As a result, morbidity and mortality from malaria are now only half as great as ten years ago.[5]

 

Population Growth and Economic Progress

To-day there can be few people who do not realize that the widespread suppression of killing diseases such as malaria—whether the suppression is complete or incomplete hardly matters in this context—has had a phenomenal effect on the growth of population in the under­developed territories of the world.   We read of “population explosions" occurring inIndia, inCeylon, inChina, inSouth America, due to extremely rapid declines in rates of infantile mortality and to the greater expectation of life following on better medical services and the introduction of various other public-health measures. Even inGhana, a small new country with a population of barely five million, the net reproduction rate has risen in a matter of only a few years to above 3 %. These things are an immediate consequence of the now inevitable, almost remorseless, application of science; and where they happen, the ghost of Malthus begins to stalk.

 

Malthus' prognostications of the end of the eighteenth century were that an increase in the national product—he was talking about this country—would stimulate a greater relative increase in population, and that in consequence average per capita income would decline. In fact, the reverse occurred. The increasing pace of industrialization in the nineteenth century, and a rising volume of food imports, resulted not only in a phenomenal growth of population, but also in an increase in the average standard of living. As the nineteenth century approached its close, there were many who could see little reason why this favourable process should not continue for ever—at any rate, inEngland.

 

However poor a prophet Malthus was of the English scene, his fears appear real enough when seen in the context of countries now struggling to raise the standard of living of millions whose net rate of reproduction exceeds the rate at which their economies and even their food-production can grow. Science, and medical science in particular, has brought this state of affairs about. What are the people concerned to do? What can they do now?

 

According to the usually-accepted view of the way population grows, most of the under­developed territories of the world, and certainly the most heavily populated of them, are in the early stage of what is called the expanding middle phase of the cycle, when death rates begin to fall, while birth rates either remain constant or rise slightly as a result of improved environmental conditions. But there is a major difference between what is happening in countries likeCeylon,ChinaandTrinidadto-day. and what happened in the Western world when it was in a corresponding phase of the population cycle. The difference is one of speed. Declines in mortality rates, which took decades to accom­plish in Western Europe, have been brought about within the space of a few years in countries likeCeylon. What we must always remember is that the health measures which are now available to counter the spread of infectious disease, or to eliminate diseases like malaria in the so-called undeveloped territories of the world, or to treat individual cases of sickness, are immeasurably superior to those which were available to the Western world in the latter part of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries.

 

Moreover, the increases now taking place in the populations of the under-developed territor­ies of the world have no connection whatsoever with an increased demand for labour—which was the case inEnglandin the nineteenth century. On the contrary, in practically every one of the countries concerned, there is increasing unem­ployment and under-employment — the by ­products of the efforts that are now being made to improve social services and to foster indus­trialization. In fact, the threat to the develop­ment plans of all these countries is an increasing load of idle hands. If the part of the annual increase in the national product which goes to consumption could be evenly distributed among the population, this situation need be no more than a very difficult phase in a process of econ­omic and social development. But events in many countries do not encourage the view that this is possible. All that one can be sure of is that the problem would everywhere be simpler if the population were not multiplying as fast as it is, and if industry were growing faster.

 

The vital importance of this trend is that it is now affecting the majority of the world's population. The fact that we, the Americans, the French, and some other countries of the West, may also be undergoing a phase of rapid population growth does not matter in this context; we belong to a rich minority which c afford to support larger populations easily and without strain.

The problem I have briefly outlined is simply due to the unbalanced way the poorer no industrialized parts of the world have had absorb the fruits of our scientific civilization over the past few years. Can there be any turning back now? Nearly two hundred years ago Saint-Simon wrote that "the domination of the physical environment by science and industry will progressively emancipate man, not only from want and insecurity, but also from the domination of some men by others." Is this not still the over-riding belief which dominate the hopes of those who have not, so far, benefited from the advances of modern civilization?

 

The Further Application of Science

The answer is clearly that there can be, and will be, no turning back. Those countries in which the advances of medical science have resulted in an imbalance in social development can restore their equilibrium only by applying more of the fruits of science, and by committing themselves more and more to the development of their own scientific and technological capacity. There is no other way in which they will increase their food production, or develop the extractive and manufacturing industries through the medium of which they can produce the further raw materials required by an industrial civiliza­tion, or gain the foreign exchange with which to purchase essential commodities and services from abroad. As we all know from past experience, these things will be all the better achieved the more human efficiency increases through the elimination of disease. It is hardly surprising that all the countries 1 have in mind have instituted their own programmes of medical education and their own schemes of medical research—regardless of the help in these fields they are provided by the World Health Organization and other agencies.

 

How else could it be? What other way does man know how to proceed? In the face of this enormous world problem of population growth and social and economic development, is it really credible that there are some who are still opposed to the observational and experimental methods by which scientific, including medical, knowledge is gained? And that they would be prepared to provide an alternative plan of action to, say, those which the Governments ofGhana, orIndia, orCeylon, orChina, have themselves instituted? I doubt it. Equally, I hardly think that if there are such people, they would be ready to step forward to defend the scientists, the doctors and the engineers of the Western world if they decided to withhold medical and technical aid from the people of the under­developed territories of the world.

What I am leading up to is the proposition that those who are opposed to the ways of science, and in particular, those who oppose the exercise of those methods in the field of medical research, have no substitute to offer which is acceptable to the mass of humanity.

 

Obscurantism and Morals

1 do not intend to talk of propagandists against medical and other science who are merely out-and-out obscurantists—the small number of people who still believe that the world is a flat disc; or those who maintain that medicines and artificial fertilizers are poison. Mr. Fort dealt sufficiently well with this aspect of the problem in his lecture of last year.

