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Labor Action, 27 March 1950


Carl Darton

You and Science

Toward the Social Implications of Science


From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 13, 27 March 1950, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Second only to the need for class-conscious political and social action by the working class is the importance of understanding the meaning of science arid the role it is playing in the world crisis today. There is an urgency that people in general and the working class in particular understand the proper function of science and technology. It is true that most of us will never understand the techniques and intricacies of all sciences. However, there is essentially nothing esoteric about science, and its method of thinking in no way differs from the rational approach which can be applied to all of life’s problems.

No one can know all sciences but for that matter it is a byword among the scientists themselves that “We are all laymen outside of our highly specialized field.” Each of our readers knows from his concrete experience what science is in its technical application. The factory worker is familiar with his precision machine of complicated design; hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians live with science every day; the consumer is often familiar with the life history of mass-produced commodities; and the public, through formal education, radio and press, has more than a smattering of scientific lore. The crying need is not “popularization” of science but consciousness of the moral and social role of science.

Unfortunately, there are few established agencies or institutions which can give the full import of science rightly applied to man’s needs. In the universities there are a few courses or lectures based upon “understanding science.” But these are all from the point of view of established institutions and neglect the revolutionary impact of science. Since science can only realize itself in a workers’ democracy, the full realization of its power must await the outcome of the struggle for such a society. In the meantime until scientists and workers establish better means of association and collaboration, a portion of every class-conscious workers’ reading should be devoted to an effort to understand science.

Fortunately, there are some low-priced pocket books which can be recommended as a beginning to clear the fog surrounding science. As Max Otto has written in Science and the Moral Life (Mentor Books):

“It [science in the public mind] has a good deal of magic and the miraculous about it and very little of the scientific temper. They [the public] believe in science and what the scientists tell them, very much as their ancestors believe in the church and what they were told by their priests. It must be remembered too that seen from the outside science has its sacred buildings, its mysteries, its esoteric language ... but [Otto reassures us] the distorting mists of fabulous science can be blown away, leaving a clearer view of scientific method and scientific knowledge.”

Once this clearer view is obtained, there can be but one choice among the alternatives outlined by Otto:

“There are two ways of taking the present world upheaval. We may take it to be the fateful disintegration of civilized life, or we take it to be a driving search for a better social orientation.”

Another Mentor Book worth reading is Man in the Modern World by Julian Huxley, an eminent British scientist. Clearly discussed are such subjects as the development of the natural and social sciences, an objective view of religion, and eugenics and society. Huxley gives a positive credo for a scientist today and demolishes the old bromide that war is unalterably a part of human nature.

To further illustrate that a rightful understanding of science can do much to aid in solving today’s problems, we quote from A.N. Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World (Mentor) :

“At the present moment a discussion is raging as to the future of civilization in the novel circumstances of rapid scientific and technological advance ... the problem is not how to produce great men, but how to produce great societies ... It is the business of the future to be dangerous, and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties. The prosperous middle class, who ruled the 19th century, placed an excessive value upon placidity of existence. They refused to face the necessities for social reform imposed by the new industrial system, and they are now refusing to face the necessities for intellectual reform imposed by the new knowledge.”

Several other readily available and low-priced books on science, which should be of interest to our readers, are:

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Last updated on 9 March 2023