Science for the Citizen: A Self-Educator Based on the Social Background of Scientific Discovery

Science for the Citizen: A Self-Educator Based on the Social Background of Scientific Discovery

Science for the Citizen: A Self-Educator Based on the Social Background of Scientific Discovery

Science for the Citizen: A Self-Educator Based on the Social Background of Scientific Discovery

Excerpt

A MUCH abused writer of the nineteenth century said: up to the present philosophers have only interpreted the world, it is also necessary to change it . No statement more fittingly distinguishes the standpoint of humanistic philosophy from the scientific outlook. Science is organized workmanship. Its history is co-extensive with that of civilized living. It emerges so soon as the secret lore of the craftsman overflows the dam of oral tradition, demanding a permanent record of its own. It expands as the record becomes accessible to a widening personnel, gathering into itself and coordinating the fruits of new crafts. It languishes when the social incentive to new productive accomplishment is lacking, and when its custodians lose the will to share it with others. Its history, which is the history of the constructive achievements of mankind, is also the history of the democratization of positive knowledge. This book is written to tell the story of its growth as a record of human achievement, a story of the satisfaction of the common needs of mankind, disclosing as it unfolds new horizons of human wellbeing which lie before us, if we plan our new resources intelligently.

Whether we choose to call it pure or applied, the story of science is not something apart from the common life of mankind. What we call pure science only thrives when the contemporary social structure is capable of making full use of its teaching, furnishing it with new problems for solution and equipping it with new instruments for solving them. Without printing there would have been little demand for spectacles; without spectacles neither telescope nor microscope; without these the finite velocity of light, the annual parallax of the stars and the microorganisms of fermentation processes and disease would never have been known to science. Without the pendulum clock and the projectile there would have been no dynamics nor theory of sound. Without the dynamics of the pendulum and projectile, no Principia. Without deep-shaft mining in the sixteenth century, when abundant slave labour was no longer to hand, there would have been no social urge to study air pressure, ventilation, and explosion. Balloons would not have been invented, chemistry would have barely surpassed the level reached in the third millennium B.C., and the conditions for discovering the electric current would have been lacking.

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