Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

1

Introduction

Scientists are citizens and, in common with other people, they like their rights and freedoms. The scientist in his research laboratory desires freedom in the selection of research topics. He wants a minimum of direction and he should be allowed to talk freely about his research work. He should have access to the publications of other workers in the field and he should have the right to publish freely the results of his own investigations. If conditions make it necessary that there be certain restrictions on his freedom of communication, he wants to know beforehand what these restrictions are, and he should be free to reject research opportunities which do not guarantee to him the minimum requirements of freedom which he considers essential for his works. The scientist should have the right to communicate freely with his colleagues in his own country and abroad and he wants to have no restrictions put upon his freedom of travel and of correspondence.

Scientists are citizens and they want to exercise their rights as free citizens. They should be free to participate in the cultural and intellectual life of the community. They should be allowed to participate in their government and, if this seems necessary, to criticize it. As citizens, scientists are prepared to accept the duties and responsibilities of citizenship and they are well aware of the fact that they must earn the right to be free men and women. They ask for some special dispensation because science, pure and applied, is so uniquely important to the welfare of the world and because advances in science are so critically dependent upon freedom.

The community which restricts the freedom of its scientists as citizens will lose in the end. In modern society, government at all levels is constantly faced with policy decisions involving complex scientific and technological matters. Wise decisions must rest in part on the advice of civic-minded scientists, and useful advice will

hardly be forthcoming if scientists are not free to exercise their civic responsibilities.

Twenty years ago the problem of freedom of science did not seem very acute. The atomic bomb, jet-propelled, guided missiles and biological warfare were still to be found only in imaginative novels and occasionally in the comics. We still had to learn by experience how totalitarian States can restrict and pervert science. Then came the 1930's with the growing menace of Naziism. We saw how a government, bent on conquest and world domination, silenced the cultural and intellectual leaders who refused to give up their freedoms. In the war years of the 1940's we saw how science had to be used to forge the weapons without which it would have been difficult – or perhaps impossible – to defeat the enemies of freedom. The peace which followed did not bring a feeling of security. Nations that had worked well together toward the defeat of the common enemy grew distrustful of each other's motives and we seemed soon far from the hopes of universal and permanent peace that were felt in the world in the spring and summer of 1945. The average non-scientist had good reasons to become suspicious of modern science, which had produced horrible weapons

of

war, and there came a wave of distrust of the men and women who practised these strange arts

the scientists. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights comes to us at a time when it is very necessary for all citizens to re-examine the basis for our traditional rights and freedoms, including the freedom of science. Scientists must study the Declaration, not only because it is their duty as citizens to do so, but also as a simple matter of self-preservation. Intelligent non-scientists must do likewise, for free science can flourish only in a community that is sympathetic to it. The Declaration must be made the basis for study and for arguments, for freedom should be something that is thoroughly alive in the minds of men. It is the primary function of this article to provide a background for one phase of the great debate on rights and freedoms: we shall present here once more the case for the freedom of science.

We have perhaps stressed too much in these first paragraphs the gap that may seem to separate the scientists from the non-scientists. Freedom of science is not separable from political and economic freedom, and freedom of science is at most only a part of the much broader area of intellectual freedom. A businessman, an indus

trialist, a technician, a worker, a farmer, a government official, or anyone who reads today about an attack upon a scientist's right to speak as he wishes, or to travel freely, may wake up the next day to find himself criticized and maltreated in very much the same fashion.

A non-scientist may find it difficult to appreciate the scientist's extreme concern with freedom unless he has a fair understanding of the methods and motivations that are basic to a scientist's work and of the nature of the contributions by science to society. We shall have frequent occasion to refer to these matters in the body of the article, but it seems worth while to present here some preliminary general comments.

