Soviet Science: A Symposium Presented on December 27, 1951, at the Philadelphia Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Soviet Science: A Symposium Presented on December 27, 1951, at the Philadelphia Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Soviet Science: A Symposium Presented on December 27, 1951, at the Philadelphia Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Soviet Science: A Symposium Presented on December 27, 1951, at the Philadelphia Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Excerpt

Science, like music and art, has hitherto been a truly international enterprise. National rivalries, of course, have existed, but basically they have been rivalries in well doing, rivalries where the individuals have striven to make more and better contributions to the general store of human knowledge. Competition between scientists has frequently been very keen, but it has generally been an altruistic competition, a competition in giving rather than receiving. In science, as in other fields where artists and scholars work to advance our culture, the more an individual contributes to his fellows, the greater his prestige becomes. Nations also acquire prestige through the discoveries in science made by their citizens and often, on the celebration of some anniversary or other, a brochure will appear with a title such as Danish Science, Australian Botany, or Science in the American Colonies.

We know the nature of such brochures, of course, before we read them. None of them is really nationalistic, nor do any of them stake out a claim to a separatistic science different from or superior to world science. On the contrary! Their function is merely to call attention to the legitimate pride which the various states take in the achievements of their scientists. Thus, those who increase knowledge and who better the conditions of human existence are honored as they deserve.

Recently, however, a different attitude has emerged. When we read Soviet Science in a title we do not expect the work to contain merely an account of the contributions to world science made by the great scientists in the Soviet Union. We expect it to contain rather an account of a science which differs in at least some respects from world science. In fact, science is faced today with a most serious condition. In parts of the world its universality is denied. Some scientific tenets, once universally accepted, are now limited to particular geographic regions. Different and rival tenets have displaced them from a large part of the world. The newly emerged competitory tenets have not been able to secure universal acceptance, however, and indeed show no signs of being able to spread into the portions of the world where the scientists are free to reject them. The result, of course, is a most unfortunate schism. Artificial barriers and censorships now limit the diffusion of scientific information, and in some countries certain scientific hypotheses have been given an official approval while other hypotheses have been outlawed. This is such a preposterous thing to have happened in the twentieth century that it should become a major concern to all of us. It will certainly be an object of intense study to future historians of science.

Needless to say, both the scientists and the general public have been more than a little interested in what has been happening to science in the Communist lands. Much of the news was frankly incredible and, in spite of the available evidence, was received with considerable skepticism. The whole affair seemed to be so senseless that many people were simply puzzled. We obviously should know what is happening to science behind the Iron Curtain, and the best means of securing the desired information seemed to be to bring together a group of specialists, each familiar with some aspect of Soviet science, and have them . . .

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