On Understanding Science: An Historical Approach

On Understanding Science: An Historical Approach

On Understanding Science: An Historical Approach

On Understanding Science: An Historical Approach

Excerpt

To write a book about science in the year 1946 without some consideration of the atomic bomb may seem the academic equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns. For all intelligent citizens must place the international control of atomic energy at the top of any list of urgent matters. Anything that any individual or group of individuals can do to forward the solution of the international problem has obviously top priority. But as this year draws to a close, it appears that for the time being there is little that can be done by private citizens. The United States Government took the initiative in the formation of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. At the first meeting of the Commission the American representative put forward a carefully prepared plan for the effective international control of atomic energy. The whole problem is now being considered by the International Commission and the delicate negotiations will necessarily be slow. Until the United Nations Commission renders an official report, we must be patient--patient and courageous, for the prospects are grim, indeed, if the Commission should ultimately fail to reach agreement.

Yet, the American public has to learn to live with this problem of the atomic bomb. The natural tendency of many people to recoil with horror from all thoughts of further scientific advance because of the implications of the atomic bomb is to my mind based on a misapprehension of the nature of the universe. As I watched the secret development of the atomic bomb through four years of war, I often thought of the work being done at the same time under the auspices of the Medical Research Commit tee . . .

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