Science works basically for peace and the better life and not for war. The really important contributions made to society by modern scientific and industrial laboratories have been that they have eased our tasks of daily living, that they have provided us with means of communication so effective that the traditional boundaries between nations and between continents are fast losing their meaning, and that they have given us the medicines and drugs with which we can fight the diseases that weaken us. For every death in war attributed to science, there are hundreds of lives saved by modern science. Basic scientific research, done freely, and without in most cases any thought of future application, is the foundation upon which modern technology is built. It seems almost commonplace to repeat it here, but electrical technology, as we know it today, had its foundation in very simple laboratory experiments carried out by curious individuals like Michael Faraday and Heinrich Hertz. The thinking of these men had in turn been greatly influenced by the work of those who came long before them, like Isaac Newton, who studied the gravitational attraction between the sun and the planets, the earth and the moon.

Scientists as well as non-scientists are apt, however, to overstress the effects of science upon the material advancement of the world; the human and cultural values of free science should not be overlooked. While the presumed or real social usefulness of a given field may play a part in the planning of one's researches, the principal motivating power of scientific research continues to be just plain curiosity. The scientist can only give free rein to his

curiosity if he is accorded the freedoms of which we have spoken above. Curiosity and a spirit of adventure are invaluable assets for human progress; without them the world would be dull and uninteresting. The opportunity to participate in scientific research, in the exploration of the unknown, provides us with an everpresent and expanding frontier of the mind. In our search for scientific truth, we make the fastest progress by allowing the human mind freedom to explore in a spirit of adventure.

We must, in presenting our case, make some distinction between basic, or pure, research and applied research, or development. Basic research deals with the laws of nature in their most elemental form and advances in basic research add to our stockpile of knowledge. Applied research takes the results of basic research and applies them to the development and construction of machines and instruments with practical uses, or in the development of socially useful techniques and procedures.

It is not always possible to make a distinction between a research scientist and a research engineer. The functions of the two overlap to a considerable extent; we find not infrequently a good engineer working for a shorter or a longer time as an expert research scientist, and vice versa. The scientist and the engineer both do their best work if they are engaged upon a project which holds their wholehearted interest. Pride in the usefulness of his work is to the research engineer what curiosity is to the pure scientist. This does not, however, imply that a good engineer is not just as curious as his colleague on the other side of the fence, or that the pure scientist derives no joy from the contributions he makes to the building of the imposing overall structure of scientific thought and accomplishment.

Basic and applied research both require an atmosphere of freedom for their proper development. Basic research cannot survive for long under a system of restrictions in the freedom to practise it. Applied research may continue to be productive for some time after restrictions go into effect, but in the end it too will become sterile because of the lack of a continuous flow of new basic ideas.

There is one final aspect of scientific research that we should mention at this point. In the search for truth, dishonesty is unthinkable and, if a scientist were foolish enough to be dishonest in the presentation of his basic observational data, or in his analysis, then he would find that in the end he would surely be

detected and exposed by his colleagues. In the code of the scientist there just is no room for dishonesty. Other more complex areas of human endeavor would gain if they could take to heart the object lessons of science. In the codes of business practice and of politics, there is need not only for the adaptation of the methods that have been used in scientific research, but also for the moral standards which long ago were accepted by scientists everywhere.

Is freedom really essential to scientific advance? Could science not advance equally well, if scientists were given all the necessary material support while being restricted in some of their freedoms? Scientists feel sometimes a little impatient when these questions are asked and they tend to brush them aside. One cannot, however, deny that such questions are being asked with increasing persistence in recent years, especially by those who would like to see scientific research closely coordinated with military needs. We shall try to answer these questions in the pages that follow, but we must point out here that science advances most effectively by confronting one point of view with others opposed to it. Under the fascist regimes and under fascist occupation the suppression of the freedom of discussion had a deadening effect on scientific advance.

How can we preserve the freedom of science ? Scientists must be made to realize that their freedoms can only be retained if they are willing to protest vigorously against all attempts at infringement of these freedoms. They must learn to take no freedom for granted and they should not relinquish their efforts to make it known publicly that without freedom society can never hope to obtain a maximum return from the individual scientist and from science as a whole. Scientists can not accomplish this task alone. They need the sympathetic support from non-scientists in all walks of life and in all professions. The freedom of science cannot be maintained unless there is in world opinion a climate favorable

to it.

« ZurückWeiter »