Biology in Human Affairs

By Edward M. East; Walter V. Bingham et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter I
BIOLOGY AND HUMAN PROBLEMS

by EDWARD M. EAST

DURING the past century and a quarter science has remodeled man's universe. In this period, so short that many of us have talked with those who saw its onset, more significant discoveries have been made than in all previous ages combined. One cannot picture vividly the vast changes induced by probing the secrets of atom, molecule, and cell. Comfortable dwellings, luxurious journeys, instantaneous communication, sanitary conditions, longer and healthier spans of life, economic and intellectual freedom, are accepted casually, without emotion, without thanksgiving. We think of them as part of our natural environment--like clouds or sunshine or green trees. But conditions were quite different at the beginning of the nineteenth century, so different that an evening with the most impressively written history of the time fails to carry us back and to identify us with the situation that confronted our great-grandparents. Perhaps a visit to central Africa might do it, but few of us have such an opportunity.

Unfortunately science has not recast man's thinking to anything like the same degree. The average mind is still fettered to myths conceived in distant eras of unreason. The proportion of persons guided by rational ideas has certainly increased in recent years; but an intellectual lag obtains which shows in even the best of us. The trouble is that the whole world profits from all new discoveries, yet only the exceptional few care about the philosophy of thought which makes them possible.

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