 

But obscurantism exists in various guises, some obviously absurd, and others which merely take the form of irrational qualifications of apparently sensible views. There have always been people who have been terrified by the speed with which .the application of scientific ideas generates major social changes, and there will probably always be those to whom science for this reason appears as a dangerous element in our social environment—and scientists, for that reason, a kind of public enemy. There is something to be said for this attitude, when it is directed against those of us who may feel that science, in addition to providing the ingredients of the future, is a discipline whereby one can foretell our social and political destiny. This is not a view I share.

 

Could any man, I ask, have predicted that simple new chemical compounds like D.D.T. would, in the space of a few years, bring about convulsions in world affairs, due to the growth of population, as great as those of any of the wars of history '? The answer is surely No. No one can define in advance the nature or magnitude of the impact which a particular scientific discovery may have on our social lives.

Conversely, those who attempt to constrain the growth of science, whatever their methods, are not only presuming to impose upon their fellow-beings a particular way in which they hope the world should go: but more than that, they are assuming a power—a power which we know to be impossible—of predicting what social and political effects would flow from the kind of science which they would permit to proceed.

 

In generalizing as I have on the theme of "the inevitability of science," I am, needless to say, aware that the lines along which we organize our lives are dominated by our moral values. These undoubtedly extend to the atmosphere in which the scientist conducts his enquiries. Liberal ideas grew and spread as intellectual liberty grew during the Renaissance, and as human produc­tivity and wealth increased. InWestern Europewe saw the spread of education, the introduction of restrictions on the use of child labour, and of public-health measures of various kinds. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the impulses which fired these liberal views extended in our own country to the care of animals, and since then there is no doubt that here, at any rate, cruelty to animals has become something which is everywhere frowned upon. But no doubt, too, a love of animals can get out of balance. I know a person who keeps pet dogs, a wealthy person, whose average annual bill to veterinary surgeons fluctuates between £250 and£500. Some might say that this is excessive, and that the money so spent could be better used in providing, let us say, summer holidays for children who would not otherwise get away from the industrial cities in which they live. No doubt the reply would be that dogs deserve every bit as much consideration as do human-beings. When one is dealing with diverse systems of moral values, how does one, in fact, choose in these matters? Take the keeping of animals in zoos. It is common knowledge that an animal in captivity may live far more peacefully, and far longer, than it would in the wild. How does this proposition appear to the few who are opposed to seeing animals in cages and pad­docks? Do such people concern themselves with the knowledge that the wild life of the world is being decimated as human society spreads over the face of the globe? Would they prefer that a people like the Masai should go hungry rather than graze the pastures where wild animals would otherwise roam? Or that they should not hunt the wild gazelle and antelope? How does one draw the line where basic moral values play? Should we disapprove of the elimination of insect pests by means of organo-phosphorus compounds?

While genuinely-held beliefs can be irreproach­able in an abstract moral sense, surely the answer is that they nonetheless become anti-social when they are associated with propaganda which attempts to impose the prejudices of a few against the wishes of the majority.

 

The Inevitability of Science

Over the fifty years of its existence, the Research Defence Society has neutralized the more irrational attacks there have been against the use of animals in biological experiments, and its success has no doubt been associated with the fact that its efforts were directed to what in any event was inevitably destined to succeed—the promotion of science. At the same time, the fact that there were irrational attacks on medical science also led to the improvement of the tech­niques of research and to the establishment of the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, through which experimental biologists have done yeoman service by helping to show other biolo­gists the best ways there are for keeping and handling experimental animals. We can genuinely say that both the Research Defence Society and the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare have increased the freedom of the scientist by helping to provide a better environment for the exercise of scientific method —the method of controlled and reproducible observation. We can be grateful to them, even if their success was inevitable.

For let me conclude by repeating that the inevitability of science derives simply from the fact that the system of thought and action which the term "science" implies is at one and the same time the basis of our modern civilization, and the most powerful instrument which is now determining the future. The maintenance of public health: the production and preservation of food; the provision of clothing and shelter for vast aggregations of people who produce none themselves, depend at every turn on scientific knowledge and on scientific control. While science can assume no intrinsic moral values, to the extent that it helps determine the ingredients of our social life, it becomes incorporated in our moral order, which changes, usually impercep­tibly, with the increasing use to which we put scientific knowledge. The process of civilization, already experienced in large parts of the world, is spreading, and cannot but spread, to the rest of the globe—however uneven is the spread. Science is inevitable, not only because its methods are the only proved methods for increasing the understanding of the world in which we have our being, but also because even those who are not concerned with this understanding make it inevitable through their demands for the physical fruits of science. So it is that while the scientific method may, at times, have had to be defended, science as such has never had to sell itself—for the good reason that it enjoys an infinite “sellers' market.” Science, we can say, is inevitable, even though the social conse­quences of its advances and of the application of these advances have to be entrusted to the future, an enlightened and impartial judge, as de Tocqueville wrote, but one who sits, alas, always too late.

 

 

 

Mr. A. L. Bacharach proposed a hearty vote of thanks to Sir Solly, which was supported by the President and carried with acclamation



[1] Bernal, J. D. (1929). The Freedom of Necessity.London : Routledge and Kegan Paul.

[2] Reprinted in Huxley, Thomas H. (1894). Darwiniana.London: Macmillan.

[3] Op. cit.

[4]Sews Chronicle, Sept. 22, 1959.

[5] Sews Chronicle, Sept. 22, 1959.


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